Everyday Improv - Emerging Leaders Networking Lunch
Friday, October 17th
Minnesota Council of Nonprofits

Five Minutes in Hell
Monday, October 20th
5:30 - 8:00 pm
Hell's Kitchen, Minneapolis
Submit your proposal now!



* Notes from Creating Leader-full Spaces presentation at 2012 Nonprofit Leadership Conference.

* Facilitation resources on topics such as Open Space Technology and World Cafe, and groups such as the Public Conversations Project and the international Art of Hosting network.






We provide and promote opportunities for the development of young nonprofit professionals.

We envision a world where young nonprofit professionals:

• connect through purpose
• challenge to change
• lead together

Our values:

โ— We strive for respect and inclusiveness
โ— We seek opportunities to collaborate
โ— We respond to the evolving needs of our community

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The Twin Cities chapter of the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network is a community of nonprofit staff, volunteers, supporters, and allies: current and future leaders who want to connect with others in the social sector.



Doing Something With Your "Do Something"

By M. Maria Lopez

April, 2009 Click… Bushfire in Australia kills over 150 people, exact numbers still unknown … Click… the WHO now considers the swine flu outbreak to be an emergency of international concern … Click…an Alabama man kills 9 people before committing suicide … Click …  

I wanted to “DO SOMETHING”. Only, I wasn’t really sure what that “SOMETHING” was- I just had a fuzzy, unfocused and sincere desire to help. I had recently graduated college, was stuck in a boring job, and my only response to horrible things happening in the world, was to click over to cat videos or, at most, write an impassioned Facebook post, where friends would join me in my outrage and inaction.

At a friend’s suggestion, I started leisurely looking for a volunteer opportunity. I had volunteered all through high school and mostly enjoyed it. It was better than nothing, and I certainly didn’t have oodles of money to put towards some brilliant cause, nor did I have the years of wisdom or education to solve the problems of the world. When I saw MAP for Nonprofits at a job fair, I asked if they knew of anyone looking for a volunteer. “Oh,” the woman said, “You don’t want to just volunteer- you want to be on a board of directors.”  …Me? On a board of directors? Weren’t board members old, rich, white men? I excelled at stuffing envelopes, and showed some brilliance at setting up tables, but I had no idea if I could be a board member.

What was a board member anyway? I looked it up on Attorney General’s Office website and came away terrified. “To Exercise the Proper Duty of Care, Loyalty and Obedience…” What did that even mean? A few Google searches later, I was back to MAP. I signed up for their 2 hour Board Boot Camp, an introduction to what it means to serve on a board. Suddenly, being a board member very attainable. Go to meetings, lead strategically, be the best steward you can of the resources given to you (people’s money, time and passion) and always consider the mission of the organization in any decision. 

I put my name into MAP’s pool of potential board members. The process was simple-I filled out an online form, then had an informal phone interview with a MAP volunteer and we discussed my interests, availability, inability to donate massive sums of money, preferred locations and my desire to “DO SOMETHING.” They took my answers and matched them to several organizations looking for the skills I had to offer. I researched them, and met the current board chair of one organization for lunch. She apparently liked me, and invited me to sit in on the next board meeting. 

That first board meeting was confusing—I was not sure of most of the names or ideas referenced, and I was still learning about the programs offered. It surprised me that there was so much laughter going on, right through discussions about finances and decisions on marketing. I decided I wanted to be a part of it, and I was voted in (a low-key decision for them, but kind of nerve-wracking for me!).  

As the months passed, I realized that while being on a board was challenging, it was also fascinating. I and the other board members were responsible for guiding an organization that employed many people and worked with countless others. It should have been terrifying, but wasn’t. I was working with people who shared a passion for the mission of the organization and it was so energizing! My “DOING SOMETHING” was impacting me more than I had thought possible. 

I’ve been on a few boards since then and I’m still learning. Being a board member has been incredibly helpful as a resume builder, has introduced me to people and ideas I would not have otherwise encountered, and even changed my career path, as I moved from the for-profit to nonprofit sector.  

While I’ve enjoyed some boards more than others, I’ve never let go of the sense of excitement I feel stepping into a board meeting. I am surrounded by people willing not only to work, but to cheerfully take on responsibly for the work of guiding a nonprofit organization to best fulfill its mission.

Photo Credit


Tips for Everyday Project Management

By Katie Tharp
Follow Me on Twitter @DangerKate

As of late, I’ve been hearing a lot of requests for training on project management skills. Having been a project manager in fundraising for some years and having taken a lot of project management classes, I know that a variety of tools exist out there to guide people through project management. However, I find that even the “official” project management tools offered by the Project Management Institute, the association of professional project managers, can be overkill for everyday nonprofit projects.

So how do you sort through it all if you want to get organized? To help, I’ve pared down the list to focus on some tools that would be useful for common projects at nonprofits.

First, what is a project? By definition, a project is a temporary group activity designed to produce a unique product, service, or result. Projects have a start and an end. This is different from a process, which is repeated regularly–for example, an annual event. However, you can apply many of these tools to managing processes as well as projects. Since we tend to improve upon things we do repeatedly, such as a Give to the Max Day campaign, even repeat projects can seem like they are new projects.

Project Initiation

The first stage of project management is deciding what you will accomplish. It’s critical to define the scope of a project–what’s in? What’s out? That way, everyone agrees on the expected outcomes in advance, and misunderstandings are prevented. This stage is often skipped in nonprofits because things are moving so fast that you may not realize you have a new assignment that needs defining or a project seems too small to require much planning.

If you are managing something new that involves multiple people, it can be very helpful to write out a simple charter that describes the project, sets a basic timeline and budget, and is approved by the project sponsor–the leader who is accountable for the project’s success. That person is responsible for removing barriers and getting you the resources you need for the project to succeed, so setting expectations up front with them can be helpful.

Stakeholder Management

A huge amount of project management is stakeholder management. Stakeholders are people or organizations with an interest in your project. They may include the staff on your project team, your organization’s leaders, the board of directors, certain funders, the people you serve, and more. A stakeholder list is helpful so you can provide updates to everyone who needs them. As for your project team: identify who will be helping you accomplish the project and set up a schedule of meetings. You can use part of an existing meeting if appropriate–for example, use 15 minutes of your weekly team meeting to discuss the project. Regular check-ins are critical.

Planning and Execution

There are lots of ways to do this, but the best advice I can give is to plan with your project team to build ownership. Ideally, brainstorm with your team to identify the major areas of work and what tasks need to happen in each. For example, organizing a volunteer project may involve project development, volunteer recruitment, volunteer training, prep for the day, day-of volunteer management, a clean-up plan, and volunteer recognition. Assign roles to each task and agree on timelines.

Writing stuff down is important! Even a simple one-page document with a chart of what's happening is helpful. You can also include a more detailed budget, as well as a communication plan to ensure stakeholders know your project is happening and where to go for questions.

Monitoring and Control

These are the systems to monitor whether your project is on track. Set up a schedule and template for status reports, send it in advance of team meetings, and review in the meetings. As project manager, review the list of tasks frequently on your own so you can head off small problems before they become big ones. Think about all the steps involved before and after each task–how are things interrelated? For example, maybe marketing materials need to be complete before your new initiative can be announced, and for that, you have to check on when your new logo will be ready. Frequently reviewing the project plan will help you think of these things.


Projects have an end date, and once they’re done, take time to evaluate and celebrate! Do something nice to recognize everyone who helped (food is recommended) and take time to debrief and document lessons learned for next time.

With just a few simple tools and systems, you can take your organizational and team management skills to the next level–positioning you for more opportunities.

Photo Credit


Ferguson and the Single Issue Struggle

By Lindsay Bacher
Follow me on Twitter @lindsayinMPLS

On Twitter, I saw the picture of Mike Brown’s father holding a cardboard sign saying, “Ferguson police just executed my unarmed son!!!” A few days later, I watched the livestream of protesters being tear gassed in Ferguson, literally with my hand over my mouth in shock. There were the pictures of protesters doused in milk to ease the tear gas and the waves of police officers in riot gear with armored cars. Countless images of young black men with their hands in the air: hands up, don’t shoot.

I cannot get these images, and the real lived experiences of what was captured, out of my head.

The post-9/11 mantra of “if you see something, say something” made us fearful of the forgotten backpack and the unknown stranger. But seeing the images from Ferguson compels me to do something, say something, do anything, say anything that can help those strangers. I just don’t know what it is yet.

Situations like the civic upheaval in Ferguson impact the whole community and send reverberations out like ripples on a pond. It’s a crash course in intersectionality and the ways our lives are intertwined and interwoven. As Audre Lorde said, “There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.”

My professional work supports advocacy for reproductive rights, and I read a number of articles asserting the right and ability to safely raise a child is a reproductive justice issue. At first I was annoyed because it felt attention-grabbing and potentially alienating. The more I read and thought about it, the more I came to see it as a living embodiment of Audre Lorde’s assertion that we don’t live single-issue lives. And if the movement I work in and for is going to focus our grassroots people-power on supporting something else I feel strongly about, more power to them - literally.

In this by-no-means conclusive list, here are more examples of intersectionality, places for civic advocacy, and other articles I found interesting:

I want to not feel powerless about what happened to Mike Brown and what is happening in Ferguson.

My first thought was to donate to organizations providing job experience and training like Tree Trust or Cookie Cart (full disclosure: my spouse is employed by Tree Trust). But Mike Brown was shot while walking down the street, regardless of his job or educational status. So while these organizations do good work, my donation won’t prevent another black man from being shot.

So my next idea was to write my mayor and state legislators asking about the militarization of our police forces and body cameras on police officers. Shortly after Mike Brown’s death, Mayor Betsy Hodges announced Minneapolis will be piloting a body camera program with officers this fall and her staff forwarded my questions about militarization on to the Minneapolis Police Department. I’m waiting for their response. And yet, according to this New York Times map, state and local authorities in Hennepin County have 324 assault rifles, three grenade launchers, two armored vehicles, and other military grade gear. Ramsey County has 992 assault rifles, 76 night vision pieces, 40 pistols, three helicopters, and one armored vehicle. Considering we’re hosting the Super Bowl in 2018, I honestly doubt we will demilitarize anytime soon.

The Twin Cities has our own fair share of police brutalization reports - activist Al Flowers alleged MPD officers beat him before arresting him in his home this summer, and last year, Chris Lollie was tasered in the St. Paul skyway while waiting to pick his kids up from school. There are other examples of the systematic racism in Minnesota - we have one of the worst achievement gaps in the nation and we have a history of literally bulldozing black neighborhoods.

To see is to bear witness. To bear witness demands we speak, and that we speak truth, and that we speak that truth to power.

I’m reminded, however, that this is not my lived experience to tell. As a person with privilege, I need to do a lot of listening. I need to practice empathy. I need ask myself how I contribute to inequality and unbalanced power structures. And I’m not always going to get it right. I’m probably going to be insensitive and do or say or feel something racist, because implicit racial bias exists (test yourself here). And when I’m called out on getting it wrong, I need to listen some more.

So here are people you should listen to (who are also human and probably won’t get it right 100 percent of the time) and resources and organizations here in the Twin Cities working against inequality:

So where do we go from here? Finding an equitable resolution, grounded in justice, will take time and work. The grand jury has until January to bring an indictment against Officer Darren Wilson, and there are serious doubts about the ability to have an impartial judicial process. And the issues of Ferguson will continue to stretch and tangle in unexpected ways, just to remind us that we do not live single issues lives.

As for me, I’m just going to try my best to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly and take the small actions I can to create a world where everyone matters.

Photo Credit


My Professional Eureka


By Madeline Graham

My first professional eureka hit me in January 2012. I was skimming the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits (MCN) job board when I stumbled upon an exciting job, and an even more exciting idea. I immediately knew I had to talk to the organization that posted the job—even if they didn’t offer it to me—because the concept it introduced—social enterprise—was everything I had been looking for. Let me explain why.

The summer after my junior year of college I was super, super excited to score my first paid internship at a Twin Cities nonprofit. In this internship I was asked to (cue ominous music…) solicit silent auction items. My supervisor told me, “Hey, call places up and ask them to give you stuff, because we’re a good cause. It’s gonna be awesome.” (That’s actually not at all what she said.)

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How to Join a Board Without Really Trying


By Brandon Boat
Follow me on Twitter @BrandonBoat

Applications will soon be opening for spots on YNPN-TC’s Board of Directors. This is your opportunity to take a leadership role and shape the future of the organization. To help you start thinking about if a Board position is right for you, Brandon Boat put together some advice from himself and others about what it takes to join a nonprofit board. 

Board service is a great opportunity to advance your career to the next level. Whether you’re trying to network, gain more experience, or an alien trying to learn “human feelings,” joining a board of directors will provide you with new connections, a sense of fulfillment, and ownership over a mission in a way that’s very different from being an employee or volunteer.

So how can you get a spot on a board?

There are several different types of boards, and all of this advice may not be applicable in each situation. For instance, some boards are chosen by a committee and the process may be similar to a job interview. Other boards may propose candidates and have their membership vote on them. Other boards are chosen because your sister went to a better school than you and dad thinks that she deserves...ahem, excuse me. Nepotism is a different beast altogether, so we’ll leave that for a different blog post. 

For starters, you should try to get on a board that you have a preexisting relationship with. My own relationship with YNPN-TC began several years ago when I first went to one of their events. It was a great chance to meet other people in the organization and to find out more about their programming and mission. You should only join the board of an organization that you love. If you hate an organization, the other board members will resent you for trying to bring it down from the inside.

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