I was excited to join in the latest YNPN Des Moines discussion group on nonprofit identity because it is something I have thought a lot about recently. I am fairly new to the nonprofit sector, having come into my current position nearly two years ago. I have, however, worked primarily in government and politics, which have many similarities. I have gotten to know many people who run nonprofits, manage volunteers and have other roles in our field. They are smart, ambitious, hard working and often humble to a fault.
In my experience, the view most have of a non-profit professional is someone who doesn’t make any money, is always overwhelmed, is completely altruistic and only working to further a specific cause and couldn’t “hack it” in the private sector. Entrepreneurs in business are courted, favored and often glorified in media and by economic development policies, while “social entrepreneurs” who see a social need and respond with a non-profit business are overlooked and unsupported.
We can blame the values of a larger society that pays basketball players vastly more than teachers, but we need to take responsibility too. Non-profit professionals first must see themselves as serious professionals deserving of higher salaries and greater recognition. Non-profit work is hard. It often means long hours and high-pressure situations. Most non-profit professionals I know are responsible for at least three roles that typically each have their own person in private industry. They have to be flexible, capable of multi-tasking and fight for their existence every day.
Others have coined a term I think aptly describes the unique leadership abilities of many non-profit leaders: “humbition.” This blend of humility and ambition can lead to great success. We need to capture our unique ability to lead today’s workforce toward solutions to our world’s biggest challenges.
As the next generation of non-profit leaders, we need to be more conscious of the public face we give our sector. We must confidently tout our accomplishments and negotiate with our leaders and boards for compensation that reflects the work being accomplished. While most of us have altruistic and intrinsic motivations for our work, we also have ambitions for our careers and goals for our lives and families. We need to be more purposeful and explicit in our efforts to achieve these goals and work together to change the perception of our industry.
Thanks to our friends at TEDxDesMoines for linking us to this recent talk:
TED says: Activist and fundraiser Dan Pallotta calls out the double standard that drives our broken relationship to charities. Too many nonprofits, he says, are rewarded for how little they spend — not for what they get done. Instead of equating frugality with morality, he asks us to start rewarding charities for their big goals and big accomplishments (even if that comes with big expenses). In this bold talk, he says: Let’s change the way we think about changing the world.
Thoughts? Share them in the comments!
Des Moines has taught me an invaluable lesson since arriving here from Minneapolis less than one year ago: the importance of being open to surprises.
I never imagined myself living in Des Moines. In fact, I never really thought of the city in one way or the other. However, when my wife and I found out we were expecting, it became painfully obvious we had changes to make. At the time, she was running a popular vintage store in a hip area of town. I was busy doing online marketing at a large non-profit and desperately trying to figure out how to keep that job while continuing work on a media philosophy Ph.D I was pursuing in Switzerland. Life was crazy.
That’s when Des Moines came into the picture. By some strange fate, the vast majority of my wife’s family ended up residing here. Considering the difficulty we were having at the time handling our two cats, we definitely knew we would need help raising our child. We also knew we probably couldn’t afford a decent place for our child to live in Minneapolis (our neighbors at the time were a different kind of Latin King than the one famous here in Des Moines). When we made our decision to join her family, our friends and co-workers looked at us like we had lost our minds. “You’re going to Des Moines? To live? Really?” So it was with a good amount of trepidation that we bid them farewell and headed southward.
And so this city began teaching us its lesson. I remember our first time in the East Village and our surprise at all the amazing shops and restaurants. Or the truly “entirely unexpected” afternoon at the Des Moines Art Center. Or grinning ear to ear as we carried home a bag full of surprisingly delicious Iowa cheeses and meats from the Cheese Shop. Or how warmly our neighbors and new-found friends have welcomed us here. More universally, I can also attest to surprise at how all-consuming, yet wonderful, being a parent is. As for what this city has in store next, we’re now open to it.
Speaking of surprises, one of the most pleasant ones in Des Moines is the Lunch Unplugged concert series. Smack-dab in the middle of a hectic work day, you can pull yourself away from your computer, let your eyes adjust to sunlight for a few minutes, and take a brisk walk (or drive) to the stunning Temple Theater. There you will enjoy world-class performances featuring everything from opera to bluegrass. Tell us about some of the ways Des Moines has surprised you and you’ll be surprised with a free ticket to any Lunch Unplugged concert (for the first five commenters), courtesy of my employer and presenting sponsor, Mercy College of Health Sciences.
Michael Sapiro is the Online Marketing Specialist at Mercy College of Health Sciences and occasional consultant for non-profits and small businesses. He lives with his wife, daughter, and two cats in the surprisingly charming Waveland Park neighborhood. Connect with him on LinkedIn.
Watching dozens upon dozens of young professionals stream through the doors of our YNPN launch party, I simultaneously felt so happy and relieved that I wanted to cry and so terrified that I wanted to puke.
I’ve become familiar with this adrenaline-packed mixed emotion over the past few years, as I’ve taken professional risks and lent my energy to side projects I’ve found meaningful. I’m no Olympian, but I imagine it must be what a diver or gymnast feels in midair, as their body twirls and they try to discern from their swirling surroundings whether or not they’ll land on their feet.
Launching a project is a lot of planning, even more communication and follow-through on plans. It’s pretty simple in theory: Figure out what you’re going to do, let people know you’re doing it and then deliver on that promise. But, in my experience, each stage involves overcoming a dose of fear. Sure, you’ve done your research and it seems like a good idea. You’re enthused! And then the doubt creeps in. What if you’re the only one who’s excited about it? You take the time to cobble together a social media presence, and then wonder if you have what it takes to feed that beast and contribute to the conversation in a way that will make people take note. You have your checklist of to-dos, only to be sidelined by other projects or a case of procrastination, or unanswered calls and e-mails. Get through all three and that’s the takeoff.
And then there’s phase two. To borrow an Iowa cliche: You built it, but will they really come? After all that work, you hope so. But not every gymnast sticks a routine, especially the first time. And if they do show up, is your project sustainable? Can you keep the momentum alive?
The YNPN launch party felt like phase two of a gearing-up process I was grateful to share with other talented and committed professionals/friends. Instead of barfing, I took a deep breath. Looking at the crowd who enthusiastically assembled to launch this group was inspiring. I saw some familiar faces there to champion the idea, but I met a lot of new people who were eager to find a networking and professional development opportunity that fit the YNPN vibe.
Because the nature of this project — building a group of young nonprofit professionals who meet to share experiences, resources and connections to advance the field in Des Moines — success isn’t really about our steering committee executing a perfect move, then running a marathon. It’s about creating a structure others can and will take ownership of. I know there are many people in Des Moines who are ready to take a leadership role and find their own piece of the joy and terror of launching.
Would you like to contribute a guest blog to the YNPN Des Moines site? Details here.
As part of our YNPN Des Moines Launch Party (which had more than 100 attendees!), we encouraged our members to share their professional goals for 2013 and their visions for how they can help the world. We believe not only in writing these down, but feel there’s a power in sharing them with the world. The act of writing creates accountability, and by letting others know what you hope to accomplish, you’re opening the door to help.
Here’s what our members wrote:
- Empowering youth to become successful
- Increase nutrition knowledge among young students
- Betterment of our community through understanding
- Providing opportunities for increased quality of life
- Community leader/development
- Strengthening the farm-to-school cafeteria connection
- Connecting “non-digital” seniors with community resources.
- Time management (x4)
- Goal setting
- Program management (x2)
- Becoming more organized
- Self Esteem Workshop
- Connecting partnerships (facilities, socialization, talents, treasure)
We hope to use some of these thoughts to help guide programming in our launch year. After all, this group is about the goals of all of its members!
Contributing to our blog with a guest post is a great way to get involved on your own time (Read: No meetings!). We welcome a variety of contributions, and submitting a post is as easy as sending an e-mail. We’ll edit it, get it online and promote it through our social media channels.
Possible topics include: Reflections on professional lessons (3 things my first job taught me, what I learned at my last conference), advice (Event planning 10), profiles (member spotlight), a post that links to some of your favorite resources or articles, etc. Get creative!
If you want to contribute, just e-mail your post and any accompanying images to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Check out what other nearby YNPN members are posting on their chapter blogs to be inspired:
2013 is the Year of the Young Nonprofit Professional*
Join the YNPN DesMoines launch Jan. 22, 5:30-7:30 p.m. at Confluence Brewing Company.
We’re gaining steam after a fall BBQ, initial leadership meeting and social media outreach that showed overwhelming support for a new organization for nonprofit yps.
YNPN is all about creating opportunities to meet and share experiences, resources and connections to advance the nonprofit field in Des Moines.
The YNPN launch event will feature:
- A plethora of snacks (As much as we’d like to buy you a craft brew, beverages are on you!)
- Activities to get to know other attendees
- Signups to apply for various leadership positions, guest blogging, hosting opportunities for various workshops and discussion groups
- A chance to share your goals and visions
- Door prizes
We hope to see you there! If you can’t make it, you can still participate in the signups by clicking on the links above.
*OK, so technically there was no official decree about 2013 being the Year of the Nonprofit Professional, but if enough of us embrace it, we can get this group going!
What: Launch party for YNPN Des Moines
When: 5:30-7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 22
Bring: Bring your business cards if you have them and lots of enthusiasm to start something new.
5:30 -6 p.m. registration
6-6:05 p.m. Welcome
6:05-6:10 p.m. Speaker (Tony Timm)
6:10-6:20 p.m. Get to know you
6:20-6:30 p.m. Door prize drawing
6:30-7:30 p.m. Social hour
Here’s a look at the individuals who’ve joined forces to launch the Des Moines chapter of YNPN. All are local young professionals who have been drawn to the nonprofit sector. Feel free to connect with any of us about your ideas for the organization:
Danny Heggen is a project manager for the Blue Zones Project with Healthways. He previously worked with Community! Youth Concepts as the Youth Program Coordinator where he worked with youth on social entrepreneurial and service learning projects. Before joining Community! Youth Concepts, Danny spent time collecting stories from imprisoned women and homeless youth, which were then published. He lives in Des Moines with his wife.
Danny says: “In between work hours, I balance playing music with my band Seedlings, writing, cooking, gardening, sitting in on TEDxDesMoines planning meetings, and dreaming up ideas with friends. Mostly, though, I hang out with my lovely wife. The idea of organizing YNPN stemmed from a couple years of conversations with friends working in the nonprofit field. I cannot tell you how many times I heard someone say, “I wish there was a group of people who got together for…” fill in the blank – discussions, drinks, etc. I’m glad to be a part of finally bringing this group together. The most exciting part of YNPN for me is the fact that nonprofit professionals is Des Moines will have a community to connect with, learn from, and contribute to. This really is filling that gap.”
Katy Heggen is a communications strategist at Planned Parenthood of the Heartland. Full bio to come!
Sarah Myren originally came to Iowa from her home state of Minnesota to study Sociology, Spanish, French and Social Work at Simpson College. She started an Americorps*VISTA position at Children and Family Urban Ministries after graduating and became involved with the two organizations that share space with CFUM on the near-north side, Trinity UMC and Las Américas Comunidad de Fe. After her VISTA year concluded, Sarah served another VISTA year at the Des Moines “I Have a Dream” Foundation before starting a position at Orchard Place-PACE as a Latino Outreach Coordinator and BHIS (Behavioral Health Intervention Services) Caseworker.
Sarah says, “I keep myself busy by participating in Latino and immigrant advocacy events in Des Moines, preparing and singing music at bilingual services every week, playing soccer, working on crafty projects and watching movies with friends and family. When I first heard about YNPN, I was really excited for an opportunity to meet other service and advocacy-minded young professionals in the area! Being from out of state, most of the connections I have in Des Moines are through my time at Simpson and it’s great to be able to branch out and meet/learn from others with similar passions.”
Michelle Raymer coordinates the mentoring and volunteer programs at Community!Youth Concepts. She’s also worked in affordable housing, refugee resettlement, and was a Peace Corps volunteer in Guinea, West Africa. Michelle graduated from Central College with a degree in Political Science, Spanish, and International Studies and will graduate from the Drake University Master of Public Administration, Nonprofit Management emphasis in May 2013. She lives in Des Moines with her husband, daughter, and dog.
Michelle says: “In my (somewhat limited) free time I enjoy gardening at our community garden plot, cooking, volunteering on a scholarship committee for Togolese youth, spending time with family and friends, and making Pinterest inspired projects with my sister. I’m excited about YNPN because of its potential to create networking/collaborating opportunities that enhance the quality of services provided by nonprofits across the metro.”
Brianne Sanchez came to Des Moines with a journalism degree from Mizzou and started her professional life as a staff writer for Juice magazine. A suburban Chicago native, Brianne was inspired by all of the Des Moinesians she met who were doing great things and decided to get back to her service-oriented roots and pursue her MPA from Drake University. She worked in public relations for the university before joining the Des Moines “I Have a Dream” Foundation staff. She also helps plan TEDxDesMoines events with a small volunteer team.
Brianne says: “When I’m not at work, you can probable find me riding my bike on the trails, sampling some of my husband’s home cooking or homebrew, crafting with my friends from the East Village store Ephemera or curled up with a book. I love Des Moines as my adopted hometown and am excited to be a part of projects that help our city grow. I think YNPN, because of its national presence, will help link our community to others around the country and hopefully provide a landing place for other Des Moines transplants looking to break into the nonprofit sector.”
Sunni Swarbrick came to Des Moines with a program services administration degree at the University of Northern Iowa and started her professional life as a receptionist/project assistant at the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines. Sunni transitioned into her role Simpson College in July 2012 as their Corporate & Donor Relations Specialist where she manages the college’s corporate funding relationships and their donor stewardship program. Sunni will graduate in December 2013 from the Drake University Masters in Public Administration, Executive Leadership emphasis.
“When I’m not at work or in class, I keep busy with Young Professionals Connection & Young Variety. I also enjoy running, biking, cooking, reading and spending time with friends/family. I enjoy spending my time volunteering in support of Children & Family Urban Ministries and the Des Moines “I Have A Dream” Foundation. I am excited about YNPN because it will create an opportunity for like-minded young professionals to come together to help promote and raise the awareness of philanthropy in the Greater Des Moines community.”