A National Movement: One Member’s Cross-Country Exploration of the YNPN Network

A National Movement: One Member’s Cross-Country Exploration of the YNPN Network

By Drew Adams, Board Member and Fund Development Committee Chair, YNPN Phoenix

Drew Adams (Second from the left) attends one of our monthly coffee chats.

When I discovered YNPN Phoenix, I’d been trying to figure out my relationship with the social sector. The first event I attended was an early morning coffee chat at Sip Coffee & Beer Garage (every second Wednesday and free for all attendees – come check it out!).

I didn’t know anyone, but it was important I try and connect with these strangers who’d committed their careers to making a difference. They would teach me lessons I needed to learn while exposing me to the needs of the Greater Phoenix area.

Fast forward one year. I’m now a proud member of YNPN Phoenix, chair of the fund development committee, and an incoming board director. I’ve met some of nicest, friendliest, silliest people since moving to the Valley in 2013. Our chapter’s drive for social change is inspiring, which got me thinking: what about other YNPN chapters? What were they doing in their communities? How were they the same or different?

Sometimes our involvement with individual chapters isolates us. It’s easy to feel so encompassed by the work we do in our local communities that we forget we’re part of a national network of like-minded peers. With that in mind, I decided to reach out to chapter leaders during some recent traveling and learn more about what YNPN is accomplishing across the U.S.

YNPN Milwaukee

Despite leading a full-day staff retreat, YNPN Greater Milwaukee President Holly McCoy was still able to carve out time to sit down with me at the offices of Literacy Services of Wisconsin. I love collecting ideas from other YNPNers, and Holly was happy to share a thorough and informative overview of the chapter’s 2017 impact.

Greater Milwaukee emphasizes the mission of YNPN to provide much-needed professional development opportunities while supporting the professional pipeline for nonprofit leaders. It works closely with chapters in Madison, Chicago, and the newly established Sheboygan to ensure the Midwest is prepared to advocate on behalf of the region’s social needs.

This collaborative focus has led to some innovative programming, including a trivia night that fosters friendly competition and connections between area nonprofit teams and member-exclusive events with local CEOs and other community influencers. Funding support has allowed the chapter to offer not one but two leadership awards as well as the Ilona Nicole Memorial Graduate Scholarship, which reflects an intentional investment into its membership.

YNPN Greater Milwaukee is all-in on the network’s potential to truly elevate nonprofit professionals with the talent, determination, and passion for social change.

(Side note: Literacy Services of Wisconsin is a finalist for the BizTimes Media 2018 Nonprofit Excellence Awards’ Small Nonprofit Organization of the Year. Congratulations Holly, and we’re rooting for your team on November 2!)

YNPN Portland

I met with YNPN Portland Chair Katie Frederick and Secretary Erin Carver at The Bye and Bye in Northeast Portland. I’ve spent most of my time west of the Willamette – I have family in Beaverton – so it was nice to explore a different part of town. Katie and Erin were forthcoming about what their chapter’s been accomplishing, and it was a pleasure to sit down and chat more about the Northwest social sector.

The Portland chapter is doing incredible work with equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI). The incorporation of EDI in strategic planning has recently “gone viral” throughout the nonprofit world, yet it’s crucial to maintain the sincerity of its application. EDI cannot be a trend, but rather the foundational structure for the future of the sector. That’s why EDI is so intrinsically bound to YNPN’s guiding Theory of Change.

YNPN Portland understands that achieving EDI starts by looking inward. They’ve taken great effort to evaluate how their board, as leaders of the chapter, embody and reflect the culture of EDI in ways that matter to both their membership and the communities within which they serve. It’s a purposed approach to understanding that’s admirable, and certainly replicable. I left Stumptown energized.

YNPN National

YNPN National Executive Director Jamie Smith also happens to call Portland home and was gracious enough to take a break from her packed schedule to meet up at Shift Drinks.

I knew my conversation with Jamie would be different from those I’d have with Holly or Katie and Erin. After all, she doesn’t represent one YNPN chapter; she represents 44. I hoped to glean insight into what YNPN, as a national network, could do with its singular voice.

Jamie shared her thoughts on how to pitch YNPN to funders, the importance of EDI to a changing social landscape, and the power of the network to support, inspire, and encourage fellow leaders throughout the country. YNPN is meant to galvanize a new generation of social progressives and is uniquely positioned to direct a sector that’s often balanced, sometimes precariously, between the tried and true and the shiny and new.

When she's having difficult days – and we all do in this line of work – Jamie continues to watch video of YNPN Phoenix board members Jaclyn, Alana, Julie, and Ben lip-synch Gloria Gaynor’s "I Will Survive" at July’s National Conference to remind her why the work of YNPN is so important to its members. We too believe in the mission of activating emerging leaders by connecting them with resources, people, and ideas.

(We’re the two-time reigning lip-synch champs, btw.)

Building a Diverse and Powerful Social Sector

As someone fascinated by questions of sustainability, I always ask about fundraising. How did each chapter approach funders? What was the pitch? How do you sell YNPN?

We’re the only national network dedicated to the growth and career development of young nonprofit professionals. Whether in Phoenix, Milwaukee, or Portland, the excitement for change embodied by our members proves the concept not only works, but is in high demand.

It can be difficult for funders to see the intrinsic value something like YNPN provides, and that’s frustrating. But if the chapters I’ve had the pleasure of meeting so far are any indication, we’re well on our way to seeing a dramatic shift in the sector nationwide. I, for one, look forward to it.

Thanks again to Holly McCoy, Katie Frederick, Erin Carver, and Jamie Smith for taking the time to indulge my curiosity and talk shop.

As for my next stop? YNPN Chicago! See you in the Windy City.

Interested in networking with the Phoenix nonprofit sector? Consider becoming a member of YNPN Phoenix! Contact info@ynpnphoenix.org for more information. To contact Drew Adams, please email development.chair@ynpnphoenix.org.