I first became involved with YNPN this past summer. I was looking for ways to develop and grow professionally as a young aspiring nonprofit professional. Despite the fact that I double majored in college and graduated Magna Cum Laude, I had no idea how to move forward in my newly established career in the nonprofit sector – a career path I chose my senior year of college. (Why is it that so many college students seem prone to choose a career path for themselves only at the end of their 4 years of undergrad? Wouldn’t it be so much more helpful if we made these decisions sooner?) Of course, upon finding about YNPN, I learned that there was not a local chapter in my area. With a small team of some great people, we are currently in the process of establishing one. This process will not only benefit myself, but should ultimately benefit the entire nonprofit sector of Detroit in years to come.
What I wonder, though, is this: Are the nonprofits that we work for supporting the efforts of their younger staff to improve themselves professionally? Are they supporting the idea that in order for them to succeed in their missions, they are going to need reliable leadership to replace them? This year’s conference will focus on professional development in the nonprofit sector one day and on YNPN chapter development the next. Attendees will have the opportunity to take what they learn from this conference and not only improve their local YNPN chapters, but also return as better professionals in the workplace. I know that many of my colleagues are able to use their efforts with YNPN as professional development with their employers, such as this year’s YNPN Annual Conference. Some have more fully established chapters that are able to help fund members to attend. Others are to taking vacation days and/or spending a decent chunk of their own money to participate. For many young nonprofit professionals, spending several hundred dollars on a hotel and airfare in addition to having to take time off work would be more than enough to deter them from attending.
Support from nonprofit employers is crucial to creating strong next generation leadership. Verbal support is not always going to be enough when time and money are involved. Of course, the truth is, many nonprofits are struggling, making now a difficult time to make such requests. This makes it all the more important for the nonprofits that can support their younger staff in growth and development to do so. YNPN helps to ensure that there is a pool of experienced, bright and reliable nonprofit professionals in an area. A successful YNPN chapter in any given area helps to increase nonprofit collaboration, creates better communication between nonprofits, and also creates avenues for nonprofits to find employees that have hearts for social change. I firmly believe that an organized group of young, social change oriented professionals in the Detroit area learning and growing together has the potential to do many great things for the region. Missions, strategic plans, and strong fund-raising strategies will only get an organization so far until it is time for new leadership. (And of course the leadership exchange is inevitable.) The more equipped that new leadership is the better future nonprofits will have.
-Written by Kelly Cleaver