Guest Post: My NON-CON Experience

Guest post by Anna Wernimont, AmeriCorps VISTA Change Agent for Community Youth Concepts


As a newbie to Des Moines, joining YNPN was a great way for me to be introduced into the exciting and energetic non-profit world. No matter your age or experience, transitioning is one of the most difficult things we go through as individuals. As I navigate through the unknown, having the opportunity to build my social and professional networks while also being exposed to continuing education and support is extremely valuable.

It’s exciting to be able to have YNPN as an avenue for so many of us in Des Moines as they provide a wide variety of engaging opportunities such as the NON-CON mini conference. At the beginning of January, YNPN hosted their first conference, which was, as the title suggestions, non-traditional and non-scripted. (Being inventive is nothing new to this group of exceptional leaders who make up the YNPN board. This is encouraging for us less-than-average creative people.)

With over 75 people at the non-con, the room was energized. We opened up with an improv session that highlighted difficult conversations common in the nonprofit sector, with commentary from  the crowd and Sherri Nielsen, Executive Director of Easter Seals, offering us her wise insight for common situations in the non-profit world which require delicate handling. From there we had the opportunity to choose two of four breakout sessions hosted by our very own young professionals of Des Moines.

I enjoyed attending the conference because of how comfortable the environment was.I engaged with old friends and met new ones, explored topics that spark my interests, and was reminded of the value behind why I choose to do the passionate work I do. I was uplifted reflecting on the natural talents I offer to my projects (Ariane Criger; The Creative Design Process) but also felt supported discussing the critical importance of taking care of our personal wellness first and foremost (Emily Boyd; Burnout Prevention).

I am already eager for next year and to see the ways in which YNPN can expand upon NON-CON and their operations as a great network in Des Moines.

DSM Charity Hack Nonprofit FAQ

Guest post by Matt Hauge, Communications & Marketing Director at Community Housing Initiatives, Inc.


The Des Moines Charity Hack is back, with a second 48-hour event planned for February 26-28, 2015, in a new location at the Gravitate co-working space in Des Moines.

The event supports greater Des Moines’ non-profit sector using the “hackathon” concept to create solutions for all sorts of technology challenges organizations face. Participating non-profits start the event by describing their technology challenges to a team of about 80 developers, designers and project managers. Then the participants divide up to form teams of about 8-10 people who will spend the next 48 hours intensely working to build a solution for the nonprofit.

Applications are now being accepted for participating nonprofits at the dsmHack.orgwebsite through February 13.

Below the jump, Matt Hauge, who serves on the board of Urban Ambassadors, an organization that participated in 2014’s hack event, has answered some questions about participating in the event. We also recommend checking out this great report from Kristin Huinker, another participant in last year’s event.

What is dsmHack and why should our nonprofit participate?

The Des Moines Charity Hack (dsmHack) is a two-day event that brings together an incredible range of technology experts to help advance your organization’s mission. If you have had a website, database, or other technology problem but lacked the skills, money, or time to get started with a solution–well, your dsmHack team will knock your socks off with how much they can help.

What kind of projects can we submit?

dsmHack offers your nonprofit two days of service from an incredible team of talented tech pros–for free. We encourage you to dream big and submit the project you’ve always wanted to see happen.

Example projects include automating paper processes like volunteer registration or creating web forms to use instead of paper forms. Your team could help improve and modernize your organization’s website. They could help clean up your organization’s database of donors, or or use it for a new purpose, like sending e-newsletters.

They can also help create new ways to engage your donor and client communities. Last year, one team developed an innovative e-card solution, and another team developed a fun game to educate donors about the organization’s mission.

At the event, everyone’s goal is making sure nonprofits leave with a successfully completed project they can use right away. The dsmHack organizers do their best to admit nonprofits whose project ideas can be reasonably accomplished in the 48 hour timeframe of the event, and they may suggest that you consider alterations to your project to boost its chances of being a success. Also, once you meet your project team, you’ll be able to agree with them what’s reasonable with the time and talent available.

So what actually happens during the event?

First of all, you’ll build your team. When tech participants arrive at dsmHack, they are not automatically assigned to a group, and they may not have heard of the participating nonprofits. That’ll change quickly. Nonprofits are invited to give a short presentation (5 minutes or less! no slides!) introducing your work and your project. Then, participants divide up around the room to form project teams. The dsmHack organizers helps make sure each nonprofit is able to pull together the best team possible for its project.

For a surprising amount of the event, nonprofit participants are able to sit back and relax. Yes, your team will have questions for you, but as long as you’re available to help them out and offer encouragement, they’re hard workers, and they stay focused. At the same time, it’s really fun to get to know your team a little bit and find out what drove them to choose to help out your organization.

At the end of the event Saturday, nonprofits gather and your tech team presents its completed work back to you. For some nonprofit participants, this may be the most exciting and gratifying experience you’ve ever had with technology.

Does it cost anything to participate?  What’s required?

There is no cost to nonprofits to participate in the dsmHack event. At the same time, your organization is responsible for software, equipment, web hosting, and similar costs associated with your project.

Your project team works incredibly hard for you during the 48 hour event–and they actually pay for the privilege of working for you. As a result, participating nonprofits are expected to follow certain guidelines for participation.

Nonprofits are asked to have a representative on-site for the first four hours of the event Thursday, over the lunch hour Friday and Saturday, and for the last two hours of the event Saturday. (You are welcome to stay longer!) It’s also necessary to have someone from your nonprofit on-call to answer questions from your team throughout as much of the event as possible–yes, even in the wee hours.

The dsmHack organizers do their best to admit nonprofits whose projects can reasonably be completed in the 48-hour time frame of the event, and your project team will do everything they can to make it happen. However, the organizers are not able to guarantee follow-up support for projects after the event. It will be your responsibility to agree with your project team whether they are able to continue their volunteer service after the event. That’s why taking time to get to know your project team members and talk about their interest in the organization is so important.

Have more questions or want to sign up?  Head over to for more information or to contact the organizers.

NON-CON 2015 Schedule


Thursday, Jan. 8 – 2015 @ Des Moines Social Club

12:30 – 1 p.m. Registration @ Kum&Go Theater lobby

1-1:15 p.m. Welcome

1:15-1:55 Intro session: Improv for Uncomfortable Conversations @ Kum&Go Theater w/ Nick Renkoski & Sherri Neilsen

2-2:45 p.m. Breakout Session A – Choose One

  • The Creative Design Process @ Kum&Go Theater w/ Ariane Criger
  • Burnout Prevention @ Gallery w/ Emily Boyd
  • Poetry for Mission @ Basement bar w/ Emily Lang & Kristopher Rollins
  • Mindmapping with Funders @ Culinary space w/ Angie Dethlefs-Trettin, Matt McGarvey & Laura Palmer

3-3:45 p.m. Breakout Session B – Choose One

  • The Creative Design Process @Kum&Go Theater w/ Ariane Criger
  • Burnout Prevention @ Gallery w/ Emily Boyd
  • Music for Mission @ Basement bar w/ Danny Heggen
  • Mindmapping with Funders @Culinary space w/ Angie Dethlefs-Trettin, Matt McGarvey & Laura Palmer

3:45 – 4 p.m. Closing Remarks

4-5 p.m. Affinity discussion @ Architectural Salvage

5 – 7 p.m. After Party @ Basement Bar {Announcing the 2015 Board!}

Special thanks to our sponsors!

15 Professional Development Resolutions

With the turn of every new year, we seize the opportunity to turn over a new leaf and work on a healthier, kinder, more awesome version of ourselves. We make resolutions, set new goals, join a gym, organize our closets, sign up to volunteer and look for ways to stay accountable.

This year, think about setting some professional development goals  — and becoming a member/renewing with YNPN Des Moines. We’re probably not as ripped as your new personal trainer, but we can help keep you on track for success.


15 Professional Development Resolutions for 2015 (and ideas for achieving them!)

Get published. Challenge yourself to write something worth reading. Maybe your organization has a newsletter or blog, or your development team is in need of some testimonials for a campaign? We’re always on the hunt for guest bloggers. Just e-mail [email protected] with your post.

Supervise an intern. Looking to gain managerial experience? Explore opportunities to bring on an intern at your organization, or supervise a short-term service learning project.  Bobbi Meyer from the Simpson College Career Center offered her tips on our blog.

Take someone whose work you admire out to coffee. One of the coolest things about living in Des Moines is how accessible our leaders are. Think about who you admire and take the bold step of inviting them to coffee. It’s not about asking them to become your mentor, but asking smart questions that can help you weight your next career step. Intimidated by a one-on-one? Come to one of the YNPN monthly Thursday morning coffee discussion meetups! They’ll start up again in February.

Read about new developments in the social sector. We’re geeks for the Stanford Social Innovation Review and Chronicle of Philanthropy. Bookmark the sites and aim to read a new article each week!

Design a poster/flyer that wouldn’t make a designer gag. Bad design won’t help your cause. Maybe you don’t have fancy software, but these resources should help! Tips to go from design ‘freak’ to ‘geek’ Infographics 101

Pitch in to plan an event. Odds are, you didn’t take an event planning course as part of your college curriculum. (If you did, we’re totally jealous!) But in nonprofits, events are a huge part of your world. Stacie put together a great series for us, includingthis fundraising event planning timeline/checklist. No room to plan events for your organization? Our committees are always looking for help!

Attend a conference. Conferences are an awesome way to learn about new skills/developments in the field and meet people from your sector who might be connected to your work. Shameless plug: YNPN NON-CON is coming up on January 8, 2015! Register today. (It’s FREE for paid members.)

Eat lunch with a different co-worker each month. Don’t wait for a staff retreat to get to know your team. Whether your office is small or large, grab a bite in the breakroom or go out to eat with a co-worker you don’t know as well and maybe start to build a new bond. (We love La Mie or Trellis at the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden for a tasty power lunch. Tell us your favorite spots in the comments!)

Follow up. Did you have a meeting with someone who offered good advice? Interview for a new job? Apply to grad school? Consider sending a handwritten note of thanks. Keep a stack and stamps in your drawer or bag to help make this a habit. You’ll certainly make an impression.

Develop a tagline. Come up with a short way of introducing yourself that doesn’t just rely on your job title. According to our “Afraid to Ask” event with Mary Bontrager, it’s a step toward building your personal brand. And if you’re between jobs or in a position you don’t love, it steers the conversation toward what you feel are your strengths.

Beef up your LinkedIn presence. Even if you aren’t looking for a new job, an active profile can be a career catalyst. Ditch the selfie for your profile pic (YNPN Des Moines occasionally hosts an event to get a professional headshot), add in your skills and join our YNPN Des Moines group to get your questions answered. (Fun fact: Our founding co-chair got headhunted through the project management skills on his profile! Check out Danny’s project management tips here.)

Subscribe to an e-newsletter. Sometimes it’s hard to seek out tips, tricks and inspiration when you’ve got a huge to-do list. Want to learn more about social media trends. You better bet there’s an e-newsletter for that! (Chris Snider, a professor at Drake has a good one.) DSM and the Business Record also publish e-newsletters with good local business and nonprofit content. YNPN National has an e-newsletter, too!

Go to another organization’s fund or friend-raiser event. Looking for an excuse to get dressed up and enjoy a glass of wine? Celebrate for a cause other than your own. It’s fun with a side of professional development, when you scope out the vendors, auction items, etc. These days, so many local events have a YP rate. Save up and check the Gatsby Gala, Farmstasia, Zoobilation or some other fabulous event off your bucket list.

Ask for help. In the nonprofit world, we rely lots on on-the-job training. Sometimes you’ve gotta fake-it-till-you-make-it, or pretend you’re a multitasking octopus who can get it all done in a day. (We all have the same 24 hours as Beyonce, right? Wrong. She has a staff!) Come to one of the YNPN Des Moines ‘Afraid to Ask’ sessions and get help in a certain area, or ask your boss to send you to a workshop, or whatever you need to not become burnt out and discouraged. Got it all covered? Offer to help someone else on your staff with a project if you see s/he is overwhelmed.

Write a grant or make an ask. Maybe you have a grantwriting team (lucky duck!) but if this isn’t part of your day-to-day work, see if you can build skills in fund development. The Charitable Giving Resource Center holds a Fundraising University in the fall, and the Drake University Center for Professional Studies (a YNPN Des Moines Sponsor!) hosts a workshop this coming May.

 Do you have other professional development goals for 2015? We want to hear them! Don’t forget to renew your membership or join YNPN Des Moines today

NON-CON is Coming Up Jan. 8!

We’re so excited! YNPN Des Moines is hosting our first mini conference and after party on Jan. 8, 2015 to celebrate our second programming year.


We’ll be exploring topics in nonprofit management through the lens of art, a theme that was inspired by our hosts, the Des Moines Social Club, and a desire to have a Powerpoint-free conference. NON-CON attendees will creatively address challenges in the nonprofit sector and enjoy a space to meet and learn from potential collaborators.

Who’s it for? The event is open to professionals of all ages and experience levels. Whether you currently work at a charitable organization or have goals to be a change-maker in our community, you will come away excited and energized to fulfill your mission. It’s FREE for YNPN Des Moines members or $45 for the general public.

Get tickets on Eventbrite:

The best thing about planning this is working with a team of our up-and coming leadership, and pulling in amazing artists and nonprofit pros to facilitate.

NON-CON Presenters

Nick Renkoski, marketer/actor and a man of many talents, will facilitate an unconventional kick-off session. Easter Seals Iowa President & CEO Sherri Nielsen, will provide extra wisdom as we take on “difficult conversations in nonprofits.”

After our opening session, attendees can choose two breakouts from the lineup:

  • Laura Palmer of XO-LP will bring her nonprofit pro background and super illustrator skills together as part of a team going inside the mind of fundraising. Angie Dethlefs-Trettin from the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines andMatt McGarvey from Telligen Community Initiative are some of the most approachable grantmakers you’ll ever meet, and they’ve agreed to put their brains on loan for the afternoon.
  • Emily Boyd, a nonprofit pro (Community Housing Initiatives) by day and yoga instructor by early morning/evening will drop some burnout prevention tactics.
  • Educators/Power poets Kristopher Rollins and Emily Lang of RUN DSM will be there with all of their characteristic energetic reciprocity for a session on poetry and mission. (First session only)
  • Danny Heggen, our fearless co-chair and musician-by-night will share his ideas on setting the sound at your fundraising event and how to communicate with bands and musical artists when you’re on a budget. (Second session only)
  • Back by popular demand, designer Ariane Criger, who facilitated our Design 101 workshop, will present on graphic design principles and the creative process for non-designers.

After the mini-conference ends at 4 p.m. we’ll have an after-party in the Social Club’s Basement Bar from 5-7 p.m. Between sessions, you can hop over to Architectural Salvage for a super informal affinity-based discussion opportunity. We’d love for you to be at the NON-CON, but if you’re stuck at work and can just swing by for the after party, we’re excited to see you!

Huge thanks to the amazing sponsors come forward to make this day possible and  We’re splitting our sponsor dollars with the Social Club, who are so graciously hosting us.


Please join us Jan. 8!

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.

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