From Sideline to Frontline: Taking the Plunge

main.jpgIt's hard to believe it was only a year ago that I began volunteering with the YNPN-TC Programming Committee. The truth is, though, that I dabbled with the idea of joining YNPN-TC a lot sooner. I just didn't have the gumption to take the plunge.

I've been working in the nonprofit sector since I graduated from college. Fortunately, the supervisors I've had throughout the years have been incredibly supportive and encouraged me to pursue professional development opportunities whenever possible.

The problem was I didn't have a clue where to start looking for these opportunities. So, naturally, I did what anyone would do to find the answer to this question: I Googled it. And when I hit the search button, I got a ton of results, but the top ones featured this group called Young Nonprofit Professionals Network-Twin Cities.

I was impressed by the description of the organization and the extensive programming it had to offer. Most impressive, though, was the fact that this group was all volunteer-based.

Although I was quite charmed with YNPN-TC, I didn't subscribe to the newsletter or attend any of the events. Instead, I took a very Minnesotan approach: I followed the social feed and bookmarked the website so I could easily (and discretely) check it on occasion to see what was happening in the Twin Cities. 

This wasn't sustainable, though. If I wanted to make any headway with my professional development and do so with YNPN-TC, I had to muster up some courage and register for an event, even if it meant attending alone. I was done watching from the sidelines. I signed up to attend the "Dollar by Dollar" event, which focused on philanthropy and young professionals. Perfect.

After I registered, I received a personalized welcoming email from one of the board members. I think it was the email that first made me seriously consider joining YNPN-TC. The sender was friendly, inviting, and said he looked forward to meeting me at my first event. That email held me accountable; I needed to show up. 

I connected with some pretty awesome people, including the person who sent me the welcoming email. We met for coffee and that started a chain reaction of introductions and invitations to other board members.

Despite the enthusiasm and encouragement I received, I was still a little anxious about the thought of joining a committee. Would this actually set me on my desired trajectory? Is collaboration truly valued? The only way to find out was to attend a meeting. Well, I attended a Programming Committee meeting and I was hooked. This was the right way to grow with the sector and help me stay on top of my game.

My involvement with YNPN-TC jumped to another level a few months later when I took advantage of a Member Benefits opportunity. I applied for and accepted a scholarship to attend the Nonprofit Technology and Communications Conference. It happened to be my first nonprofit conference and I learned some pretty significant lessons from this experience that I got to share with my fellow nonprofit pros. 

Now fast-forward through the rest of 2014 to the present day. I've hit a new milestone with YNPN-TC: I'm currently serving as a board member. I feel pretty lucky to have had such a great experience, but I realize it's turned out this way because I chose to be a little vulnerable in the interest of finding the right fit for my professional development needs. I learned a lot about YNPN-TC when I simply followed from afar, but I wasn't making the connections I wanted or finding resources to help me improve my skills as a communications professional. 

If I could go back in time and do anything differently, I would leap sooner. But since time travel isn't possible (yet), I hope my experience can help others who are in a similar boat. You know the old adage, "Do as I say, not as I do?" That definitely applies here: I encourage you to do what I didn't do right away. Register for an event. Ask questions. Connect with someone who's a current volunteer or a board member. I guarantee it's better to take part rather than watch passively. After all, what's the worst that could happen?

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