Breakfast of Champions with Damon Runnals
Friday, August 22nd
The Southern Theater, Minneapolis


The Care and Feeding of Your Professional Image
Saturday, August 23rd
Dunn Brothers Coffee Lab, St. Paul


Social Enterprise: Giving Purpose to Profit
Friday, September 19th
12 - 1pm
Minnesota Council of Nonprofits



* 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.



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.

It’s also helpful to volunteer with an organization. You’ll get a chance to work with staff, and it will help inform you about how the organization operates. In my own case, my company, The Theater of Public Policy, partnered with YNPN-TC on several events over the past several years. This allowed me to learn more about their structure and operations from a hands-on perspective. 

Once you’ve landed an interview, you need to do your research. Scour websites, attend events, and conduct interviews with past board members. In my case, I happened to share the same hometown with a past YNPN-TC board president. I called him up, and we chatted about the future of the organization and what they were looking for in new board members. While you may not have that existing relationship, it’s to your benefit to meet for coffee or chat with a board member at an event. They can give you great advice and also let you know more about what the board service is like. 

Because this is the first board I’ve had the pleasure of serving on, I don’t have all the answers. So to write this blog, I asked several others to give their advice and put together a list that you can find below. Some of the information is similar to my own advice (HINT: That means it’s important) and I think the rest is valuable too. After all, it would be weird to offer terrible advice in an article like this. One last thing, always dress as a circus clown at your interviews.

Advice Section 

Carl Swanson, Board Member, YNPN-TC
Get to know who is on the board already. You are about to enter into a working relationship that oversees the success of an organization, so knowing who is there now goes a long way to having a solid working relationship going forward. It's also a good thing—especially if you are joining a board like YNPN-TC's—to ask the double-sided question of 'What am I good at?' and 'What do I want to work on?' Answering the first tells you what you bring to the table, answering the second gives you the ability to seek it out in fellow board members. 

Jaimie Millard, Board Chair, YNPN-TC
The most common advice is to pick an organization with a cause/mission you are passionate about. If you struggle with picking a cause/mission, find a board or organization with the TYPE of people you'd like to know better and build relationships with. Boards are made of people, so finding a board with people you'd want to get to know better is perfectly natural! 

Getting to know my fellow YNPN-TC boardies has been one of my favorite parts of this experience. They are all like-minded, but from diverse backgrounds and subsectors—I've learned so much from the other board people, honestly more so than the mission.

Cary Walski, Board Member, YNPN-TC
Not sure where to start? MAP for Nonprofits has a "matchmaking" program that's free for individuals who'd like to connect with nonprofits looking for board members. Sign up, and you'll be interviewed about your skills and interests, and MAP will your info on if a nonprofit is looking for a board member like you. You'll also be subscribed to receive monthly updates about board openings that might interest you at Twin Cities nonprofits. 

Kenza Hadj-Moussa, Board Member, Minnesota Council of Nonprofits and Our Saviour’s Community Services
Joining a board is a big commitment. Start aligning yourself with an issue or organization you care about. You can learn about the process of joining a board by contacting a board member or the executive director. Also, let your network know you're interested in joining a board to connect you to opportunities. There are also board listings on the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits job board. 

Rinal Ray, Board Member, College Possible Twin Cities and Avalon School
Show up. Go to the organization's events, fundraisers, and volunteer opportunities. Raise your hand to do work that maybe others don't want to do, maybe via a board committee. If you want to be on the boardm say it out loud, preferably to someone who might help make it happen (current board members and EDs in particular). Actually apply for the board and make sure your application is thoughtful. I'd also advise making sure you know what you're getting into—the commitment, expectations (work, time, money) and make sure it's a fit for how you want to grow and contribute. 

Diane Tran, Board Chair, Citizens League Board of Directors
Volunteering or serving on a committee is one important way to get a better sense for the work of the organization and gauge whether you'd be interested in deepening your level of commitment to advancing their mission. At the Citizens League, engaged volunteers who have cultivated their membership and involvement over time are one of the primary pools we draw from when seeking potential board members.


Political Nonprofit Pitfalls

By Holly Harrison
Follow me on Twitter: @hollharris

Working at a nonprofit says a lot about you. It’s an inherent trade off that many of us know all too well: you get to believe, really believe, in what you’re doing—and you get to do it for less money than in the corporate world. Even if your job is mostly data entry, saying you work for an organization that feeds the hungry or helps young people achieve their scholarly dreams makes you a do-gooder by default.

My workplace, like yours, provides needed services. My workplace, perhaps like yours, has a 501(c)(4) political arm. And my workplace, presumably unlike yours, has protesters outside every day.

With election season around the corner and news about elected officials, political candidates, and political staffers embarrassing themselves surfacing daily, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to work for a political organization.

Telling someone where I work always requires a risk assessment.

When I accepted my job, I thought my grandparents would finally disown me. (They didn’t.) Not every new person I meet has my grandparents' tolerance for loud and proud people from the opposite end of the political spectrum. This means that before I say where I work, I have to do some analysis: Where did this person say they’re from? Who do we know in common? How ready am I to get in an argument right now?

Living in a left-leaning area (and being almost always ready for an argument), I’m rarely afraid to say where I work. But I have some colleagues who are more comfortable saying what they do than saying who they do it for, and that strikes me as a unique professional problem.

This will go on my resume.

A scroll through my Twitter feed would probably reveal my deeply-held beliefs to any potential employer, but nothing says “I feel strongly about my position on a polarizing issue” more clearly than having it big and bold on my work history. It’s true that I wouldn’t want to work for someone who would hesitate to hire me because of my personal politics, but that’s an opinion formed from the comfort of paid, consistent employment. If I was out of a job and out of money, I might be singing a different tune.

What I put on social media matters. Really.

I’m a strong believer in being yourself on social media, political correctness and professional courtesy be damned. And while I try to fly my freak flag publicly, I do have to ask myself these questions before I post: 1) Could this be believably twisted and reported on by a website out to discredit my employer?; and 2) Could this be held up and read aloud at a legislative hearing by a politician who disagrees with our work?

It’s true that what you say and do online matters to your boss, no matter who they are, but having a large number of empowered activists who oppose my organization’s work with a lot of time on their hands is what has me looking over my shoulder more than ever before—online and offline.

These are all negatives, which don’t accurately reflect my experience at this organization. The unique problems created by working for my nonprofit are outweighed by the unique pleasures. For example, having an office full of like-minded people makes workplace friendships easy. Having motivated political opposition fosters an organizational culture of tight-knit teamwork while attracting a lot of very driven volunteers. (Right now, I’m in the office late, and surrounded by young people making calls to encourage women to vote. It’s beautiful outside, and they’re in here cold calling strangers. For free.) In future interviews when I’m asked if I’m good in high-pressure situations or if I’m skilled at crisis communication, I can truthfully and unequivocally say “yes.” I’m proud of where I work and I’m passionate about what I do, but it’s not always easy. And I’m not sure I’d like it if it was.

Photo Credit


Invite the World to Dinner

By Jamie Millard
Follow me on Twitter: @jjmillard 

A few weeks ago, strangers invited me into their home for dinner, and it completely changed how I understand community building.

In the nonprofit sector, we spend a lot of time discussing community building. We discuss everything from how to do it, to best practices, authenticity, intentionality, network-mapping, and lots of other jargon. 

A new experience made me see a special side to how we can approach community building—professionally and personally. I was in Fargo, North Dakota (along with 800 other people to attend TEDxFargo) and I signed up for DinnerTies—a Fargo organization that is committed to connecting travelers with Fargo locals for a dinner in their home. Translation: when visiting Fargo, you can sign up to have strangers invite you into their lives and make you a home-cooked dinner. 

Here’s me and my co-traveler Meghan Murphy eating a delicious dinner with our hosts, initially complete strangers, but now friends, Hannah & Evan Balko:

On the drive back home to Minneapolis, and completely inspired by Fargo’s hospitality, a few thoughts came to mind about how I’d like to change my own community building practices: 

  • The dinner party. I’m going to start challenging myself to invite friends, colleagues, and acquaintances from across different networks to dinner. Yes, this is the main theory and foundation behind the dinner party, but why don’t we weave this traditionally pure social experience into how we do our work? What if your organization gave you a stipend to host a bi-monthly dinner party for partners, community members, volunteers, etc.? That $50 investment could really start to build an engaged and connected community.  
  • Food. There is power in breaking bread together. I’d like to challenge myself to see what it would look like to plot out each of my daily meals to make sure I’m being intentional and thoughtful about whom I’m eating with. This isn’t anything revolutionary, but even though I read “Never Eat Alone” six years ago, it’s still something that could use regular mindfulness.
  • The importance of home. What would it look like for us to be more personal? Would we have meetings in our home? On our backyard patios? Sure, we probably do a good enough job inviting friends over, but what about better blurring those professional and personal lines? My first worry is that if I invited a professional acquaintance over for a meeting in my living room or on my patio, they might get the wrong idea. If that’s not okay, something seems broken. How do we make that more okay? 

The next time your organization discusses how to better do “community building,” how can you take inspiration from the traditional dinner party and start thinking beyond social media, webinars, events, town hall meetings, coffee dates, networking meetings, and all the other professional-focused engagement tactics that have us all bored to death?

Thank you Fargo and DinnerTies for reminding me of the importance personalness should play in our professional work.

Okay, so who wants to come over for dinner?

Photo Credit


Could You Be a Superhero in Disguise?

By Maria Ward

Like many of you, I came to work in the non-profit sector because of my passion for social justice. Fresh from college and student-led advocacy groups, my head was filled with facts about inequality and injustice and my laptop plastered with bumper stickers.

When it came time to find a job aligned with my beliefs, however, I was at a loss. You can’t make a career out of just believing really, really hard in a cause, unfortunately. You have to gain some tangible skills to support the cause, skills which sometimes don’t feel all that connected to that passion that led you to nonprofits in the first place.

I tested out the nonprofit career paths that felt most connected to the passion I felt, dipping my toes in community organizing and direct service, areas where I could talk about the issues as a public figure. Much as I wanted to be the hero on the front lines, I found these jobs to be a mismatch to my personality. What kind of career could I build when I wasn’t a natural with a bullhorn or an extrovert with the energy to interact with people all day?

As I entered the nonprofit world, it seemed to me that there were the people who served the mission (program staff, social workers, policy advocates), and the people who just handled the paperwork (accountants, financial officers, administrative and development staff). With all that passion for rectifying injustice, of course I initially gravitated towards the obviously mission-related work. It took some time to recognize that the paperwork handlers are just as essential to the mission as the program staff, and that the financial side of the organization underlies everyone’s ability to achieve the mission. Could there be room for me on the less sexy side of the nonprofit world?

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Bite-Sized Leadership Lessons

By Leah Lundquist
Follow me on Twitter: @leahlundquist 

Ever since hearing the inspiring words of Bush Foundation CEO Jen Ford Reedy and Humphrey School Associate Dean Laura Bloomberg at the 2014 YNPN National Conference, I’ve been thinking about how impactful it is to hear an individual speak about his or her perspective on leadership.

After all, what really is leadership? You can’t put it in a box or a clear-cut definition. Everyone lives leadership in his or her own way, and it is something entirely different and powerful when it emerges from a team of individuals. 

But, if there’s one thing I know, it’s that leadership takes inspiration. It takes seeing behavior or hearing an approach that you feel moved by enough to integrate it into your way of being in the world.  I thought I would provide a little fresh fodder for you to reflect on today in the words of four incredible leaders here in Minnesota’s civic sector.

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