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Walking with the Community to Improve Policy

A recent project of mine was to incorporate community voice into a set of recommendations to the MN Department of Education. As it winds down, I am reflective on the process of community engagement to strengthen not only our recommendations, but this process overall.

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My work has been driven by the importance of community engagement and why it matters. While it may be easier and faster to rely on experts and research to develop and push forward a new policy or plan, those directly affected and impacted rarely understand the rationale. For example, in my project, it was important to explain what the education services were to families who were skeptical they did not serve their children. I learned about the perception problem and the lack of communication between schools and families.

I have come to value the practice of “patient urgency”: the patience to present knowledge of the problem and the potential solutions, while maintaining urgency to keep the process moving. Community engagement, sometimes called stakeholder engagement, can easily drag on without consensus. But shared ownership creates a sense of empowerment and pride. Communities feel heard, their needs are addressed, and true compromise is reached.

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It is hard to be a good supervisor: But worth it!

Note: For this blog, I’m using manager and supervisor as synonyms, and they should be viewed as skills implemented and required based on job responsibilities. Your title may say Regional Director of Party Bus Coordinators, but if you have four folks who have to send you their time cards every one to two weeks, you are supervising someone.

In my previous blog, I shared all of the ways it is easy to be a bad supervisor. It’s easy to put your schedule first and demand things be done your way. It’s easy to give limited feedback and just expect your employees to “Make it work!”

Working in the nonprofit sector, people are quick to look at other factors for the reason why people leave their organization and the sector. They can point at the low wages, compassion fatigue, or the need to live up to representative community leadership and ignore that Gallup finds that more than 50% of employees leave their job because of their boss/manager. We need to accept that the nonprofit sector is not immune to having bad supervisors… if anything it is worse.

So what is a supervisor to do? It is hard to be a great supervisor. It is challenging to be open to feedback, to truly listen, to put in the time needed to prepare for check-ins, to stand by difficult decisions, and to give critical feedback in a constructive way to those you supervise.  All of that is very true; in this blog, I want to share some ways it be a great supervisor, and I want to assure you, while it may not be easy, being a great supervisor is worth it.

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Maximize your YNPN-TC membership: How to create connections and change at a national level

Joining YNPN Twin Cities was the easiest thing I did upon moving to Minnesota a few years ago. After months of planning and orchestrating a cross-country move, I crossed off my top professional networking task simply by filling out a super short form and clicking a sign up button – no dues, no back and forth.

Within weeks of joining, I was at my first YNPN-TC event and plugging into a network which has since helped me make important professional connections, build professional skills, and be a part of a meaningful space for questions and conversations on how we can shape the nonprofit sector from within.

I knew there were other YNPN chapters across the country, and that there was an overarching YNPN national organization as well, but never quite knew how it all worked together. 

In the time since, I’ve joined the YNPN-TC board and in my current role as National Liaison, I am passionate about helping our local YNPN members take advantage of being part of our national network as well!

Below, I’ve listed five ways I’ve learned to plug into the YNPN landscape beyond the Land of 10,000 Lakes:

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5 Tips on How to Keep Your Sh*t Together When The World Seems to be Falling Apart

This blog, written by Porsche Peak, was originally posted on the Peak Therapy Institute's website, and it is reposted with the author's permission.

With the nature of our current political climate, ecosystem and community relationships, it is easy to feel defeated, isolated and discouraged about the future. Right now, I want you to give yourself permission to put some of these heavy issues aside and take care of yourself.

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Taming time: An entrepreneur’s advice

The members of the Consultant Cafe Conversation pause to smile for a photo.Time is the most precious resource we have. If you ever foray into the world of self-employment, you become vividly aware of that fact. Suddenly you have to bill your work, often on an hourly basis. Each moment matters. Sandra Boone was kind enough to invite me to host a recent Cafe Conversation about what it’s like to start and run your own nonprofit consulting business. 

I was happy to accept, and although the great group of smart professionals who joined me asked about a range of topics, one theme that cropped up frequently was the importance of time management. So here are a few tips culled from our discussion and selected to be applicable to anyone in the work world, regardless of whether or not you're running your own business.

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What do you mean you need a work visa?

“What do you mean you need a work visa?” After this question, many of my job interviews turned really awkward. Another common question that would follow was, “So, are you here illegally?”

Uh, no.

As an international student at a U.S. college, I always knew in the back of my head that if I wanted to stay and work in this county, I would need my employer to sponsor my work visa. What does that mean? Simply put, you have to submit an application and your employer pretty much pays the country to let you work here. But the truth is that this process is nothing short of a nightmare. It might seem that the complicated part is the visa application, but, in my experience, the challenge came long before the visa process.

I was fortunate to have a good International Student Program at my school. They were always very helpful, and they had all the information we needed to know. If you are going to embark in the adventure that is a work visa, make sure you reach out to someone who is familiar with the process to guide you. If you don’t know anyone (or even if you do), here’s some advice from a person who’s been there.

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How to get the most out of YNPN-TC membership

First off, let’s clear up one question: How do I know if I’m a member of the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network of the Twin Cities (YNPN-TC)? If you’re anything like me, you might not be exactly sure what membership means. I started attending YNPN-TC events several years ago as I was finishing up a term of national volunteer service and starting to explore my career options. Did that make me a member? I got more involved and starting volunteering on the Programming Committee. Did that make me a member? I applied and joined the board. Did that make me a member?

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Short answer: YES! (From the get-go!)

Long answer: Once you attend an event with us and/or sign up for our email list, you’re official! YNPN-TC membership is 100% free so you never have to worry about paying dues. (Side note: We now have 501(c)(3) status as a nonprofit, and supporters are always welcome to donate to us to help us continue to provide high-quality programming without charging a fee to members.)

Now that you know how simple it is to become a member, let’s talk about how to get the most out of your membership.

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It is easy to be a bad supervisor

Note: For this blog, I’m using manager and supervisor as synonyms, and they should be viewed as skills implemented and required based on job responsibilities. Your title may say Associate Director of Regional Bouncy Castle Rental Logistics, but if you have 3 folks who have to send you their time cards every 1 to 2 weeks, you are supervising someone.

It is easy to be a bad supervisor. No seriously, it is way easier to use the positional power to make your supervisee’ lives harder, your organization’s results down, and your staff turnover high and team morale low.

The nonprofit sector has trouble already with competitive wages, compassion fatigue, and the need to live up to representative community leadership, so it can be easy to blame those factors as the reasons folks leave their organization or even the sector. While those are all are real reasons for why folks pop on Linkedin on their lunch break, Gallup finds year after year that more than 50% of employees leave their job because of their boss/manager. The nonprofit sector isn’t immune from this, and, if anything it can be even worse.

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Give Yourself a Hygge

Homer Simpson is just a big, toasty cinnamon bunHoo-gah. Unless you’re well-versed in Danish culture, that may not sound like anything other than an old-timey car horn. But this word, spelled “hygge,” represents a mindset and lifestyle that is spreading far beyond its Danish origins. Hygge is a quality of ultimate comfort, coziness, and well-being. Imagine that feeling you get when snuggled in a blanket, sipping a hot beverage near a fireplace. Or sitting down to a candlelit dinner with your closest friends. Or, in my case, lying in a cuddle heap of puppies. Hygge is the name for that feeling.

As with many other cultural phenomena to hit the U.S., the hygge trend has worked its way into the mainstream, appearing in everything from self-help manifestos to cookbooks, even hair color trends. After stumbling upon this concept online, and going on to read Louisa Thomsen Brits’ The Book of Hygge, I thought about the other aspects of life where these teachings could apply. See, I will be the first to admit that I am one of the many nonprofit professionals that gets very emotionally invested in their work--sometimes to their own detriment. Being deeply committed can be great, but, especially for the more anxious among us, it can also mean you end up in situations where even small problems can put a huge damper on your happiness. Happening upon hygge after a particularly tough week at work, I had a very uncharacteristic thought...what would it feel like to take things just a little less seriously? What would it look like to cultivate a hygge-like sense of well-being in my professional life? Here are three learnings of hygge to help you bring emotional coziness to your cubicle.

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For those times you feel like a fraud

Recently, someone requested a meeting with me to chat about many things—from the nonprofit sector in general, to what the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits does, to ideas he had for the sector that he wanted to run by me. As I sat and waited for him to arrive at our meeting, one thought kept going through my head: ‘He is expecting to meet with an adult, but he’ll get here and see me – a kid (even though I’m 27). What business do I have being here?’ It’s a feeling I know all too well – imposter syndrome.   

According to The American Psychological Association, imposter syndrome “occurs among high achievers who are unable to internalize and accept their success.”  People will often think their accomplishments are the result of luck – not ability, and often worry that others will expose them as a fraud.

I always assumed these worries I was having were because a) my anxiety gets the best of me or, worse, b) because they were all true. I had no idea this was a legitimate thing. When I realized that these thoughts I was having weren’t actually true, I started to wonder what I could do to shut that voice up. It’s a work in progress, but here are some things I’ve learned that might help you if you’re going through this as well.

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