The Joy and Terror of Launching

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.

Ink It: Your Goals and Visions

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:

When you think about changing the world, what kind of work do you see yourself pursuing?
  • 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.
In 2013, what’s one professional goal you’d like help accomplishing?
  • 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!

Want to Guest Blog for YNPN Des Moines?

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

Check out what other nearby YNPN members are posting on their chapter blogs to be inspired:

YNPN National Blog
YNPN Milwaukee Blog
YNPN Twin Cities Blog
YNPN Chicago Blog
YNPN St. Louis Blog
YNPN Indianapolis Blog

Happy writing!

YNPN Launch Party Details

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.

— The ynpnDesMoines SteerCo

*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

Where: Confluence Brewing Company is located just South of Gray’s Lake at 1235 Thomas Beck Road (Bell Ave.) in Suite A. It’s a cool taproom that opened up this fall. (Google Map)

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

Meet the YNPN Steering Committee

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.”

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