This video - Dan Pallotta's The way we think about charity is dead wrong - has been rocketing around the internet over the past couple of weeks. Numerous people have emailed it to me and a couple have shared it on my facebook wall. All of them have been asking what I think.
I finally had a chance to sit down and watch it a few days ago and, honestly, what strikes me most about it is not the central message about how our emphasis on overhead misses both the point and the potential of the nonprofit sector. I don’t think Dan Pallota is saying anything that folks like Kim Klein or GIFT have been making for years - though I always appreicate when someone’s able to underscore an important point eloquently. Mr. Palotta does just that in his TED Talk, so I am very grateful to him.
What struck me most about Dan Pallotta's talk is that he’s trying to shine a bright light on something that isn't necessarily controversial. The vast majority of us agree that the way we think about nonprofit operations is broken. Even folks outside of the sector who don't have an understanding of the ins and outs of running a nonprofit organization understand the simplicity of the argument that you can't solve big, complex problems with meager investments. What's difficult is where to and how to begin to change something that has become culturally comfortable, however dysfunctional. What are the first steps an individual, let alone a sector takes in making a fundamental shift in the way that it thinks and operates?
Last month, Rahsaan Harris, executive director of Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy, and I posted a blog and sent eblasts to our respective networks about something else that most of us agree is broken - power dynamics between funders and grantees in the nonprofit sector. We titled the eblast Beans & Cornbread - Rahsaan's tongue-in-cheek reference to the Louis Jordan & Tympany Five song about things that go together but sometimes just can't get along. But we also talked seriously about this need for a fundamental shift in the way that these dynamics play out and what we see as the role of our generation in facing these issues.
What Rahsaan and I found in our conversations surrounding the post was that agreeing that the fundamental relationship between the nonprofit sector and the philanthropic sector is problematic wasn't hard. Agreeing that EPIP and YNPN have a unique role to play in addressing these dynamics wasn’t hard either. It’s a conversation that our organizations have actually been having for years and our members are very ready for based on the numerous responses we got to the survey that accompanied the post. What's hard is figuring out what to do next.
After we sent out the post, many responded enthusiastically, “Saying, okay - what’s the plan?” Here’s the honest answer - we’re not really sure. EPIP and YNPN have taken important steps by co-facilitating power dynamics workshops together but know that this is only one piece of the puzzle. We know that it’s important to set the stage at the National level but also need our members to be talking one on one. We know that this conversation has and will take years (as fundamental shifts tend to) and it will take many of us working patiently together. So we're as curious and excited as everyone else to see where it will lead.
What we do know is that folks are ready - they’re past ready. So we’re ready too. And we’re looking forward to figuring this out together.
New Board, Clear Vision
Have you ever had that experience where you decide to make something from a recipe you found online? You get the exact ingredients, follow the steps to the letter, and then you're still kind of shocked when it comes out looking like it did in the photo on the food blog?
I think that's exactly the sort of experience I found myself having a few weeks ago as I stood in the lobby of the Ford Foundation watching the 2013 YNPN National Board arrive for the first day of our board retreat.
Back in 2011, the YNPN National Board recognized that we needed a significant overhaul of our board structure in order to best support the organization that we were becoming - a staffed nonprofit overseeing an increasingly sophisticated network with growing influence in the sector. Under the ever-patient guidance of the Marla Cornelius from CompassPoint, we dove into the arduous process of really laying out what we wanted to accomplish at this exciting-but-kind-of-weird phase of our organizational growth, and what sort of governance structure we’d need to guide us into our next phase.
Pausing to take stock is hard for any organization, but especially hard for organizations like YNPN where the board essentially serves as staff. It meant that, for almost a full, uncomfortable year we had to do a lot of what felt more like talking than doing. It meant that we had to say no to opportunities that felt like they would disappear and direct support for our chapters went bare bones. It meant we didn’t recruit new board members for a full cycle and current board members carried a bigger load. It meant that some of those people left frustrated and the ones who stayed felt stretched.
But it also meant that when we’d finally agreed upon a new structure, what looked like a simple chart had a solid layer of critical conversations underneath it about the work laid out in each of those boxes and the types of people we believed should take seats within that structure. It was a little like staring at the recipe on the food blog.
And we couldn’t be more thrilled with the way the recipe turned out. The 2013 YNPN National Board members represents all the things we love about YNPN and aspire for the sector to be: They are sharp, they are passionate, they are fun, they believe in possibilities and they are grounded and skilled in the work that needs to be done.
It was with this group, that we were able to develop for the first time almost 5 years a mission and vision statement for YNPN that feels totally resonant. Make no mistake, the process for arriving at these statements was challenging and actually did reveal the true diversity in the room. But under the expert facilitation of long-time YNPN consultant, Caroline Bolas, we were able to agree upon ideas, phrases, and words that spoke for each of us. We began by looking to the statements of our chapters for inspiration, then reflected on our own hopes and dreams for the world and for the sector, then zeroed in on the unique roles and responsibilities of YNPN, the network and YNPN, the National organization.
We arrived here:
Our Vision ("what the world will look like if YNPN is successful"):
Stronger communities propelled by a network of inspired and engaged leaders.
Our Mission (YNPN's role in making this vision a reality):
The Young Nonprofit Professionals Network (YNPN) is a movement. We activate emerging leaders to advance a diverse and powerful social sector.
And from here, we’re so excited to move forward with all of you.
But we’d also like to know what you think! What resonates with you or rubs you about this new mission and vision for YNPN National. (Chapter leaders, especially - we’d love to hear from you!) Leave your comments below!
It started out this summer as something of an internal design challenge: how do we take our current resources (i.e. money, people, staff capacity, good will) and rearrange them in such a way that everyone gets back more than what they put in?
One of the many exciting results of this organizational shift in thinking is the YNPN National LaunchPad Fellows program - a way for aspiring nonprofiteers interested in building skills and experience in a very specific area to lend their time and talents to a fast-growing, dynamic organization.
A little over two months ago we put the call out that we were looking for energetic, talented folks from the YNPN network and beyond, who might be willing to offer us 10 hours a week of their time and talents in exchange for substantive work in an area they hoped to learn more about, focused professional development, and a modest stipend.
We were *completely overwhelmed* by the response - not only by the number of applicants but by the quality, range, and depth of experiences they brought with them. Folks applied from all over the country and the Fellows we were lucky enough to select are proof positive that the nonprofit sector absolutely does not suffer from a lack of talent.
It's a great privilege for us to introduce Shinei, Ashley, Laci and Betty Jeanne.* Click here to learn more about the work that they'll be doing for YNPN, what makes them tick, and - most importantly - how to connect with them.
(Special thanks to the Annie E. Casey foundation for their ongoing commitment to building a stronger, more impactful sector.)
*UPDATE: We've added a fifth YNPN LaunchPad Fellow since this post originally went up in November. You can learn more about Krysten Lynn Ryba-Tures, our Data Coordinator, by clicking on the link above!
The second in a 3-part blog series by Jeanne Bell of CompassPoint and Trish Tchume of YNPN
Pedro Trujillo is 23 years old and has been organizing around immigration reform for 4 years, currently at the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles(CHIRLA). He tells an important story of unintended consequences—of unintentionally pitting generations against one another in the national movement to pass the Dream Act.
Instead, he says, he would like people who were pushed out of high school and did not obtain their diplomas to take ownership of the fact that they too are Dreamers. "I want immigrant grandparents and families to step out and say, 'We are Dreamers too!'"
With what he calls "the small but important victory of the Obama Administration’sdeferred action policy," multigenerational leadership was essential. "The whole reason we won 'deferred action' is that all parts of the immigration reform movement started saying the same thing, not just the youth."
|Jeanne Bell and Trish Tchume||In co-designing our joint conference, Generations of Change: A Multigenerational Leadership Conference, YNPN and CompassPoint were committed to moving the generational differences conversation forward to how the generations can and are working together for progressive social change. One of our panelists was especially provocative on the topic.|
|The mainstream often expressed acceptance of the Dream Act because eligible young people were "not at fault" and were "brought here against their will." He says this messaging came about in part through immigrant-youth-led discussions on what language would work best and be viable with mainstream America.||Youth activists from CHIRLA’s, Wise UP! program in Los Angeles|
|"Once young immigrant leaders began to incorporate these talking points into their story of self, many other students adopted it without question. Naturally, politicos jumped on this messaging too, as well as the media and everyone else. I say naturally because it is easier to stand next to and demand for an undocumented student to be considered 'American' if they are on their way to a degree, than to do the same for someone who is a household worker or fast-food restaurant employee and is also undocumented.|
We agree with Pedro that activists across the generations have more that unites them than distinguishes them; our work together is the only path to meaningful victories in the work for social equity.
By Jeanne Bell of CompassPoint and Trish Tchume of YNPN
We thank the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Walter and Evelyn Haas, Jr. Fund for their investment in our collaborative national convening and this blog series it inspired.
The first in a 3-part blog series by Jeanne Bell of CompassPoint and Trish Tchume of YNPN
Multigenerational leadership is an organizational, network, and movement stance in which leaders of all ages prioritize their shared values and leverage the perspectives and capacities of all generations to achieve progressive social change together.
Does this definition resonate for you?
|That’s why we were concerned by the results of a survey we took at our August 2012 co-designed conference, Generations of Change: A Multigenerational Leadership Conference. More than 500 YNPN and CompassPoint stakeholders from across the country attended. As we kicked the day off, we asked attendees to participate in flash research—a quick pulse-taking of their knowledge and beliefs about multigenerational leadership.||Generations of Change Conference cartoon by Lloyd Dangle|
|Twenty-six percent of respondents said they felt no explicit effort in their corner of the nonprofit sector to embrace and leverage multigenerational leadership. Another 31% weren’t sure if they did—suggesting uncertainty about what we mean by the term and what conscious leveraging of leadership across generations could look like. While it’s a start that 43% did see evidence of these efforts, given the decade-plus we have all been at work on this, we hoped to be further along.|
By Trish Tchume of YNPN and Jeanne Bell of CompassPoint
- Building Movement Project Report: What Works: Developing Successful Multigenerational Leadership
|Jeanne Bell and Trish Tchume||The Young Nonprofit Professionals Network (YNPN) and CompassPoint share a deep commitment to nurturing a powerful and diverse leadership pipeline for the nonprofit sector. In our own ways, we have helped to shape the dialogue about who "next generation" leaders are; about what it takes to develop and sustain leaders in social equity work especially; and about what healthy leadership transitions entail as veteran leaders move from executive director seats into other sector leadership capacities.
Committed to nonprofits?
Ready for a leadership position?
Want to help lead the growing YNPN movement?
We'd love to work with you!
YNPN National board members have the unique opportunity to play a critical role in the development and growth of the YNPN network across the U.S., to help shape a growing national organization, and to work to build a stronger nonprofit sector.
Participation on the national board is also an excellent professional development opportunity AND you get to work with a fun and highly motivated team of passionate individuals (see photo above:)
We encourage all those interested to apply! Candidates reflecting the following attributes especially would help add to our board diversity:
- young professionals between the ages of 22 and 28
- people of color
- those living in the midwest, pacific northwest or south (including Florida)
- current or former members of local YNPN chapters
- those with expertise in one of the following areas: advocacy, strategic planning, financial planning, or technology
Click here to apply or to learn more about serving on the YNPN National Board of Directors. Applications are due by Friday, October 26th at 8pm ET. In the meantime, feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions!
The YNPN network was built 15 years ago on the simple idea that in order to access their full potential in the sector, young leaders need access to four things:
a strong peer and professional network, mentors, training on specific skills, and a place to exercise those skills.
For this reason, we couldn't be more excited to be announcing the YNPN LaunchPad Fellows Program – a way for talented folks who are interested in building their skills and experience in a very specific area to lend their time and creativity to a fast-growing, dynamic organization.
The past year for us especially has reflected our network's continued commitment to building leadership in the sector. At the National level, we've made tremendous strides in building out our network-wide infrastructure via the YNPN 3.0 initiative. And at the chapter level, the roll call at our Leaders Conference made it clear that the scope and sophistication of our local programs is growing every day. These Fellows will play a crucial role in helping to support and advance this work while advancing their own careers in the sector.
(Deadline extended to Monday, September 24th.)
Over half of the 900 respondents identified as YNPN members. So the survey results - which provided enough data for four compelling articles featured in the June 28, 2012 issue of the Chronicle of Philanthropy - not only tells the story of what is happening for young people accross the sector, but gives special insight into the experience of those attracted to the YNPN network. Together the four articles tell the story of critical challenges facing our constituents, from concerns over healthcare access to mounting debt - challenges which mirror those of so many workers in America and the vulnerable populations often served by our sector.
To read the full articles, click through to the links below (Chronicle login required for some):
- Fledgling Nonprofit Workers Bear Financial Burdens
- Health-Care Law Helps Young Nonprofit Workers Get Coverage—From Their Parents
- The Gender Gap in Pay Among Young Nonprofit Workers
- Early-Career Nonprofit Employees: a Portrait
One of the stories that lives in YNPN lore is that in 1998, it was awarded its very first grant from the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, with the help of CompassPoint Nonprofit Services (where most of the network’s founders were working at the time and the first home of the fledgling YNPN group in San Francisco.) The group was so excited for the vote of confidence and the support, but there was one problem.
“Back then, YNPN enjoyed such great support from its own community members (both time and dollars) to run the day-to-day programming and work, that actually spending the grant became a little bit of a challenge," recalls Nelson Layag, current Training Director for CompassPoint and one of the founding members of YNPN. “The grant, though, was important for YNPN to take the next step - allowing the San Francisco chapter to thrive and eventually support the emergence of YNPN chapters around the country.”
Ultimately the group used the money to invest in some strategic planning and a marketing and outreach intern who helped give the group its first major membership boost. The story, however, offers insight into the culture of each organization—Haas, Jr. as a funder ready and willing to invest early in ideas with enormous potential impact, CompassPoint Nonprofit Services as an organization on the vanguard of supporting the next generation of nonprofit leaders, and YNPN as an organization focused on growing and diversifying its reach into communities from the very beginning.
Today, as that original chapter in the San Francisco Bay Area celebrates its 15-year anniversary and YNPN as a network stands at 34 chapters and 40,000 members strong, the Haas Jr. Fund has once again signaled its willingness to invest in important ideas at critical moments. Last week, the Haas, Jr. Fund made a generous award to YNPN National to help underwrite the cost of its annual YNPN National Leaders Conference, held this year in conjunction with the celebration of CompassPoint’s 25th Annual Nonprofit Day.
We hope you’ll join us in thanking the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund for their continued commitment to YNPN. To learn more about the foundation’s progressive investments in cultivating leadership for the nonprofit sector, visit http://www.haasjr.org/.