For the second time, YNPN was invited back to the White House for a tweet-chat with Jon Carson (@joncarson44), Director of Public Engagement at the White House to have a frank conversation about young people and the future of the nonprofit sector.
The YNPN journey is now 14 years old, and though we have evolved, we have remained true to that first initial goal - to provide professional development for young people in the nonprofit sector. From a group of young professionals gathering in a San Francisco coffee shop in 1997, YNPN now boasts a staggering 34 chapters across the nation with over 30,000 members. Additionally, we also have 13 start-up chapters working to develop into full-fledged chapters within our network.
Over the past two years, I have had the unique opportunity of working closely with YNPN chapters, monitoring their growth and providing resources and tools to enable their success. I’ve heard their tales of struggles to find board members that can be the champions to continue the work of the chapter once the first crop of founding board members move on; debating the merits of 501c3 vs. fiscal sponsorship; navigating the waters of paid membership; and building programming that addresses the needs and interests of members.
I’d like to share with you a few recent highlights from the network of YNPN chapters around the country:
• In Fall 2010, YNPNdc kicked of Voices of the Sector (VOTS). This was a new program that created a unique space to discuss a variety of subjects from the economic downturn and intergenerational power-sharing to nonprofit accountability, cross-sector collaboration, and nonprofit workforce diversity. To date, they have had several VOTS events with key constituents in the community.
• In January 2011, YNPN Houston partnered with Volunteers of America and Reach to Achieve Mentoring to raise awareness for National Mentoring Month (January). They hosted several podcast interviews with young professionals to discuss the impact mentoring has had on their professional growth; hear one of the podcasts that had YNPN leaders discuss mentoring in their lives
• A signature event for YNPN Triad (North Carolina) is the “State of the Nonprofit Sector in the Triad” event that draws a large crowd of professionals to discuss trends, challenges, and brainstorm solutions to problems occurring in the community. The next such event will be in May 2011; take a look at the last presentation given.
• One of our newest chapters to the network, YNPN Little Rock appears to be off to a great start already. YNPN Little Rock officially kicked-off with their first event last October and already they have an impressive slate of professional development events scheduled for the coming months including speed networking, an advocacy event, and roundtable networking with nonprofit leaders from the community.
• A chapter that is less than 2 years old, YNPN Detroit has already cemented itself as a leader in the Detroit nonprofit community by hosting several professional development events and connecting people to the numerous resources available in the city. Their Twitter feed is a must-read- full of the amazing discussion the chapter drives such as how to engage your board on development and sponsorships to tools on how to negotiate salary and benefits at your job. Their twitter handle is @ynpndetroit.
Coordinating the work of start-up chapters has been another fulfilling area of work I have supported in my time on the YNPN National board. Every month, YNPN receives notices from people across the nation (and across the globe) interested in starting a YNPN chapter in their community. Assessing their readiness to start a chapter, discussing resources individuals might use to spread the word about that start-up chapter, and helping to coordinate the first, second, or perhaps third events for that start-up chapter is a steady, slow process that can take 9 months. The process is intentional to ensure the full success of the start-up once they become full-fledged chapters.
I am constantly amazed at the speed at which YNPN is growing and all of the amazing things our chapters are doing. We may still have a long way to go before all young nonprofit professionals have a YNPN chapter to count on, but the road ahead is full of inspiring work and energetic young people leading the way.
Ese Emerhi Chair, Chapters Committee YNPN National
A note about our contributor
Ese Emerhi is a human rights activist and organizer. She is currently a consultant with the Global Development Learning Network (GDLN) of The World Bank where she provides support to GDLN affiliates in fostering global knowledge sharing within the network. She is also the legislative coordinator for Maryland for Amnesty International where she educates local activists on pressing human rights abuses around the world, as well as work closely with Maryland state delegates and Congressmen to push forward progressive legislative bills. Ese currently lives in Takoma Park, Maryland.
This is a guest post from Elisa Ortiz from Smart Growth America. She blogs at www.elisamortiz.wordpress.com.
I headed to the YNPN DC 2010 conference early on Friday morning to learn and network with other nonprofit professionals. I also joined the social media team at the conference and live-tweeted the conference along with several other fabulous YNPs. In the next couple of days I’ll be sharing some of my notes and impressions from the meeting. If you want to check out the minute by minute commentary from Friday, check out the Twitter stream at #YNPNdc10.
The kick off session was an intergenerational dialogue breakfast facilitated by Rosetta Thurman and Alan Abramson. Below are some of my notes from the session.
Brad Sciber from National Geographic, who was a founding board member of YNPN DC, introduced the session and talked about how he had to teach his parents about nonprofits when he decided to join the sector. He explained that academia wasn’t a fit, business for business sake didn’t move him and he didn’t want to be a government worker; he wanted to do something that mattered and make the world a better place.
Brad now has a young son who has the option to do something that matters throughout his life; but how is Brad supposed to explain that to him? Here’s how he going to do it: by sharing the story “Stone Soup.” The synopsis: Some strangers come to town but no one in town wants to share the food with the strangers. So, the strangers decide to start a pot of soup boiling in the middle of town with 3 stones and they talk up how good it will be. They note that the soup would be better with an onion, but that even without it the soup will still be good. After hearing that, someone contributes an onion to the soup – after all, an onion isn’t a big deal. The strangers then say that the soup would be so much better with a carrot, so someone contributes a carrot. This continues on until eventually they have a delicious soup that everyone in the town has contributed to and can share. This is a great metaphor for the nonprofit sector: we all put in our little bit to make the ‘soup’ wonderful; and if we didn’t have that gathering pot of soup we’d all just be a bunch of people with random veggies.
This is how YNPN DC has grown in the past 6 years: more and more people have contributed and now there are many more events, more opportunities for professional development, far more members, and a stronger voice.
Rosetta kicked off the session by sharing some statistics and loose definitions of the various generations represented in the workplace, including the silent generation (born 1925-1945), baby boomers (1946-1964), Gen X (65 – 79), Gen Y (80-2000). (For more on the stats and reports that detail a generational shift in nonprofits, check out Ready to Lead: Next Generation Leaders Speak Out and YNPN’s report on leadership development and career progression in the nonprofit sector, Stepping Up or Stepping Out [PDF].)
She then asked some questions of the group that we responded to at our individual tables.
- What do you wish people knew about your generation?
- From baby boomers – we have a sense that government can be a positive force and it has shaped our lives; the power of popular movements and public service to do good is hugely important; a lot of us had a sense of working hard, paying dues, and working your way up in the workplace that we were taught from an early age; some key cultural touchstones: men born after 1954 knew (and still know) their draft numbers by heart and in the workplace most people smoked all day everyday – those are thing that young people have never experienced.
- From Gen X – AIDS was a huge economic and health impact on our lives; we feel like Gen Y doesn’t recognize the need to pay their dues; we as Gen X-ers are more willing to pay our dues and we empathize with the baby boomers in that respect
- From Gen Y – even though the media wants to label the newest crop of college graduates the ‘lost’ generation due to a poor economy and a lack of jobs that keep us living at home, Gen Y-ers are actually very entrepreneurial, we are starting our own businesses and making things happen; we are more willing to take risks, but in a way that can allow great change to happen and new social norms to be created
- How do we move the ‘next’ generation of leaders into the ‘now’ generation of leaders? What can we do on the individual, organization and regional (DC metro) level?
- Start with trust in one another instead of waiting to earn that trust
- Especially for Gen Y-ers: let your boss know that you will stay at an organization if you are cultivated and appreciated
- Gen X can seek out and help develop younger leaders
- Go to your supervisor and ask them what they know; this credits them for their knowledge and you also get professionally development
- Be more transparent on salaries, benefits, etc. so that we understand where each other are coming from re: money and that pressure
- Organizations should keep a list of professional development opportunities or maintain connections with other organizations that do have that information
- Organizations should start and maintain a policy of supporting professional development in all employees
- Sessions conducted by employees for other employees on different knowledge areas
- External mentoring with other organizations
- Strengthen the nonprofit community in DC by participating in groups like YNPN
The session was a great chance for each of us to learn from other generations and start (or continue) a dialog that needs to happen in our workplaces, schools and homes. The workplace is ever changing and if we’re going to be successful within it, we need to be flexible and work together whether we’re moving up or moving out.