Working Together to do the Most Good
As young professionals dedicated to making our communities more equitable and just, we are constantly faced with the question, “How can I do the most good?” The answer has actually been right in front of us from the start and cycled through in countless conferences, blog posts and presentations. It can be found among our coworkers, our peers and our common goal of effecting social change. To do the most good, we must collaborate and cooperate. We must work together.
This message was most recently reinforced at the YNPN National Activate! Summit, where YNPN chapter leaders from across the country, including four YNPN Phoenix board members, came together to address the needs of the nonprofit sector and discuss how we all can better support the next generation of leaders who are dedicated to social good. The keynote address, delivered by Vu Le, Executive Director of Rainier Valley Corps and the man behind the popular blog Nonprofit with Balls, challenged attendees to consider how public expectations and (mis)perceptions affect their work, and what they may be doing to perpetuate such detrimental beliefs. Le likened the current state of the nonprofit sector to that of The Hunger Games, whereby we treat our own work as most important and end up alienating other organizations in a race for awareness, funds and resources.
“Social good is about creating [a place] that works for everyone because all of our fates are tied,” Le said. “The kind of leaders we need in this time and place are servant leaders who are okay with taking the background in order to lift others up.”
As the acting and incoming generation of leaders, this responsibility falls on us. We understand the importance of our work, and there is plenty of data out there to quantify its value. For example, we know that the nonprofit sector contributes 5.5% to the national GDP(1), and in Arizona alone, our nonprofit sector contributes 8% of the state’s GSP which is equivalent to over $22 billion(2). While we recognize the value of our own work, we must also recognize that of our peers if we want the public to join us in strengthening the nonprofit sector as a whole.
Le shared another analogy to drive this thought, comparing nonprofits to air and for-profits to food: There are “foodies” who appreciate different types of food, but there aren’t many “airies” out there. Even though everyone benefits from having air, there’s not always appreciation for it.
Collaboration and cooperation have long been consistent themes in conversations about social change, primarily in how they can be implemented across sectors, but now we must turn the gaze inward. These themes deserve our full attention and need to be addressed in meaningful ways within our sector if we are to truly effect social change. (Check out this post on “enlightened self-interest” for actions you can take now to strengthen our sector.)
Your YNPN Phoenix team is committed to providing you with resources and connections that will aid in your professional development and support your work in affecting social change, and we are always looking for new opportunities and ways to improve. If you have ideas or thoughts on how the chapter can better serve the needs of our members, let us know. Former Tempe Mayor Neil Giuliano said it best at a past YNPN Phoenix program: a leader knows that nothing of significance gets accomplished alone.
Urban Institute: Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy (2014, October). The Nonprofit Sector in Brief 2014. Retrieved from http://www.urban.org/sites/default/files/alfresco/publication-pdfs/413277-The-Nonprofit-Sector-in-Brief--.PDF
Arizona Community Foundation (2016, February). Arizona Nonprofits: Economic Power, Positive Impact. Retrieved from https://www.azfoundation.org/Portals/0/Uploads/Documents/Publications/EconomicImpactReport_2016.pdf