Good in Theory, Problems in Practice: YNPN National Survey Results

main.jpgAmidst all the conversations taking place around leadership development in the nonprofit sector, have you ever wondered what, specifically, young nonprofit professionals think? YNPN does. In fact, it recently released the results of the YNPN national survey on popular leadership development strategies. The report, entitled “Good In Theory, Problems in Practice,” outlines the opinions of young people in our sector, the takeaways from these opinions, and recommendations on how to put these findings into action.

YNPN-TC played an important part in obtaining these results. Many of our members took part in the survey, and we also held a focus group of Twin Cities young nonprofit professionals to get more detailed information.

Below is an outline of YNPN’s findings, along with some of the specific ideas that Twin Cities professionals added to the discussion.

1. Ideas are great, but only if they’re implemented effectively

While there are a number of leadership development strategies out there that met with strong support from young nonprofit professionals, most respondents reported that their organization was not, in fact, employing these strategies.

What YNPN-TC members had to say:

“There's a diversity plan at my job that we haven't been able to implement completely, because we ran out of funding sources. But if it's something that's part of your core values, then it needs to be embedded in day to day life.”

2. Structural change is underrated

While structural change is perceived to be a lower-impact strategy than some of the others presented, it proves to be quite effective when implemented.

What YNPN-TC members had to say:

 “I'm not a fan of organizational structure as it stands today. The qualities that make for a good executive director don't have to be found at the top of a hierarchical pyramid.”

“Since ED's come in such different flavors, which isn't codified in structure, when one leaves there can be a whole shift in organization.”

3. Competitive compensation is key…but a good manager can help

Yes, we could all go for a pay raise. But survey participants indicated that a good manager can help compensate for lower pay.

4. Being left out is not uncommon

Many young nonprofit professionals expressed frustration in their lack of involvement in long-term leadership planning.

What YNPN-TC members had to say:

“I worked on a project team in a nonprofit where my direct supervisor made very intentional effort to build up my leadership development… [but] sometimes I observed direct conflict between my director and director of the organization about where younger people could go. My takeaway was that there needs to be a business model in an organization that allows for professional development.”

“Do young people have plans to approach their supervisor and others and talk about how to develop? I feel like my workplace would be supportive of those conversations. It has to be two ways.”

5. Despite systemic changes, we remain mission driven

Over 70% of the full sample surveyed remain committed to building a mission-driven career.

What YNPN-TC members had to say:

“I don't see working in a nonprofit as necessary to bringing about social change. I'd like to be part of a community that changes relationships between areas like arts and the nonprofit sector, instead of embracing the status quo.”

“I think the nonprofit sector will look completely different in five-plus years… We'll start coming together around issues and not necessarily building an organization behind it.”

Want to know more? How much more?

A  little: Read YNPN’s summary of the report’s findings and action items.

A lot: Read the full report.

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