Meet the Candidates: 2015 YNPN Des Moines Officers

Our Nation’s election day has passed, but election season isn’t over at YNPN Des Moines! From Nov. 18-25, YNPN Des Moines members will have the chance to elect a slate of officers for our 2015 Board! (Not a member yet? Hop over and sign up!)

Of course, this being Iowa, we expect to meet our candidates. Tonight (11/18) is your chance!

Come hang out, learn more about these interesting people, and share your ideas for continuing to grow this organization. Up for election are:

Chad Driscoll, Board Chair
Kristin Huinker, Vice Chair
Joseph Sorenson, Treasurer
Dara Madigan, Secretary


Afraid to Ask: Diversity & Inclusion

Guest post by Daniel Hoffman-Zinnel, MA, CHES – Director of Education and Outreach for Planned Parenthood of the Heartland

Last week at the November Afraid to Ask, we hosted a panel on Diversity and Inclusion. Panelists included (left to right):


Henny Ohr , Executive Director – EMBARC | Ethnic Minorities of Burma Advocacy and Resource Center
Sonia Reyes-Snyder, Regional Director – Proteus, Inc.
Marvin DeJear, Director – Evelyn K Davis Center for Working Families

Each of the panelists spoke about their personal experiences growing up with diversity and how they work to be inclusive within their organizations. Discrimination and racism still occur today, whether people realize or even recognize their biases or how their words and actions are coming across. Questions for the panel ranged from asking about training within the organization to utilizing an interpreter/translator to addressing individuals we work with who do not want to acknowledge diversity or work toward becoming more inclusive.

The question regarding training was asked regarding cultural competency for employees of an organization. I challenge us all to refrain from using cultural competency as the umbrella term for training and use other titles such as cultural inclusivity, cultural humility, or cultural responsive. We can never be fully competent of other cultures, communities, groups, or individuals. Additionally, we can never be fully competent of the community we identify with. For example, Sonia talked about how she identifies as Latina but since she is from El Salvador, she could not provide adequate information on another Latino culture for example in Honduras. Training should begin where each individual is at through assessments and reflection. We must first understand ourselves and the culture we bring before we can learn about and appreciate other cultures. There are a variety of resources on cultural inclusivity training and we all can reach out to organizations such as EMBARC, Proteus, and the Evelyn K Davis Center for assistance.

There was extensive discussion on the use of interpretation and translation services. Although many organizations are hiring bilingual employees, there are not enough to adequately serve our communities and we do not have many bilingual workers outside of English and Spanish. When looking for an interpreter or translator, it is important to find a certified interpreter/translator. If an organization is producing bilingual materials, have multiple sets of eyes to review is important to review literacy levels and make sure it is as understandable as possible in all of the dialects. EMBARC and Proteus would be resources if organizations are interested in assistance with translation. Here are some other resources on interpretation and translation:

Iowa Interpretaters and Translaters Assocation
Iowa International Center & Free emergency interpretation services

Thank you to Des Moines University for hosting! DMU has some great initiatves working toward a more diverse and inclusive environment run out of the Office of diversity and Multicultural Affairs. They are a great model for organizations to work toward which includes events, training, and incorporating community members and organizations.

I am excited about the opportunities ahead of us in our community, organizations, and within YNPN! Looking forward to working with all of you to create a more diverse and inclusive Des Moines.

Interested in learning more about Diversity & Inclusion? Register to attend the FREE  2nd Annual Executive Forum on Diversity & Inclusion the Greater Des Moines Partnership will host on November 19, 2014. 

5 Tips for Staying Positive During a Job Search

Guest blog post by E.J. Wallace, Manager of Mobilization for Save the Children Action Network

For the past five years, my family and I had been living and working in Honolulu, Hawaii. I loved what I did, but after my son was born, it became clear that we needed to be closer to family, so we moved back to the Des Moines area. I had no job prospects, a skinny notebook of old contacts, and a desire to change the world. Through determination, perseverance, and a positive attitude, I was able to land a great job with a great organization. Below are 5 tips that I wanted to offer young professionals looking to make a difference in our community… and get paid for it!

1. Don’t be afraid to volunteer – This is actually a lesson I learned when looking for work in Honolulu, but I think it applies everywhere. One of the most discouraging things about looking for employment is thinking you are wasting your time, talents, mission in life while searching for an organization that will give you a chance. Volunteering with an organization aligned with your values can do two things – 1) get your name out there to an organization/area you may one day work for, and 2) feed your need to change our world.

2. Surround yourself with people in your corner, and LISTEN TO THEM – I can’t tell you how many times my wife and family, friends back in Honolulu, good friends here in Iowa, and spending time in prayer helped me get through the feelings of giving up. People who care about you can provide great advice and insights to enhance your resume, and to help talk through what you bring to the table at a perspective job.

3. Craft your personal brand, or mission statement – a few weeks back, YNPN held a talk about crafting your personal brand. I’d encourage everyone to check out any of YNPN’s events, trainings, or networking events, but this one I’d highly recommend reading though. Creating a statement about what sets you apart, and getting in touch with your values and passions really helps boost your confidence when searching for employment. Then, it’s not just about finding a job, it’s about being true to yourself!

4. Don’t sweat the small stuff – I’ve always been proud of my resiliency – the ability to shrug off the lemons and make lemonade – but I truly believe we could all get better at this. You have a passion, the world NEEDS more people like you. Don’t let grumpy people, roadblocks, or a bad interview stop you from landing a great opportunity.

5. Network, network, network – One of the first things I did when I got off the plane was to set up a meeting with old friends who had landed jobs in the area I was interested in working in. From there I had close to 50 conversations with people I never met before, but who could help connect me to meaningful work. The nonprofit world is full of people who want more people like you to make our community even better. Sit down for coffee, open up your heart, and watch the connections happen.

EJWallace.jpgE.J. Wallace is the Manager of Mobilization for Save the Children Action Network, a new 501 (c)(4) organization that aims to mobilize Iowans and all Americans around a commitment that cannot wait – investing in early childhood now. Established in 2014 to expand Save the Children’s capacity to transform young lives, Save the Children Action Network engages our government, businesses, partner organizations and supporters to take bold action and to hold our elected leaders accountable for the youngest, and too often forgotten, global citizens.

Discussion Recap: Building Your Personal Brand with Mary Bontrager

Guest post by Christen Bain, YNPN Des Moines member and grant consultant 

At the October discussion group, Mary Bontrager brought energy and connections to YNPN. Mary is Executive Vice President of Workforce Development/Education at the Greater Des Moines Partnership, and she spoke with a packed room at Java Joe’s coffeehouse about building our own brands and articulating our vision for the future. It’s always good to think bigger about your career goals and Mary certainly encouraged that line of thinking with an interactive session.


Mary walked the group of YNPs through a few exercises to help us get started on building our own brand. We considered the “product” we have to offer as individuals, our values, passions, and talents to develop our personal statement. Listening to the statements of those in the room, it is clear YNPN is full of talented individuals with a lot to offer! We are passionate about the arts and theatre, about housing, about helping kids, and so much more. This organization is the home to so much good being done in Des Moines.

That day, I developed my personal statement as: “I am an expert efficient communicator with a passion for service and education. My passions and sense of integrity drive my communications, problem solving, and education focused work.”

I’m not 100% behind it yet, but it’s something to continue to work on and develop.

From our longer personal statement, Mary encouraged us to develop a more concise tagline of just 10-12 words that we can use in our daily communications in email signatures, on our business cards and in other written communications. The other imperative is to offer this tagline when asked about ourselves rather than linking our story to just a particular employer or career. This personal statement should span job titles and industries. Even if your job is in housing now, your personal statement and tagline should still be applicable if you switch careers to a non-profit focused on hunger.

Following the guided activity, Mary opened up the group to discussion offering her experience and expertise.

Thanks to YNPN and Professional Development Co-Chair Brianne Fitzgerald for putting the event together!

So what about you all? If you were at the event, did you develop a tagline? Are you tinkering on yours now?

Hot off the Press: The National Journal

A writer and cameraman from the National Journal visited our happy hour the other month, and YNPN Des Moines got a mention in their article about millennials in Des Moines. Check it out!: Do the Most Hipster Thing Possible – Move to Des Moines. Watch the video, too, because that’s Danny singing on the track in the background.


They’re also hosting a town hall event with Des Moines Public Schools next week. Details.

Why I Lead: Brianne Sanchez


YNPN Des Moines started when I was at one of those awkward in-between parts in my twenties. I had quit my first profession — journalism, the one I went to college for. I was in the middle of my grad program, studying nonprofit management and executive leadership, and by day was working in a basement as a project manager for a small education-focused nonprofit. My husband and I were also expecting our first child, and ripping the roof of our house with a remodeling project.

My proverbial plate was pretty full, but I felt like something was missing.

I’d encounter issues in my day job that my grad program didn’t necessarily address (board governance, the struggles of working with youth from diverse backgrounds), and so I was glad when I started meeting up with a group of peers every few weeks at Smokey Row. We’d talk about all sorts of topics related to nonprofit work. I met some kindred spirits and felt a sense of community in the informal, down-to-earth discussions.

For me, helping launch YNPN has been a process of peer mentorship. Leadership isn’t something I could gain just from a course in grad school. I had to work with a team to build something from scratch, adding my talents for marketing and communication to those of my friends in the group. (I’m not a finances person, but with Chad as our treasurer, we’re in great shape! I made our first logo when I was home sick one afternoon, but the version our first marketing chair came up with is far more polished. My nature isn’t as technical or detail-oriented as writing bylaws requires, but our secretary, Michelle, and organizational development committee made sure all of our incorporation materials were in order.)

I have continued to invest in YNPN because of the people I’ve watched come forward to participate. Planning an event is one thing, but seeing attendees meet, learn and grow with each other is a remarkable privilege. I truly credit YNPN Des Moines with growing my career.I’ve made inspiring friends through YNPN and learned a heck of a lot about myself in the process. —Brianne Sanchez

Why I Lead: Sarah Myren


Connections, passion and community are the main reasons I lead with YNPN.  The importance of making connections, professionally and personally, is at the forefront of why I get up looking forward to each new day.  YNPN, for me, is the ideal place to build connections with others who share the same passions and work on growing my community in Des Moines.

While I’m not originally from Des Moines, or Iowa for that matter, I had some difficulty feeling part of the community when I first decided to pursue work here after college.  I was soon introduced to a rich and vibrantly diverse community through my first position, which I am still a part of, but I was missing the piece of connecting with other young professionals who shared my interest in social justice, community development and fighting for a larger cause.  When I became involved in the group that would eventually lead to the development of YNPN Des Moines, I found this missing piece and have been so pleased to grow my community even more over the last few years.  Now I lead not only to continue developing my connections, passions and community, but to assist others with the same growth and I’m excited to see what is to come from here! — Sarah Myren

Why I Lead: Joe Sorenson


I lead with YNPN Des Moines because I believe we are all better together. Des Moines is full of talented young professional working in the nonprofit sector. There is so much we can learn from each other and from the leaders in the field we aspire to be. YNPN Des Moines provides members the venues connect and engage in professional development opportunities they may not otherwise had the chance to. I encourage anyone with passion to not only see the Des Moines nonprofit sector grow but be part of that growth to apply for a YNPN Des Moines board position. — Joe Sorenson

Why I Lead: Brianne Fitzgerald


I didn’t think about anything more than just joining YNPN in the beginning – no committee work and no additional responsibilities.  I originally met with Danny and Brianne Sanchez (I have to include her last name, as people often need clarification now that there are two of us) a few months before making the decision to join the group.  I didn’t know at the time exactly what group(s) I wanted to be involved in, or what commitments I should make that worked well for my career and personal life.  It didn’t take too long to realize that membership in YNPN was well worth not only the financial investment, but worth it for the opportunities that would come my way as a member.

So joining the organization was one thing…

My very first ‘true’ experience with YNPN was at the birthday bash last January.  I came to my first social event and found myself amazed at all the great things the group had done so far, but I was honestly more shocked at all the fantastic people in the community who were a part of the organization.  I instinctively knew right away that I needed to be more than just a member – I needed to find a way to give back and help move this organization forward.  I wanted to be a part of the magic happening.

In my previous life, I lived in Muscatine, IA where I was a part of the local YPN chapter (Young Professionals Network) for a number of years, and served as the co-chair of the committee that was very similar to our Professional Development committee here at YNPN.  I enjoyed what I helped with there, so thought I would join in on the fun here too.  When I joined the committee, it was merely to help where I could. I wasn’t sure I had the time to devote more than that.  Besides that, I never thought I would have the opportunity to step up and work side by side with my now wonderful partner in crime, Sarah Welch.  We didn’t really know each other well, nor did I even really know the fellow committee members, but I didn’t let that stop me.  (Trust me, if you do let that stop you, you are missing out on life!)  Now almost ten months after joining the organization, I couldn’t be happier that I made the decision to join YNPN and help lead the Professional Development Committee.  Yes, I have a demanding job.  Yes, I have a family who needs me.  Yes, I have other commitments, sit on boards and have volunteer time outside of work.  And yes, I still need to find time for me. Would I be who I am today without my experiences through YNPN? Probably not!

So now I ask you – why should you consider stepping up and taking on a leadership role?  Well, because you should.  Simply put.  It is my belief that it is inherent in all of us to succeed and be a leader, we just need to find the way in which we WANT to succeed and what that leadership looks like for each of us.  Think of how many additional connections you will make.  Think of how this will help you professionally and personally.  Think of how wonderful it would be to have that added to your professional resume.  Think about how good it makes you feel to give back.  Lastly ask yourself – why NOT lead with YNPN?  (I bet you can’t think of too many reasons!) —Brianne Fitzgerald

Why I Lead: Chantelle Mathany


I walked out of college in May of 2012 with a marketing degree under my belt and a job lined up fundraising for the Alzheimer’s Association and was feeling pretty great about it. Fast forward four months – my first big fundraising event is upon me, I’m stressed to the max and thinking to myself, “Surely there are others out there like me. Where do I find them?  How can we share resources?”

Turns out there are LOTS of others like me – young professionals working in the nonprofit field here in Des Moines. My interest in YNPN Des Moines grew out of my need to grow myself professionally. I faced the same issues many of my YNP peers faced (and maybe you’re facing today too!): new to the “real world” and new to the nonprofit world.  Then this brilliant thing came along – a group who banded together like-minded individuals to share resources and help each other grow professionally and personally.

It was important for me to realize that I wasn’t alone – people working in nonprofits face special issues (lack of funds, lack of all resources really) and sometimes it can be stressful but it helps me to remember that there are others like me going through the same thing.  I am proud to work beside a group of such passionate, caring, hardworking individuals through YNPN Des Moines and hope you’ll consider joining our team! — Chantelle Mathany

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