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Pages tagged "Inspiration"


What the nonprofit sector can learn from commencement speeches

A crowd of graduates throw their graduation caps into the airEvery year around this time, I tune into YouTube to listen to smart and talented actors, politicians, and comedians share stories and give advice to the graduating class of the year. Even before I graduated from high school, I’ve been watching commencement addresses. Yes, I’m kind of a commencement geek who loves to get goose bumps during these inspiring speeches!   

Hillary Clinton, Will Ferrell, Robert De Niro, Octavia Spencer, and Helen Mirren have given some of the strongest commencement speeches so far this year.

So what binds a moving and insightful commencement speech, a college graduate, and a young nonprofit professional together? I believe it’s the quest to figure out how to lend one’s skills, passions, and interests to build a more just and equitable world. In other words, what can we do do to make a difference in a deeply divided and broken world—or as Robert Di Niro put it in his speech at NYU, “a tragic dumbass comedy.” 

Whether you’re a recent college graduate or work at a nonprofit, times of uncertainty, vast change, and great stress can be common. So pep talks, jokes, and advice from a diverse set of successful individuals can be just the pick-me-up that’s needed to build strong bridges into the future.

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Optimistically yours

I know I’m not alone in thinking there are a lot of super complicated things going on in the world right now. But I also have a hard time keeping world happenings separate from my own life.

We live in a world where Donald Trump is running for president and might win the Republican nomination, a world where a large number of people agree with his assertion that Muslims shouldn’t be allowed to enter the U.S. In this world, terrorism and mass shootings are not altogether unexpected, and the discussion of racism in the Twin Cities has been pushed front and center.

Every time I hear the news, I find myself thinking, “How do I fit into all of this?”  Because none of these things look like a future I really want to be a part of.

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Kindness—large and small—and how Minnesota shows it

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I’ve been thinking recently that there are two kinds of kindness: microsocial and macrosocial. I totally made these words up, but hey, I gotta use my philosophy degree for something.

Microsocial kindness is a person-to-person dedication to someone else’s wellbeing: offering someone a ride, sharing food, listening to their woes, bringing them soup when sick, and so on. This kindness is very small-scale, grassroots, and individualized. People tend to save it for their immediate friends and family. It makes sense; there are only so many hours in a day and so much money in your wallet; no one can spend every minute of every day helping others.

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Living life with intention

Mountain TopAs millennials, we are often blamed for being self-centered and self-focused - a claim which I whole-heartedly deny. Just look at the sheer number of volunteer hours and interest in the nonprofit sector of our generation! One thing I blame for this misconception is our interest in living our lives with intention. Growing up, we were told by our baby-boomer parents that we could do and be whatever we wanted to be – the world was our oyster. Now that we’re stepping into the “real world,” we want to get out of it everything we can. We want to live less out of habit and more out of intent, but sometimes that can be difficult.

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Values-Based Leadership: Find Your Inner Compass, Lead Well

Picture a leader you admire. What do you think makes her/him tick?

Martin Luther King, Jr.One of my most admired leaders has always been Martin Luther King, JrHere’s the problem: I’ve often thought of him as kind of a saint. I have forgotten that he had everyday, mundane decisions to make – small things that added up to the sum total of his life. He ate three meals a day, needed sleep, and had a family. He was just like you and me – except for how he managed to transcend the everyday mundane details, to strive for his highest ideals.

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Genius All Around Us

main.jpgJust days ago, when I was gently reminded of my pending YNPN blog deadline, I undertook the painstaking process of determining a topic. Instinctively I looked inward and began typing up possible ideas.  Unsurprisingly, this tactic generated a boring and self-indulgent list along with a nagging feeling of being stuck without a fitting topic or idea for my post. 

These uninspired topics included captivating ideas such as ideas for avoiding summer burnout or end-of-fiscal-year crash, ideas for improving communications among teams, and fatigue associated with experimenting with new digital communications platforms in an organization. Thankfully, I've spared you from those potential posts. This afternoon I had the good fortune of learning about the principles of biomimicry and the limitless potential for biological and ecologically inspired design elements from Denny Royal, of Azul 7, a human-centered design firm here in MSP.

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Being Fearless

“She’s fearless.”

I had just put in my two weeks notice at my job and was informing my coworkers I was leaving. As I came around the corner of the cubicle, the grantwriter who sat across the hallway from me said those words to another coworker, shaking his head in admiration.

I’m very rarely stunned. But I was in that moment.

This man, whose personal and professional respect matters immensely to me, thought I was fearless by taking on new, bigger, more challenging work.

It’s not an adjective I’d apply to myself. I’m afraid of a lot of things: Snakes. Dying without saying important things to the important people in my life. My dogs dying. Snakes. Ok, so I’m mostly afraid of snakes and death. But fearless?

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Peer Immersion: My Journey through the EPIP-YNPN Leadership Institute

main.jpgA year and a half into working for a big nonprofit that deals with complex community issues, I was struggling to get outside of my networking silo. It was taking enough time and energy to build rapport with people inside of (and working in partnership with) my organization, so I rarely had the energy to network outside (with the occasional exception of some people connected to my work).

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Dear Giacomo: Can't We All Just Get Along?

Nonprofit master Giacomo Crostini is here to answer all your burning questions about life in the nonprofit sector. Email him at info@ynpntwincities.org for advice and guidance.
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giacomo.jpgDear Giacomo,

I don’t know what to do. I love my job, boss, and pretty much everything about my nonprofit organization. There is only one problem - my new co-worker! We just don’t click, he rubs me the wrong way and quite frankly, I’m not a fan. How am I supposed to spend everyday with someone that I don’t really like?

Sincerely,
Paralyzed Over Our Problems 
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Making the Most of a Lackluster Seminar

main2.jpgWe’ve all been there. You sign up for an info session at a conference or an event with a presentation that sounds intriguing and potentially groundbreaking. You sit down for the session, pen in hand, ready to take notes. Throughout the entire session you wait for something noteworthy – something so insightful you just have to tweet it, write it down, and take it back to the office to share with your colleagues or impress your boss. You wait, and you wait, and nothing. Turns out the session isn’t what you thought it would be. The information doesn’t apply to your organization or your job, or it covers information you’ve already heard a million times (social media 101, anyone??).

Recently I attended an event that left me feeling this way. So now what? Did I just waste an hour or two of my time? 

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