On the 5th day of #12daysofYNPN, we are thankful for our five, extraordinary board members who rolled off this year. This year, five of our stellar board members rolled off to continue tackling their ambitions and transforming the social sector with their own talents and skillsets. We are so grateful for the time they spent serving YNPN in these critical, formative years: helping us establish a sense of identity, direction and purpose that will truly enable us to build a diverse and empowered social sector. They have brainstromed with us, fundrasied with us and encouraged us throughout the way.
When we think of you leaving, we look like this:
Because we'll miss you so, so much... but we're also Lorde-esque proud of you and know you're about to go create awesome change in the sector and keep serving!
Thank you, Lydia McCoy, Justin Keller, Darrell Scott, Cat Beltmann, and Stephanie Lin Miller!
Earlier this week, we shared the results of our #ynpn10 fundraiser, celebrating our first decade as a network and preparing for the decade to come. Today, our leadership team was kind enough to share some of the process behind the campaign and lessons learned. Their answers shed light on how to: attract millennial donors, deal with unexpected changes in plan and motivate change through powerful messaging.
1. Do you feel like you learned anything new about millennial donors as a result of this campaign? If so, what?
While many of our donors were millennials, we were actually really proud of the age diversity among those who supported the campaign. In addition to the members and chapter leaders that supported the campaign (who fall solidly in the millennial age bracket), we also had YNPN alumni (more of the Gen X crowd) and the parents and family members of YNPN members who supported the campaign. It was really great to see people of all generations recognizing the value of supporting emerging leaders.
I did notice, however, that our younger supporters were more likely to share that they supported our campaign and encourage others to support the campaign via social media. We suspected that might be the case, which is why it was really important to us that we chose a platform that made social sharing really easy and accessible. We ended up using Fundly, which was a dream to work with and which looked a lot like Kickstarter, something we thought would be familiar and accessible to a lot of donors, particularly millennials.
2. What aspects of the campaign do you think resonated with donors and elicited such a strong response? Was it the message, the communication method, or something else?
I think it was a combination of things. First, I think people were intrigued by our ambitious goal. “Really? You’re going to try to raise $10,000 in 10 days? Ok, I have to see this.”
We found that people were really energized by match days. This is one of the main reasons that our campaign was such a success. People are really motivated by that beat-the-clock element and I think also really enjoyed feeling like their money was having twice the impact.
I also think having a genuine milestone--a 10 year anniversary--gave people a strong reason to pay attention. We wanted to make sure that people were aware of what we’d accomplished in the last ten years and how we planned to continue to build on that success. We also have very specific things that we’re working on over the next year, like launching a national database, that gave people some concrete ways in which we’re investing in our network that they can join us in.
3. What is something that didn't work as planned with this campaign, and what lessons did you take from that?
Well, it’s funny that you ask. We actually thought for several weeks that a big celebrity (I mean, a household name) was going to be able to record a video for our campaign through a personal connection we had. But it was getting down to the wire in terms of planning out the content for all 10 days and whether or not we had this celebrity’s video was going to affect the order of the entire content slate.
So we ended up planning two content slates: one with (celebrity) and one without.
The celebrity connection fell through, but our content and the campaign went so smoothly because of that advance planning. It was a great lesson in the importance of doing all of the work upfront and preparing for a variety of scenarios.
4. In planning the campaign, did you draw inspiration or ideas from previous campaigns or other organizations?
Yes! We were in the midst of planning the campaign when Trish went to the Grassroots Institute for Fundraising Training (GIFT) conference in Baltimore. Before that conference we had been planning a pretty traditional campaign--a couple of emails spread out over 4-6 weeks with folks making individual appeals at the same time.
While at the conference, Trish heard a presentation from the Progressive Technology Project of Austin, Texas on a couple of sprint campaigns they had recently consulted on. Trish emailed us from the conference saying, “Ok, I know this isn’t what we were planning, but hear me out…” When the rest of us on the planning committee heard the idea of doing a shorter, sprint campaign that would tie the 10 year anniversary to raising $10,000 in 10 days, we thought it was a great idea. We knew it would mean a lot more work upfront, but we loved the thought of how a sprint campaign could energize people.
5. Did YNPN's national reach and relatively young status (operating less than 15 years) negatively or positively impact the campaign elements? What lessons can be learned from organizations with similar operating characteristics?
I think our national reach only helped us. We’re really fortunate (for many reasons) to have a fantastic network of chapters and chapter leaders who believe in the value of what YNPN does because they experience it every day. Nearly 20% of our donations were from chapter leaders and we had at least one person donate from 22 of our 40 chapters. Several of our chapters donated to the campaign as an organization.
Even though we’re relatively young, we’ve served tens of thousands of young nonprofit professionals and many of those alumni still continue to support YNPN even as they’ve “outgrown” the network. More than 50% of our original $10,000 goal was raised from alumni of our National Board. I think similar network organizations and organizations that offer powerful experiences would agree that maintaining strong relationships with alumni can be a very effective fundraising strategy. I feel like “alumni engagement” is very hot right now and our experience on this campaign shows that there’s an obvious financial reason why it’s important.
But we also feel strongly that it’s important because the young nonprofit professionals of today are the executive directors, board chairs, and funders of tomorrow. One of our hopes is that as members move on from our network and the designation of “young nonprofit professional,” they don’t lose sight of the importance of developing the emerging leaders they work with. A campaign like this can be a reminder as to the benefits they gained from the network and the great experience they had as a YNPN member and leader.
Thank you to all who so kindly donated, and helped us surpass our goal. You are the reason we can create a powerful and diverse social sector, and we can't wait to see where the next 10 years take us.
In the final week of our #ynpngiving conversation, we wanted to provide a two-part summary of our #ynpn10 campaign. We are so grateful to the many individuals, local chapters, and National Board volunteers who championed our cause and made this possible. We designed the campaign around the number 10 -- attempting to raise $10,000 in 10 days to celebrate 10 years.
We had a couple of goals for the campaign: First, we wanted to celebrate a milestone birthday. Ten years as a national network is a big deal! We wanted to let people know that we were proud to have finished our first decade and excited about what was ahead for our second.
We were specifically raising money for the infrastructure that’s going to power that next decade of our work. Over the last three years, the number of YNPN chapters has grown by 60%! This year YNPN is making a big investment in people, data systems, and resources that are going to take our work to the next level.
What will the funds raised be used for?
YNPN is at a turning point in our development as a network. Over the last ten years, and particularly over the last three, we’ve experienced exponential growth. It’s clear that there’s a real demand for the services, resources, and connections that YNPN provides.
We want to make sure that we have the capacity to meet that demand, so this year we’re focusing on adding the resources and infrastructure that will keep our network sustainable. In 2014, we increased our staff from one person to three staff members. We’re also investing in a database that will be used by all of our chapters across the network. And we’re making a big investment in upgrading the services and support that we offer our local chapters.
We’re so excited about what these projects are going to enable us to do. We want to thank everyone who supported the campaign and we’re looking forward to continuing to build a diverse and powerful nonprofit sector for the next ten years and beyond!
On Thursday, we'll be sharing #ynpn10 Campaign Summary, Part 2: Lessons Learned. Stay tuned!
We're looking for young professionals who are passionate about building a diverse and powerful social sector to serve as full-time staff, National Board members, and Launchpad Fellows.
Check out these opportunities, apply, and share!
Data Systems Manager
We're looking for our third full-time employee. Do you love data and have a passion for the nonprofit sector? Then check out our Data Systems Manager position. Applications are due Monday, August 18.
YNPN National Board
The YNPN National Board is a great opportunity to help shape the future of YNPN (and the sector!) while gaining experience in board service and working with a fantastic group of young leaders (pictured above). Apply for the YNPN National Board. Applications are due on Monday, September 15.
Our Launchpad Fellowships are a great way for young professionals to gain (paid!) experience and valuable skills while helping increase the capacity of YNPN. This year we're seeking fellows in the areas of Fundraising, Conference Planning, Program Innovation, Chapter Support, and Communications. Learn more and apply for a Launchpad Fellowship. Applications are due Monday, August 25.
It is my absolute privilege to announce that today YNPN will be bringing on its second-ever staff member, Jamie Smith, to serve as our national Communications Manager.
Many of you have already had the chance to get to know Jamie via social media over the past few months in her role as our YNPN National LaunchPad Fellow for Communications. When we established the Fellows program two years ago, we saw it as a way to cultivate and channel top talent from our network into the wider sector. And we cannot be more proud that some of the best of that talent has been channeled right back into our own organization.
Reflecting on the significance of this moment for YNPN and about Jamie in particular got me thinking about a conversation I had a few months while I was flying across the country. I was working on the slide deck for some presentation and the guy flying next to me leaned over to ask what I did. We got to talking and at some point in the conversation he mentioned that he worked for a REALLY well-known online marketplace that shall remain nameless. (Although I kind of want to give them a shout-out for having their people fly economy.) Anyway, he also casually but pointedly mentioned that he’d been employee #2 at said company and handed me his card. Which actually listed that he was employee #2.
Then he paused and waited for me to react. I didn’t. Because at the time I had no idea that I was supposed to be impressed with this fact.
Later as I relayed this story to friends, especially those who’ve worked in startups, and I’ve been able to gain a little more perspective on the weight of being “employee #2.”
As a friend of mine who was around during the early days of YouTube put it, “Everyone on the outside knows the name of the founder. But if you’re on the inside, every single person there knows that the company would’ve just remained a cool idea without employee #2. Everyone.”
YNPN has been around as a network for 15 years, incorporated as a national org 10 years ago, but only became a staffed organization in 2011. So in many ways, especially in terms of our day to day functioning, it feels like we’re in startup mode. During our national board retreat in February, we called this out. As we were laying out our strategic priorities for the year, most of them were extremely concrete: 1) Build out a robust data system; 2) Clarify our messaging, 3) Strengthen chapter knowledge sharing platforms...
But our final priority--create space for visionary leadership--was more of a vague recognition that we are in a dynamic, evolving time as an organization, working within an environment that is even more dynamic and evolving. We knew that in order to have the most realistic chance for significant impact, we needed to be intentional about making space to not only be responsive to obvious opportunities but to consistently scan the horizon for what might be coming down the road.
Creating that space for visionary leadership has meant that we prioritize learning and reflection and brainstorming during our meetings. It also meant that we had to increase our staff capacity so the day to day functions did not continue to be all we had space for. But we knew we didn’t just need another employee, we needed employee #2.
Jamie Smith is that employee #2.
While her official title will be Communications Manager and her focus will be on the critical work of helping to strengthen and streamline our internal and national voice, her value is that she will add to our capacity for visionary leadership. Jamie is learner, a tester, a strategic thinker, a problem-solver, and someone who is as deeply passionate about the work, the members, and the potential of YNPN as I am, our board is, and our chapter leaders are. She is absolutely the sort of person that is necessary at this stage of growth to make sure our dreams become reality.
It’s an exciting time for all of us here at YNPN and what we hope will lead to a stronger, more engaged network and stronger communities propelled this network.
We're thrilled to welcome our latest startup chapter, YNPN Tucson!
Tucson is home to saguaro cacti, the University of Arizona, and now the newest local chapter of YNPN. We're not only thrilled to welcome these YNPs to the network, we're also excited to have another local chapter in the Sun Belt. Winter retreat anyone?
If you’re a young nonprofit professional in Tucson who wants to get involved with your up-and-coming local chapter, get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org!
In November, our National Board and Launchpad Fellows met in Baltimore at the Annie E. Casey Foundation to review the work of 2013 and get ready for 2014.
This year, YNPN National has invested in important infrastructure, like our improvements to the Wordpress platform used by National and many of our local chapters. We also refreshed our mission and vision statements to make sure that they expressed what we hope to accomplish across the network and the nation.
We also embarked on a Theory of Change process that will inform our next phase of growth and impact as an organization. Throughout 2013, we have been consulting with our National Board, local Chapter Leaders, and experts to identify how we can best support our chapters and partners. As we compile the final data and reports, this information will be used to create a strategic framework that will maximize our impact and help us reach our full potential.
Our National Board, staff, and Launchpad Fellows have been thinking big and bold about the future of YNPN. One of the biggest highlights of 2013 has been laying the groundwork for 2014 and beyond. We're looking forward to making next year and the years ahead even better than this one, and we hope you'll join us on the journey!
YNPN National Board during their November Retreat at the Annie E. Casey Foundation in Baltimore
To commemorate some of our favorite memories from 2013, we're celebrating 12 Days of YNPN between today and the end of the year.
This year our network grew at an incredible rate; in the latter part of 2013 we added a new chapter every month!
On this First Day of YNPN, we want to welcome our new chapters to the network:
Chapter Blog Spotlight - Value of Cross-Sector, Cross-industry networking: Reflections from the Generation Now Leadership Visit
At events, I often look around the room and recognize 75 percent of the attendees.
Each of us across sectors and industries work in our own cylinders of excellence (a phrase I first heard from researcher Kristie Kauerz). We promote impactful work, but often preach to our distinct choirs. Rarely there is a venue to genuinely engage with peers doing vastly different work. But when it happens, it turns out we have a lot in common.
The Generation Now Leadership Visit, modeled after the executive level InterCity Leadership Visit, was an opportunity to bring together 55 emerging leaders across sectors and industries on an intense three-day trip to Milwaukee.
Organized by the Citizens League, the trip was a whirlwind tour highlighting success in Milwaukee. We learned about redevelopment, young professional groups, community branding, education, water policy, green buildings, etc. (the agenda was ambitious!). The best part was when I boarded the bus to depart I only knew five people, but when I returned I knew 49 more who I may not have otherwise crossed paths professionally.
My work explicitly overlaps with only one of the delegates, but I’ve rarely had as engaging of professional conversations as I had on the trip. The conversations forced me to think about my work from new perspectives and consider the impact of my work on other fields. Plus, it was humbling to discuss the work of peers.
The benefits of cross-sector and industry collaboration were obvious on both small and large scales. At one point, I was a part of a conversation between an employee of a utility company and an employee of a nonprofit working to combat homelessness. They quickly realized bill-paying customers were a common goal of both organizations - to the utility company this met its need for profit as well as serving shareholders and to the nonprofit this met the goal of financial independence for clients.
On a large scale, the diversity of attendees allowed for overarching discussions about Minneapolis-Saint Paul as a region, it’s challenges, and opportunities. Often when working in solely our own sector and industry it’s challenging to take complete ownership of a daunting problem such as the achievement gap or poverty. However, when a diverse set of players is at the table, it becomes clear that everyone is impacted by the problem and we need to work together to find solutions.
The delegation came from diverse sectors, industries, demographics, and experiences, but at the end of the trip one delegate thoughtfully commented that he had no clue the political affiliation of most of the group. Despite the diversity of the group, we all left Milwaukee with an incredible sense of urgency to move MSP forward, together. Thanks to our diversity, I’m confident we can create skyways between our cylinders of excellence. Part of our skyway system will be working towards a common vision for MSP - more on this in an upcoming Part 2.
GNLV would not have been possible without the generous support of the Bush Foundation, Knight Foundation, Carlson, Comcast, Greater MSP, Saint Paul Port Authority, US Bank, Urban Land Institute, Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce, Saint Paul Chamber of Commerce and MinnPost. Thank you!
In what ways do you network across sectors and industries?- See more at: http://www.ynpntwincities.org/blog/2013/10/10/value-of-cross-sector-cross-industry-networking-reflections.html#sthash.i66fMEMo.dpuf
by Trish Tchume, Director, YNPN National
Recently we here at YNPN have been discussing how important it is for us to model the way that we think the sector could be doing social change work so that the way we work and the amount we work is sustainable and leads to real transformation. This is one in a series of posts about the small steps we are making internally towards radical culture shifts that will facilitate just that.
By 2011, after years of being an all-volunteer organization, YNPN National managed to raise enough money to hire our first ED, who turned out to be yours truly. Not only was this role a first for the organization but it was a first for me, so I wanted to learn not only the practical basics of running an organization but also how people in my position personally handle the ‘swirl’ of nonstop to-do’s.
I learned two basic things about being an ED from these conversations with other ED’s:
1) Being an ED was apparently going to be really hard and overwhelming. And if it’s not hard and overwhelming, you’re probably doing it wrong.
2) It is very important to talk all the time - with other EDs, with your board, on panels, on Facebook, to toll booth operators (whoever has ears, really) - about how hard it is to be an ED.
Equipped with this information, I settled into my role and prepared for it to be hard and overwhelming. Not surprisingly - it was hard and overwhelming. Up until this point the network itself and the myriad of people and organizations interested in the network had been dreaming big about “what we could do if only we had more capacity...” This list ranged from the practical (i.e. finally upgrade that ugly website) to the revolutionary (i.e. become THE pipeline for moving diverse talent throughout the social sector) and everyone could not be more excited to finally have a person - an actual person! with a face! and an email address! - to share their big ideas for how to make these dreams real.
This translated into a lot of meetings. I mean A LOT of meetings. Notebooks filled with the ideas that people would very much like to see me move forward. Yesterday, please.
I said yes to everything and promised to do even more. I also felt completely overwhelmed and wasn’t sleeping, but then I remembered from my conversations with the other EDs that horrible feeling meant that I was doing things right. I remember lying in bed thinking about how many meetings I had each day and how little I was looking forward to most of them. It took me awhile but finally, I started thinking about the one part of being an ED that no one had really said much about up to that point:
For the first time in my life, I was “the boss.” Technically, I could decide to do whatever I want.
This, however, landed on me not as a realization of power but as a sense of responsibility. I wasn’t just “the boss,” I was the leader of an organization founded in part to counter the culture I was currently swept up in. (Apparently that point was lost on me in the swirl.) So I began to think very practically about how I would want to make more space for myself but also what I would want to model for both our members and the wider sector.
Thus the December Strategy was born.
Initially, I set the entire month of December aside as a time to regroup, reflect, and think big picture. I turned down all meetings, phone calls, and speaking engagements for the whole month of December in order to catch up on work and sleep and I just hoped that people would understand.
I still remember the first email that I sent in response to someone requesting a meeting in December. It was right before Thanksgiving and the thought of asking someone to hold their idea till January 2012 seemed both outrageous and rude. But I’d made a commitment to myself and I was determined to stick to it. So I agonized over the wording of the email for 45 minutes, read and re-read it, hit send, and waited for the reply. I expected a few things in return:
1) Pushback from the person letting me know that their issue was incredibly important and they couldn’t possibly wait for 6 weeks to discuss it.
2) No response at all from the person, ever, and refusal to partner with YNPN whose Director was clearly a giant diva.
To my huge surprise, I didn’t get either reaction. The person actually wrote back 10 minutes later to give me props! In her response, she let me know that of course the conversation could wait till January and she congratulated me for being so good about setting boundaries for myself. Of course, I didn’t tell her that I was setting these boundaries now because I’d done such a bad job of setting them during my first two months that I no longer had a choice, but her encouragement built my confidence. Soon I found myself firing off “Talk to you in January!” emails without flinching.
And just like that, the December Strategy became a thing.
While technically, the December Strategy remains the space that I will set for myself for the third year in a row during the last month of 2013, it has come to mean much more to me than that.
- First, it has come to symbolize a resistance to the notion that all types of nonprofit work carry the same level of urgency. The work that YNPN National does is important. But we are not Doctors Without Borders.
- Second, it’s a tribute to a Meg Wheatley quote I once heard during a speech given by Kim Klein: “If we want our world to be different, our first act has to be claiming time to think. We can’t expect those who are well served by the current reality to give us time to think. If we want anything to change, we are the ones who have to reclaim time.”
And she’s right.
- Finally, it’s a reminder that I and so many of my fellow YNPNers were drawn to this network and continue to be committed to it because it gave us the space to organize in a way that values both mission and the people working towards that mission - something that many of us were not seeing in the vast majority of the organizations where we were actually employed. In this way, the December Strategy feels like as much of an opportunity as it does a responsibility to model the way we believe the sector could be working more strategically towards social change.
Do you have a version of the December Strategy - a small but radical way that you or your organization is changing the way you work, in order to work better for change? Let us know in the comment box!