Member Spotlight: Amber Wallingford

YNPN.JPGAmber Wallingford is the Jasper County Coordinator at IMPACT Community Action Partnership. 
Interesting Facts: I have seen Taylor Swift 9 times, I hate ranch with an extreme passion and I was a Sims addict in a previous life.
What she loves and hates: 
I love live music! It connects people in a magically way and makes you feel good. I hate rude people because life is to short to be walking around with a negative attitude.
What she's passionate about: 
I am passionate about spreading positive energy. I want to see my community thrive and the people I am surrounded by happy. All humans deserve respect and dignity and I love getting to know people's story.
Favorite and least favorite food:
Love TACOS! Hate Seafood!
Other things to know:
I am a sucker for a good Pun.

Member Spotlight: Tiffani Brendeland

Tiffani Brendeland is an Account Executive at (C)3 Marketing. She graduated from Iowa State University with a B.A. in Advertising.

Interesting facts: She likes to hunt (2nd shot gun season on deer) and fish (mainly walleye); she's a wanna be runner (5K, 10K and Halfs) and; a closet nerd- give her all the books!

What she loves and hates: Tiffani loves her husband Case, children Elsie and Elijah and Jesus. She enjoys sweatpants, Starbucks Skinny Mocha with soy milk and reading while drinking wine. If she's comfy, caffeinated and surrounded by family, she is happy!
Life is too short and too important to waste on hate. There are things/people I dislike, but that is life.
What she's passionate about:
"I am passionate about helping people. I just want to live life knowing that I tried and did the best I could for those around me, so I help."

Food favorites:
She will try anything once and hasn't met a food she doesn't like. Favorite foods include lobster and chocolate cake.

What else you should know:
It took her five years of courting Andrea Love to hire her. She knew she wanted to work for (c)3 Marketing because she liked their mission. "I have never worked with a group more passionate, caring, smart or silly as the ladies I work with now and I wouldn't trade it for anything. Not a lot of people can say they have that, I am lucky enough to be one of them!"
To become a future YNPN Member Spotlight complete the online form. Email a photo to [email protected].

Member Spotlight: Kristen Corey

Kristen Corey is a Program Planner at the Iowa Department of Human Rights' Office on the Status of Women. She has degrees in M.S., Sociology and Sustainable Agriculture; B.S., Sociology and Environmental Studies (minors: Agronomy and Psychology). 

Interesting facts and Kristen:
I love being outdoors doing almost anything (even weeding and mowing my lawn). If I had all of the money in the world, I would buy some land in Northeast Iowa and run my own fruit and vegetable farm. I have two young children - ages 2 and 4, and they are my world. Some people are surprised by the fact that I'm a very introverted person and would prefer to sit home and read a book or be outside in my garden over going to parties or social events.
What she loves and hates:
I love kindness, peace, honesty, nature, and people. I hate injustice - period.

Her passion:
Social and environmental justice. My job - equality for women is especially important to me.

Least favorite food:
Least favorite: canned beets. Favorite: too many to mention, but briefly - Thai food, pretty much anything that's spicy, Mediterranean food (love Greek flavors), fresh fruits and vegetables, the taste of a ripe, local tomato. I love to eat fresh, local food.
Additional info:
I'm an open book and wear often my heart on my sleeve.
To become a future YNPN Member Spotlight complete the online form. Email a photo to [email protected]

Member Spotlight: Kristin Huinker

Kristin is the current chair of YNPN Des Moines and works as the Community Development Director, Youth Emergency Services & Shelter (YESS). Kristin has her Bachelor's in Social Work. 

Interesting facts about Kristin:

She is one of of four sisters, including a fraternal twin ; she is a proud Wartburg College graduate and she doesn't use a smart phone!

What she loves/hates:

Love: Sports, nature, coffee, live music, a well-cooked ear of Iowa sweet corn

Hate: Confrontation, tornadoes (generator of nightmares since June 18, 1994), Creed (no explanation needed)

Kristin's passion

Improving children's welfare in the state; Iowa State athletics; Casey's Pizza

What is your least favorite and favorite food?

Least: cottage cheese; Favorite: Homemade apple pie

Random insight about Kristin:

She mentally recited the entire movie Hocus Pocus while detasseling a field of corn that took over an hour to go down one row. 


Interested in being a future member spotlight? Complete the form here and email your photo to [email protected]

The No Asshole Rule

Guest post by Amy Alesch.

The No Asshole Rule by Robert I. Sutton, phD, is one of those books you read and think to yourself, “I’ve always felt this and finally someone put it into written form with the backing of research.” I feel a sense of relief when this happens…this time I felt vindicated in my decision a couple years ago not to engage with people Sutton defines as assholes. The premise of the book is very neatly summed up in the title. Sutton advocates that organizations not tolerate “assholes”. If an organization must, only one or two must be allowed and those assholes essentially provide an example for other employees as to how not to behave and as an example of how assholes within the organization are punished.

Sutton begins by defining what the characteristics of an asshole are. He gracefully acknowledges that we all have our asshole moments (states). He outlines asshole behavior as a consistent pattern (traits), not a one-time episode. A simple test to assess if someone is acting like an asshole is 1) if an interaction with the alleged asshole leaves the other individual is left feeling humiliated, oppressed or belittled and 2) if the alleged asshole directs her or his malice toward people s/he perceives to have less power, rather than more. Sutton goes on to list the “Dirty Dozen” methods assholes generally use to demean their targets.

Sutton presents convincing evidence of the economic costs to an organization/business that hires and retains an asshole. These costs materialize in the form of high employee turnover, an unwillingness for other organizations or businesses to work with the “asshole”, reputational damage and the propensity for otherwise good employees to act out (stealing, decreased effort) in the presence of an asshole. Sutton goes on to assert that companies would do well to entwine the no asshole rule into hiring and firing policies and organization mission and vision statements. He repeatedly advocates for action behind the words, in these cases…in other words, do not say what you do not enforce.

Sutton ends with counsel on reigning in your own inner asshole (whether it be states or traits) and on how to deal with an asshole if you are in the unenviable position of working with one. The book provided a lovely archway through which we (book club participants) could walk through and commiserate about past experiences, provide feedback on current situations and talk about what we’ve done in the presence of an asshole. For me, personally, as I’ve said, it’s validated what has become a personal and professional mainstay for me. I highly recommend this book…to assholes, non-assholes and occasional assholes. There is definitely much to think about…the way we treat people, the way we like to be treated, what is actually the most effective organizational strategy and what we want and deserve from our professional and personal interactions.

Organizational Culture: Finding Your Fit

Guest post by Lindsay Pingel, Director of Community Engagement, Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Finding the perfect pair of jeans … THE STRUGGLE IS REAL!!! Time, energy, research, trial and error often go in to the process. On top of that, there are so many characteristics to look for – comfort, versatility, dressy vs. casual, dark vs. light denim, slim fit, flare, durable … the list goes on and on. The process can sometimes seem never ending, but when you finally find the pair – the PERFECT pair – the energy, confidence and fulfillment you feel is worth the wait.

This same process can be used to create and define the culture of an organization. No matter what size, type or arena your business aligns with, all institutions have a mission, vision and core principles that define its culture. Trends, traits, time periods and people can alter these characteristics at different times, but at its core, the culture remains the same.

As a job seeker or long-term team member of an organization, it is important to know what kind of workplace culture is best for you before you accept a job or as you continue to grow within an organization. Some things to consider are:

  • The mission, vision and values of the organization. If you can’t align with the core values of an institution, it probably isn’t the right place for you.

  • Leadership. Does your director/manager practice what they preach and empower their team to grow and illustrate the core values of the organization?

  • Flexibility. What does flex time, PTO and/or sick pay look like? Is there flexibility within your position to set your hours as personal priorities, networking invitations and/or professional development opportunities come up?

  • Autonomy. Micro-managing can stifle an employee’s productivity and create frustrations for staff. Allowing autonomy for individuals can open the door for individual leadership that will directly benefit an organization.

  • Open communication is encouraged.  From the top to the bottom, communication is encouraged. Leadership keeps their staff “in the know,” and encourages open dialogue to brainstorm, find solutions to internal/external concerns, and most importantly, be heard.

  • Happy people. If staff are happy, enjoy what they do, like their colleagues, and are excited to come to work each day, well, who doesn’t want to work at a place like that?!

Like the perfect pair of jeans, different tactics and traits are taken into consideration when an institution defines its workplace culture. This process takes time, strong leadership, employee buy-in, growing pains … the list goes on and on. But in the end, when an institution defines its culture, new opportunities, personal/professional fulfillment, and countless possibilities for future endeavors will emerge and be worth the work and wait.


Reflection: July Book Discussion

I never expected that my husband and I would be weighing the benefits of public vs. private school when our son was only 6 months old, but that was our reality. I never thought I would see a future where the amount of money we spend on sports activities for our kids is equal to our family’s grocery budget, but the research in “Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis” shows that this is where we’re headed.

Robert Putnam shares stories and research that highlight the challenge parents are facing around the nation: the possibility that their children won’t have a better life than they did. The essence of the American Dream is that all children can have equal opportunities for success, if they only work hard and remain focused. But how can they all have an equal opportunity if there’s not an equal start at the beginning of life?

This question was the highlight of YNPN’s Quarterly Book Discussion in July. Attendees shared their perspective through their own professional lenses. While some considered the impact of the data on the current generation of youth, others shared their concern for adults that have already lost sight of the “American Dream” due to struggles in overcoming childhood trauma or making the decision to forego a small raise at work because of a greater loss in benefits, (childcare assistance, tax credits, health care coverage). Some families can afford to take the loss if they are lucky enough to have parents who can help fill in the gaps for medical bills or assist with childcare, while others are stuck in a continuous cycle of poverty with no extended family to rely on.

Putnam shares parallels between the challenges for today’s children and the life he had growing up in Port Clinton, Ohio. He notes that 75 % of his fellow graduates went on to attain a higher level of education and greater economic security than their parents had achieved. Because of socio-economic trends that range from the decline of manufacturing to residential moves to suburbs, that is not true of more-recent graduating classes. Families of varying socioeconomic status lived side by side in 1950, whereas today’s poorer families are segregated from upper class families with gated communities and home association fees.

During our discussion, several attendees noted Putnam’s lack of emphasis on the correlation of race and upward mobility. Rather he emphasized the growing disparities between socioeconomic classes as being the largest barrier for upward mobility for all races. He cites the collapse of the working-class family that started to affect African-Americans in the 1960s, also began to affect white Americans in the 1980s and 1990s. This sparked our group’s conversation to turn towards discussing barriers in Central Iowa for upward mobility and what we can do about it as both non-profit professionals and invested community members. Here are some of our ideas:

  • Check out Connections Matter and share their mission not only within your agency, but within your community. The materials were developed by a stellar team of professionals from the Central Iowa ACE’s 360 Committee, Trauma Informed Care Project, and the Developing Brain Group. It’s also coordinated by Amanda the Panda and Prevent Child Abuse Iowa (Shout-out to our fabulous YNPN Member Sara Welch for being a part of this awesome effort!)
  • Increase the discussion around barriers for minorities to achieve upward mobility. Des Moines may be #1 for Young Professionals, but did you also know that in 2014 Iowa ranked dead last for the number of minority-owned businesses
  • Diversity is not exclusive to skin color. More value needs to be placed on employees and clients who hold different religious beliefs, cultural values, and live with their own mental/physical disabilities.
  • Advocate for better policies on maternity/paternity leave. If employees and their families are well cared for, the people we serve will be well cared for.

Kelsey Tyrrell

Pregnancy and Adoption Coordinator

Catholic Charities Des Moines

LinkedIn Profile

Afraid to Ask: Nonprofit Management

YNPN kicked off an Afraid to Ask series focused on the topic of Nonprofit Management on Tuesday, April 19th at Fox Brewing in West Des Moines. Two members of Mosaic in Central Iowa’s leadership team spoke to 15 attendees about things they’ve learned about managing a nonprofit for collectively over 40 years.

Carol Mau, Mosaic’s executive director, admitted she falsely believed she had it all figured out many years ago when she became an agency director. She quickly learned, however, that being in a supervisor role doesn’t mean you have all the answers. After attending a leadership training put on by Morning Star Associates about how to effectively lead employees, Mau felt invigorated from learning so much about developing employees, but also defeated because the agency had been missing the mark.

“Before, we would have project meetings or people would just pop into my office if they had a question, but we never dedicated time to helping grow our employees.” All supervisors at Mosaic have now committed to monthly, if not weekly, coaching sessions with their direct reports. This was implemented because the leadership team recognized that the investment of this one-on-one time between an employee and their manager is critical to building self-reliant leaders and would end up saying everyone time in the long run.

Both speakers also emphasized that avoiding conflict is not an effective way to manage an organization. Employees need to be able to challenge ideas, but still come together in the end to trust whatever decision is made.

“The most important tool you have as a leader is your organization’s already established mission and values,” Mau said. When conflict and challenges do arise, you should look to the organization’s mission to help guide you.

Jen Zajicek, Mosaic’s associate director, highly recommended that everyone, whether in a supervisory role or not, reads the book Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott. Both women also recommended any book by Patrick Lencioni, as he writes his leadership advice in novel form, so it’s easier to follow along within the context of a story.

“It’s all about relationships,” Mau explained. “It’s about building trust so that the manager can help support the employee to do their best work possible, and so the employee isn’t afraid to bring challenges or new ideas to their supervisors.”

Keep your eye out for the next installment of this Afraid to Ask series in June!

Meetings that Actually Work

Last year, my organization (Iowa Campus Compact) decided that since we facilitate so many meetings and events, it was time to get a few more tools in our toolbox. We often have challenges with engaging everyone actively and keeping on track. In December, we attended a Facilitation Lab led by See What I Mean, a consulting and training firm that focuses on meeting design and visual facilitation.

Cut to this spring and a site visit with some of our program participants and supervisors. These meetings in the past have typically involved us asking some open-ended questions (How is the program going for you? What could we improve?) and…crickets. This time was different. My staff designed the meeting around the goals for us and the goals for those attending. They designed activities that helped people with different styles (introverts and extroverts, etc.) contribute to a robust conversation where we encourage each other and generated new ideas for some of our biggest challenges. No crickets could be heard, only great ideas.

Every meeting we have planned using the principles and techniques we learned through the Facilitation Lab has been more engaging, more productive, and more professional than anything we’ve done in the past. At last week’s YNPN discussion group, I shared some of the ideas and resources we learned through this training.

Design the meeting

This seems simple and yet often doesn’t happen. See What I Mean encourages you to think about both the organizational and “people” goals of the meeting and to design activities, including openings and closings, that help you reach those goals. Good design helps you stay on time as well, which to me is critical. Start on time and end on time, no matter who is in the room!

Use activities, not open-ended discussion

Let me tell you, this is a hard habit to break. I am still working on it, despite having seen just how much difference a well-planned activity can make. To design the right activities, you have to really think about the organizational goal of the meeting. Whether it is generating new ideas or making a difficult decision, you can find activities that help everyone engage, feel heard, and stay on track. Need some ideas? Gamestorming is a great resource.

Show, don’t tell

Whenever you can, think about how to visually represent your goals, concepts, and the information generated through the meeting. Visual tools are more engaging and help participants develop a shared understanding of concepts and plans. To help practice this skill, our YNPN group tried to draw “how to make toast.” Try it!

The YNPN group also used a Brainwriting activity (great for including introverts) to generate their own ideas for great meetings. Here are a few:

  • For a group that meets regularly, consider working together to create your meeting rules and expectations
  • Send agenda and “homework” in advance to attendees
  • Offer “office hours” to answer questions prior to the meeting
  • Close all meeting with a recap of action items, assignments, and timelines (include what was decided at the last meeting on the next meeting’s agenda)
  • Send out meeting notes after meetings
  • Practice active listening
  • Create a “parking lot” for questions that are off-topic

A final thought for anyone organizing or facilitating meet is the greatest wisdom I learned from See What I Mean: have empathy for participants. Build in breaks, offer food and drinks, create a comfortable space. People who have their basic needs met are more likely to share their ideas and be fully present!

What are your meeting tips?

Design Assign: Matching Non-Profits with Creative Professionals to Raise Awareness and Funds

As a non-profit, every day you do what you can to make things better. You implement programs that address unmet meets, you fight for funding to continue to make a difference, and you work to inspire others to get involved with your cause. But, some days that work is more challenging than others —maybe you’re short on time, money, staff — or all three.

One local organization is looking to help out. For the fifth year, AIGA Iowa, the local chapter of AIGA, the professional association for design, is matching local non-profit organizations with creative professionals to provide communication materials pro-bono that can help raise awareness and funds. Past projects have included logos, brochures, event invitations, posters, websites, and much more — depending on the needs of the non-profit. The initiative is called Design Assign, and over 30 non-profits have benefited from the program since it began, many of which have participated year after year.

Through the initiative, relationships form, designers commit time and thousands of dollars in design fees, projects are creatively brought to life, and lives — both the creatives and the clients the non-profits serve — are changed.

Non-profits are invited to submit project applications on the Design Assign website through April 10. All approved projects will be posted on the project board where creative volunteers will then have the opportunity to apply for whichever project they feel best matches their skills, interest and time commitment.

AIGA is proud to host this collaborative partnership that gives back to the greater Des Moines community through design.

Questions about the program can be directed to [email protected].

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