Presenting at LINK - Kari Sherling
Year Up Arizona opened its doors in January, 2015, pledging to help the state’s 18-24 year olds who are highly motivated but lack opportunities to enter the mainstream economy. The need for Year Up in Arizona was, and is, great as our state has the fifth highest rate of disconnected young adults in the country – those who are under-or unemployed or not enrolled in school fulltime. Having been a national success for the past 15 years, in 14 different cities, we knew we’d make quite the impact here in Arizona. But how could we ensure buy-in from the community without being known?
Enter the Link event. Thanks to my membership with Young Nonprofit Professional Network, I learned that Link could provide the perfect opportunity to share the impact Year Up Arizona was making in our community. As an added benefit, the winner of the Link award would receive $500 for the nonprofit at which they worked. Naturally, I entered.
At first, pitching Year Up Arizona was a challenge. How could I possibly describe the impact Year Up has nationally, and the work we’re planning to do here within the Arizona community in under three minutes? I decided my first step was to identify what information was valuable to share. Questions like, what is Year Up? how does Year Up work? what is our impact? seemed to be things other community-driven, nonprofit champions would want to know. My last step, obviously, was to practice in front of someone while timing myself. This helped me to really experience how short three minutes is, and identify the information that did not add value to my presentation.
I am thrilled to share that my hard work paid off – Year Up Arizona was the recipient of the $500 award! Additionally, my participation got the attention of local business, National Processing Solutions, who decided to match Young Nonprofit Professional Network’s contribution, bringing our total funding to $1,000. Needless to say, this was a great opportunity for Year Up Arizona. In addition to the $1,000 contribution, I got to share Year Up Arizona’s work and mission with over 85 young nonprofit professionals. On a personal note, participation in the Link event provided me with my first opportunity to pitch a funding request to a group of community stakeholders. The opportunity was truly invaluable.
So what did Year Up Arizona do with our awarded funds? With Year Up Arizona being new to our community, we need to generate buzz around our program to recruit 18-24 year olds in need of professional skills training. So we tapped into our best resource for reaching this community: our first cohort of students. Through brainstorming exercise based on the rapid prototyping model of quick idea generation and ongoing feedback, our students identified a strategy that they felt would bring Year Up Arizona its future cohorts. That strategy, was to flood Downtown Phoenix’s First Friday event with balloons, t-shirts, students, and branded materials and to talk to other young adults, parents, and anyone who was ready to earn college credits while pursuing a fast track to a career. By the end of the evening, we talked to over 500 people! In the end, the strategy paid off: our second class has doubled in size, growing from a first cohort of 35, to a second cohort of 75.
As we continue to work nimbly to find more young adults who are ready for their Year Up opportunity, we are often reminded of the benefits we received by participating in the Link event. If you have the chance, apply for Link! It was an incredible experience that generated gains for my organization and helped me develop professionally. And, of course, if you know any 18-24 year-olds who want college credits and want to begin their path towards a career, tell them to apply to Year Up Arizona!
Admissions and Operations Coordinator
Year Up Arizona