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  • July 12, 2016 9:12 AM | Anonymous

    By Marnie McGuire

    It seems like more and more people these days are anxious to make a change in their life. For some, a new hobby, class to broaden a skillset, or vacation is just the ticket. For others, the change they crave is bigger. They decide to move away to a new place; perhaps for a job, to foster a long-distance relationship, to their hometown to start a family, or simply for the challenge that a new city brings with it. Regardless of the why, making a change in your life, specifically deciding to move away and start over, can be scary, exciting, a test of strength, and the perfect opportunity to learn about yourself.

    Last fall, I picked up my life in Chicago and moved to Grand Rapids. Now, granted, I know this isn’t that big of a move (especially when you compare it to cross-country, international, or transitioning from a small town to big city), and having lived on my own in Chicago for nearly 5 years made me into a fiercely independent woman, and still it was terrifying to move to a new place without a job, close friends or any clue about what I was going to do with my life. But I had come to the point where, despite my love for my friends, family, and job in Chicago, my life felt stale. I wasn’t growing. My career wasn’t going anywhere and it grew increasingly challenging to find a niche for myself amongst a dense and competitive workforce. I was sick of keeping up with the restaurant and bar scene. Everything was expensive. It finally dawned on me that it was time to shake things up and give life a go in West Michigan, a destination I had visited a few times for vacation but realized might also be a fun place to live.

    Looking back on my experience, I am beyond thankful for the outpour of advice, albeit some unsolicited that helped get me to where I am today. Wherever you’re headed next, here are five tips from my own journey to help you navigate moving away and starting over.

    1.Make sure you’re moving for the right reason

    Have you dug down deep and truly asked yourself why you want to move? Is it because you’re running away from something? Or because you feel lonely where you are? Ever hear the quote “Wherever you go, there you are”? Yea… it’s true. No one can dictate the right or wrong reason for you to move; that’s something you have to honestly ask and honestly answer for yourself.

    2. Save money

    I can’t stress it save save! Not only will you have to deal with the hard costs of moving and a hefty rent deposit or a down payment on a home, but you’ll find you need cups and cups of coffee, bottles of “I’m feeling homesick and miss my friends” wine, take-out food, and new things to help your new house or apartment start to feel like home. And then once you are physically settled, the real challenge of moving to a new city sets in, and you need to get out and do things and meet people and start to feel like part of your community. And then, when you start missing people or realize you have a wedding coming up that you have to travel to, you’ll wish you had a bit more saved. I moved to Grand Rapids without a full-time job which added a bit of a strain, especially considering all these things I wanted to do, and in retrospect, I would have saved up a bit more so I didn’t feel so stressed. Alas, hindsight is 20/20.

    3. Tell anyone and everyone that you’re moving or that you’re new in town

    Most people have a huge sense of pride about where they live, and they want to share it with newcomers. If you’re new to town, or will be moving shortly, tell anyone you meet! You will be surprised how excited people get to hear that you’ve chosen their city as your new home. And an added bonus is that you might even find a job this way. That’s what happened to me… I was sitting at Founders Brewing a few months before I moved to town, and began talking with a woman. It turned out she knew a lot of people in the nonprofit community, specifically at organizations that were in the heart of downtown which would allow me to meet a lot of people in the community and would be fun places to work, and she offered to forward my resume to the woman who is now my boss. She was so helpful in sending over job leads, contacts, and general advice about the job search process, and it all started over some beers and conversation as strangers.

    4. Networking is key

    I know this is a hard one for introverts, and for some, the concept of networking is just awful, but this kind of goes hand-in-hand with #3. Put yourself in situations where you can meet people, especially people other than your tight-knit friends and family. If you’ve ever read The Defining Decade by Dr. Meg Jay, you’ll remember she hammers the point, “Try to network with people outside your social circle, since most people's circles are narrow and homogeneous (and become more so with age). It's the connections you least expect that lead to the most interesting jobs -- and relationships.” Networking groups, like YNPN-GR, sports leagues, new business or store openings, or really anything you truly enjoy doing are all great opportunities for networking and meeting new friends.

    5. Job search outside your comfort zone

    Unless you’re moving somewhere for a new job, you will have to jump right into your job search. I found that being in a new city where no one knew me was a great opportunity to explore career paths outside of my comfort zone and experience. I got the chance to completely start over and learn about new skills and job responsibilities that I ended up really enjoying. My background up to this point was a weird mix of marketing, community outreach, sales and operational support, revenue optimization, promotions, and communications. I never in my life thought that this “weird mix” would be a perfect combination for a fundraising career!

    Marnie is the Manager of Corporate Partnerships and Fundraising Events at the Grand Rapids Art Museum and is a true believer in work life balance… after all, happy humans are happy employees! Find her at The Winchester more often than not, or connect with her on LinkedIn.

  • June 14, 2016 3:56 PM | Anonymous

    In today’s guest blog, Mira Krishnan shares what she has learned while partnering with a broad array of non-profit agencies and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) to reduce smoking among people living with HIV/AIDS and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community. Mira Krishnan is a neuropsychologist and consultant to the Grand Rapids Pride Center, one of two Grand Rapids non-profit agencies involved in this project. She was a speaker at the May 2015 YNPN.GR Conference.


    A primary trend discovered in our research and collaboration was that tobacco kills a significantly higher amount of LGBT people than hate crimes. In Michigan,

    • LGBT people smoke at a significantly higher than the general population-about 30% vs. 20% of the general population (2013 BRFSS). This mirrors national trends.

    • People living with HIV/AIDS smoke at even higher rates – 68%, or more than two-thirds, consume tobacco.

    • There is nearly $8 billion spent nationally on tobacco products by the LGBT community.       

          Disparities in Tobacco Consumption Rates among Michigan Populations

    While the federal government didn’t clearly delineate the LGBT community as an at-risk community for the harms of tobacco until 2014, tobacco companies have been marketing products to this community in savvy ways for decades. Many experts believe the biggest driver of increased smoking rates is something psychologists call minority stress.

    Members of minority communities, like the LGBT community, face a toxic milieu of hate crimes, laws designed to disenfranchise them or limit their rights, and fear-mongering. Additionally, they live alongside a stream of subtle, daily messages that their lives are valued differently than the lives of the majority. This leads to higher levels of anxiety and depression, as well as higher rates across a number of mental and medical health problems. And it leads to higher rates of behaviors that help to cope with stress, although they are unhealthy in the long term, such as smoking. Research shows other minority communities, including Black/African-American, Arab-American, and Native American Michiganders, as well as those with disabilities smoke at higher rates- as shown in graph above.

    LGBT community centers, AIDS service organizations, MDHHS officials, and subject matter experts convening for a training in Okemos, MI.


    Under the radar, while everyone is distracted by the incredibly contentious political climate in our state, some amazing collaboration is happening. In 2014, I had the chance to be part of data collection, designed by MDHHS and scientific advisors nationally, and carried out by LGBT community centers throughout the state, including Grand Rapids’ own GR Pride Center (formerly The Network). We gathered responses from more than 1,600 LGBT Michiganders (more than 400 just in Grand Rapids) about their wellness and perceptions of acceptance. This project provided local data for the first time that validated the minority stress model.

    MDHHS brought LGBT community centers and AIDS service organizations, such as Grand Rapids’ Red Project together with public health experts at Tobacco Free Michigan, and many statewide non-profits, who worked in vastly different areas, but are united in a desire to reduce the harm of tobacco in Michigan. Best of all, leaders at MDHHS worked with us, as experts in our communities, so that we were able to shape and refine messaging, to be most impactful with the population we know best. This has really pushed us, in turn, to be both creative and responsive to our community, learning to message in a way that is effective and meaningful to the people we serve, something which can weave itself back into all aspects of how our organizations serve our community.

    This program offers an exciting, new model for how non-profit agencies can collaborate with governmental agencies and each other to not only address critical issues harming the community, but unlock new creativity and solve problems in ways that we have not solved them before.

    If you’re interested in quitting smoking, resources are available. All residents can access the Michigan Quit Line (1-800-QUIT-NOW), a free, evidence-based support resource in quitting smoking, whose staff have received advanced training in working with minority communities, including the LGBT community.

  • September 16, 2015 11:12 AM | Anonymous

    By Elyse Mathos, YNPN.GR Chair

    I am happy to say that this month will mark my third year as a YNPN Grand Rapids board member. I first joined YNPN as a member when I was a recent college graduate and AmeriCorps member living in Detroit. I was new to the city, new to the nonprofit sector, and looking for a way to connect with other young professionals. A fellow AmeriCorps member invited me to a happy hour hosted by YNPN Detroit, and I have been hooked ever since.

    When I moved back to Grand Rapids in 2011, I knew that YNPN would be one of the first place I would plug in. After a few months as a member, I joined the marketing committee and eventually took my involvement with YNPN to the next level and joined the board of directors as marketing and communications co-chair. Joining the board has been one of the most fun, defining, and best decisions of my nonprofit career.

    I thought I would share some of the ways that my board service has helped me both professionally and personally:

    YNPN has taught me to dive in to leadership.
    Being early in my nonprofit career, I wasn’t often given the opportunity to prove to myself and others that I was a leader. I was looking for opportunities to grow my leadership experience and skills, and to just prove that I had it in me. Before I joined the board (and sometimes even now), I find myself asking “Can I really do this? What if it’s not enough? Do others think I’m ready for this role?” But at the end of the day, the board has allowed me to grow as a leader more than I ever thought possible with the support of my peers.

    YNPN has grown my network - in more ways than one.
    One of the responsibilities of being on the board is to raise awareness about YNPN, our members, and our opportunities. Because of this, I have had the opportunities to connect with so many individuals - fellow young professionals, nonprofit leaders in the community, students exploring different career paths, YNPN leaders from across the country, and more. These connections have helped push YNPN Grand Rapids forward, while also giving me great professional relationships and lasting personal friendships.

    YNPN has made me proud to work in the nonprofit sector.
    When I started working in the nonprofit sector, I knew that it was the right place for me. But when I joined YNPN, I really knew that the nonprofit sector was right for me. I had found my people! When you walk in to a room of YNPN-ers, there is an undeniable passion and pride for their work. Some of my favorite moments with YNPN are when this pride comes to fruition at events such as Nonprofit Spirit Week, The Nonprofit Smackdown, and the nonprofit karaoke battle called the Rhyme Rumble.

    YNPN has helped me find mentors - and pay it forward.
    As a young professional, I have learned how important it is to find good mentors. I also believe that mentors are often times closer than we think - coming from within our own peer networks. Many of my mentors have helped me with specific skills or offered great advice at different stages in my life. Others have grown with me over the past few years and are deeply invested in my success in the nonprofit sector. YNPN has also taught me to pay it forward and I have had the opportunity to meet with others and share my own experiences. If someone is interested in what I’m doing, my path so far, or my thoughts on something, I am always happy to chat! 

    YNPN has strengthened my people and project management skills.

    Upon joining the board, I quickly learned that my responsibilities would include managing various projects and teams of people. It has been a terrific opportunity to take ownership of an organization and work with others to influence our direction, structure, and programmatic work to further our mission. I have found myself becoming clearer about strategy and goals, while keeping myself and others accountable. Oh, and making sure to always have FUN!

    Three years after joining the board, my passion for YNPN is greater than ever. I am proud to be a part of such an amazing network of people in Grand Rapids, and across the country. My experience on the board has been even more than I imagined - a opportunity to grow as a leader among outstanding peers and great teams. As Trish Tchume said at this year’s YNPN National Conference, “We are powerful beyond measure” and I am so excited to see what we will do!

    Applications are now open for the 2016-2017 YNPN Grand Rapids board of directors. Learn more and apply to join the board at Or, send me an email at I would love to hear from you!

    Photo by Adam Bird Photography (from the YNPN.GR Headshot Happy Hour)

  • September 13, 2015 8:23 PM | Anonymous

    By Samantha Roberts, YNPN.GR Fund Development Chair

    As part of my Social Work 101 Course at Saginaw Valley State University, Dr. Giesler presented the salary ranges for working professional men and women who have social work degrees. He told us that the men graduating from our class were projected to earn more than the women. This “new” information created an instant tension among my classmates. The discomfort of this harsh truth was palpable. Here was a room full of young men and women, an entire career of social work ahead of them, already being asked to face the reality that they would not be treated as equals when their time in the classroom ended. I half expected some of my classmates to walk out. Many of them did, in a way – the enrollment for our next week’s class seemed much lower. However, I decided to stick it out and ultimately received a Master of Social Work from Loyola University of Chicago. 

    When controlling for multiple factors, the average salary gap for men and women in the field of social work is $7,052 per year (NASW Center for Workforce Studies). Many social workers work in the nonprofit sector. And, as a whole, 75% of the nonprofit workforce is women (The Current State of Women in Leadership). As women progress into leadership positions within nonprofits, they are consistently paid less than their male counterparts. For the 14th year in a row, median compensation for female nonprofit CEOs lagged behind that of respective CEOs by up to 23% (2014 GuideStar Compensation Report).

    As a large and female-dominated industry, the nonprofit sector presents an interesting and exciting opportunity to close the income gap between men and women. According to John Hopkins University's Center for Civil Society Studies, nonprofit employment represents 10.1% of the total employment in the U.S. This makes the U.S. nonprofit workforce the third-largest among U.S. industries, behind only retail trade and manufacturing. If the income gap between men in women in the nonprofit sector was closed, think of the impact we could make across the country by influencing this enormous industry. 

    So, where do we begin? Let’s start with where nonprofits spend money. The Charity Review Council recommends no more than 35% of spending on overhead. “The overhead ratio refers to the percentage of a nonprofit organization’s expenses that is devoted to administrative costs and fundraising costs.” (GuideStar). If your organization isn’t spending at least 35%, consider adjusting for this recommendation and allocating funds for equal pay among your nonprofit employees. It should be noted that there is no single accepted standard percentage of overhead that can be applied to nonprofits, as spending amounts vary based on the budget of administrative costs as well as scope and structure of the organization.

    The next step? Show your commitment to paying women and men equally by making it part of your organization’s vision statement and sharing it with your donors. The average American believes that a charity should spend no more than 23% on overhead. However, reports show that charities actually spend 36.9 cents on the dollar on their overhead costs (TheNonProfitTimes). According to TheNonProfitTimes, the more money we make (i.e. an organization’s donors), the less funding we believe should be allocated for overhead costs. For example, those with yearly household incomes less than $30,000, 55% think more than a reasonable amount of overhead is generally spent, compared to 70% for those making more than $100,000 per year. Don’t let donors believe. Let them know exactly how much you are spending on overhead and justify why that is. Let them know about the income gap between men in women in the nonprofit sector and your organization is committed to closing it. 

    The return on investment for paying nonprofit professionals is great. If you are part of the nonprofit sector, you know that fundraising is everyone’s jobs even if it isn’t in your job title. According to Third Space Studio, every $1 a nonprofit pays a fundraiser, the nonprofit makes the organization $4. This is to say that fundraisers are worth the investment. And, research shows, if a nonprofit invests in their employees, the nonprofit professional will invest in their employer. 

    The nonprofit sector presents a unique opportunity to close the income gap between men and women. But it's being overlooked.  Where we have an immense industry, we also have a large wave of potential change. By making equal pay for women and men part of nonprofit organization’s mission/vision statements, being transparent with donors about overhead costs, and investing more in nonprofit employees through equal pay will have a profound effect on closing the income gap between men and women. 

    Photo by Andrew VanHagen

  • August 24, 2015 10:47 AM | Anonymous

    Kathy Crosby, President & CEO at Goodwill Industries of Greater Grand Rapids, lends her voice to YNPN in a guest post to talk about who owns nonprofits.

    The concept of nonprofit organizations has evolved through decades of design and political debate.  The voluntary organizations of the Civil War were important to the era and to citizen involvement in change that swept across the country.  Through the turbulent 1920s and the challenging years of The Depression, the nonprofit role continued to be defined…and re-defined.  President Roosevelt made the move that likely contributed most to the nonprofit definition when he established an income tax code that allowed for tax deductions as a means to encourage giving by the wealthy to organizations working to improve the condition of society.

    Onward through the 1950s when community organizations were formed to accept and distribute donations from the growing middle class, through the 1960s when social concerns dominated a new generation of activists, and on through the 1970s and 80s when government grew its involvement with nonprofits as conduits of service and change, the nonprofit sector has grown and evolved into what many today call the ‘third sector’ of enterprise.

    So who owns a nonprofit?  Ownership is important to acknowledge.  I believe a nonprofit is owned by the community it serves.  The community invests in nonprofits with donations of goods, time, and cash gifts.  It forgoes revenue for public use via tax exemptions.  Community government funds programs and services. Therefore, as nonprofits, we have an obligation to offer our community the best possible return on that investment within the framework of our mission…the foundation of our nonprofit status.

    I believe as a nonprofit we are obligated to understand the goals and dreams of our community and know how our mission can support them.  We are equally obligated to operate our business in a manner that assures both quantity and quality of return to those who give so generously to us each day.  In a world of growing focus on data and metrics, we need to measure what matters and share that data with our investors…with our community.

    Every year, nonprofits issue their annual reports to the community … to their ‘investors.’  Many annual reports today are delivered electronically to save on cost and expand access.  All offer a variety of information on mission and outcomes for the past year.  These reports offer the perfect opportunity to reflect on, to consider the organization’s view of who their nonprofit owners really are. 

    What are your expectations of how our sector performs?  How are you making investment decisions?

    You may be drawn to a cause.  You may be concerned about the diminishing government funds available for social services.  You may be looking for a catalyst for change in your community.  In any case, I urge you to look at a nonprofit through the eyes of an owner…the eyes of an investor. 

    There are many nonprofits in this country and more appearing each day.  Some would argue there are too many.  As investors, members of the community have many choices.  As a representative of that community, you have many opportunities for input.  How each community convenes to design solutions and work toward success may differ.  But the rising expectation for performance in return for investment is consistently growing across all communities.  The transparency of the social age has afforded a new opportunity to examine both the priorities and the performance of the nonprofit organizations we invest in.  It is important to meet the raised expectation of a new generation of investors.

    I hope you will take a moment to stay informed and to make intentional choices for your investments of time, goods, cash, and other resources.  As you use your influence through vote and voice in our governing process, consider the return.  I believe nonprofits belong to you.   I hope you will seek any information you need to help you as an owner. 

    I believe we still need the work of nonprofits and I thank you for your continued support of their many worthwhile missions!  The future remains filled with challenges that only the passion of community investors will best resolve. 

    You are an owner.  Invest wisely.


  • August 03, 2015 9:34 AM | Anonymous
    This summer, career/resume/interview coach Jenna Thayer, MA, FASPR led a resume workshop for YNPN. But of course, there's more than resumes involved when you're seeking a new position. Here are some things from Jenna to consider when looking at a new opportunity. And don't forget, you can find the Members Only jobs board at (must have member log-in to access).

    What to Look for in a New Job Opportunity
    by Jenna Thayer

    Work life balance & schedule flexibility
    • It is really important to get a sense of what your work-life balance will be. How many nights will you stay late at the office? Do they expect 40 hours or 55 hours per week? What are the general hours of work? Do people work from home? How are vacations approved? These are all valid questions to ask. You may want be a bit more subtle, so they don't get the impression you're not a hard worker. But it's important to know ahead of time what your day-to-day life will look like. You should know if, on occasion, you'll be able to leave early for your daughter's soccer game. Or, if your mom needs to be taken to any appointment, that you can come in 30 minutes late without penalty.
    • When my brother was looking for a new job, he really took into account the type of lifestyle he should expect. His old company offered 4 weeks of vacation; his new company only had 3. However, they let him work from home one day per week, and he had more flexibility on a day-to-day basis. For him, that was more important than the actual vacation time. Get a good sense of what you want, and then make sure you ask appropriate questions in a respectful manner.
    Growth potential
    • You'll want to know what type of mentorship is available, no matter what stage you are in your career. Sometimes the mentorship is formal, sometimes it's not. Sometimes you have to seek it out on your own.
    • Investigate what type of growth or leadership opportunities are open to you in this role and organization. You can ask that question directly. Make sure you have an idea of what type of opportunities you want, so the discussion has a frame of reference. Are there opportunities within the organization for additional learning, projects, and conferences? Is this something that is important to you?
    Happiness level
    • This is a great question to ask in an interview, or in an informal part of the recruitment process. What do the employees have to say about their jobs and the company? Are they happy? Do they seem happy? You can gauge a lot from an interview, as well as informal time spent with the group, during a shadow or luncheon. Collect good information about the company and how happy folks are. Trust me, happiness is a key indicator of job satisfaction.
    Benefits (all of them)
    • Consider all of the benefits a company is offering. Benefits include vacation, educational reimbursement, retirement plans, short term and long term disability, life insurance, dental, vision, and medical insurance.
    • I recently had a medical personnel leave the organization for a higher salary. She called me about 2 months later. Her take-home pay had actually decreased, because her medical premiums were higher than before. Take a look at the entire picture before accepting a position.
    • Another example includes a friend who took a new position. The out-of-pocket maximum for his family increased $6,000. If anything were to happen to his family, they would be out an additional $6,000. This was something he didn't consider until after accepting the job. You don't need to look into every single detail, but knowing as much as you can ahead of time, can save you headache in the future!
    Involvement in decision-making
    • Are employees asked to sit at the table on committees? Are they heard? What type of involvement will you have in decision-making? This will tell you a lot about the company culture.
    Staffing ratio and workload
    • What are the hours expected? How many cases (or whatever is appropriate for your industry) will you be working on? How many staff are on the team to do X amount of work? How are timelines determined? These are good things to know in advance as well. We hired someone new to our organization, because she was looking for somewhere with less of a workload. At her old job, she couldn't keep up during the week, so she was doing lots of work on the weekend just to survive. You don't want to be that person. Understand what is expected of you.
    Management style
    • How are conflicts resolved? When are performance evaluations completed and who evaluates you? What is management like? These are excellent things to know ahead of time. You are interviewing the company just as much as they are interviewing you. Will this type of management style jive with your personality? One of my close friends was interviewing for a job and knew that it wasn't right for her because the management style was abrasive. She had a more meek personality and it was not going to work.
    Partner coverage on vacation
    • Going on vacation should feel like vacation. You shouldn't have to worry about checking your email all of the time, unless that's what you prefer. Personally, when I go on vacation, I want to have a clear mind. I'm looking for peacefulness and not nightmares about what might be happening back in the office. You can ask your potential boss or team members how vacation coverage works. Does someone assist while you're gone? How relaxed do people feel leaving the office for a week?

    To prepare for your interview, put together a list of what is really important to you (using the above headings or categories of your own). Then write down a list of questions you want to ask. Feel free to pull from this blog post. Stay strong, and keep looking for that right fit. You won't be able to have it all, of course, but with smart questions and a little negotiation, you're on your way!

    Jenna Thayer can be reached at or connect with her on LinkedIn.

  • June 22, 2015 8:07 PM | Anonymous

    by Amber Jones

    There often comes a time in each young nonprofit professional’s career where they ask that age-old question: Should I go to grad school?

    It’s a costly decision. On top of potential student loans, you’re also considering giving up one of your most precious commodities: time. And sleep. And maybe a little bit of your sanity.

    Now, as for me, I am typically not one to willingly give those up (particularly the sleep), but ever since I graduated undergrad I knew I would one day enroll again to get a master’s degree. I gave myself some years in the workforce to get some experience under my belt, explore my passions and find out what kind of degree would benefit my career most. Once I began to zero in on that, I started to research programs.

    At the time I was looking, I found there wasn’t much out there specifically for nonprofit professionals (which is what I was looking for). It’s somewhat of an “up and coming” field in academia. Some schools house it in their school of social work, others public affairs. I knew I had found the degree for me when I came across the program at the University of Notre Dame, which had a nonprofit-focused degree in its business school. The tagline for their Master of Nonprofit Administration program was “servant heart, business mind.” Catchy on a brochure? Yes. But it was also exactly what I was seeking in my education. I saw in myself (and many I came across in the sector) plenty of enthusiasm and drive for the work we do -- that is, after all, one of the best parts of working in nonprofit… we all have awesome reasons why we do what we do -- but I also saw a lack of business acumen. Nonprofits need to be run with a certain level of savviness if we want them to stay afloat... or really, to thrive. Not just for our bottom lines, but for the communities we serve. You’re not going to heal the sick, feed the hungry, or help the helpless if you can’t balance a budget, develop a worthwhile strategic plan, or operate within your bylaws.

    The other great thing about the Notre Dame MNA was the accessibility of the program. It was a combination of in-person and distance (that means online) learning. The in-person component was intensive, full-time core classes done during summer sessions (in my second summer, I did 12 credits in six weeks). Then the online classes were done in the evenings in the fall and winter (usually just one elective class a semester). This meant, as long as you could finagle some time off for a trip to South Bend in the summer, you could work full-time and do the program from anywhere. In fact, they wanted you to stay in your job -- bring your work into the classroom and take what you learn into your work.

    This was essentially an MBA for nonprofits, so I took accounting, legal, board governance, economics, finance, management, etc. (I also got to live in a dorm while I did the in-person classes over the last two summers. Don’t let anyone tell you grad school isn’t glamorous.) It was intense indeed, and at times I questioned why I voluntarily signed up for this… but having completed the degree this spring, I can confidently say I am stronger in the areas I felt I was most lacking for advancing my career. I feel better positioned for leadership roles. I met great people from a variety of backgrounds and got plugged into a huge alumni network. And oh yeah, I can balance a budget (I secretly love budgets).

    Is grad school for you? Maybe. It’s not something to jump into lightly or do just for the sake of doing it, but if you can find a cost-effective program that fits you and will help your career, then it’s definitely something to consider. However, as mentioned before, you absolutely will lose some of that sleep and sanity (you should have seen me come finals time). The Notre Dame MNA was one of those “just right” fits, and because of that, I believe it was worth it. 

    So, take some time to think about it. Do your research. Explore different programs and talk to people who have done it. You could get another piece of paper for your wall, or you could get a worthwhile experience that opens up your career.

    Amber is the Development and Communications Coordinator at the YWCA West Central Michigan and serves on the board of YNPN.GR as the marketing co-chair. She is now using her freed up time from grad school to make faces at her four-month-old baby. Want to chat grad programs, nonprofits, or college football? Email her at

  • May 13, 2015 9:33 PM | Anonymous

    Re-Injury: A Negative Effect of Positive Work

    damali ayo (keynote for  May 29, 2015 Mini-Conference)

    “The thing that I take away most from your presentation, is the notion of ‘re-injury.’ That is really going to change the way I interact with people. Thank you.”

    This was a comment by someone recently at a talk I gave on the impact of working on racism and making art about race in my personal and professional life. I had spent the hour sharing the hate email I received, the psychological and physical challenges that I faced, and the lack of support I had to cope with it all.

    Along the way I talked about this thing that happened to me frequently after I started making art about racism, and published my first book on the topic. People would often say to me, “damali, I saw something racist yesterday and I thought of you! Let me tell you about it.”

    I joke in my talk, “Why don’t people think of me when they see a rainbow, or a pretty sunset, or a flower?” The thought that now people see racism and think of me was not a life I wanted to wake up to every day. At that moment, when this kind of comment started happening with frequency, I started to feel like I was drowning.

    What I realized later was that “drowning” feeling was actually being “re-injured” by people’s enthusiasm for understanding and confronting racism.

    We don’t always realize this. And I understand it completely. White people’s minds get “switched on” when they start working on racism and they start seeing it everywhere. They naturally want to share this with 1) the people who have explained racism to them, or 2) the people they want to assure that they are now awake. I get it. I do.

    The trouble is, that this doesn’t reassure the people of color. It scares them. I know that is a strong word, and some people of color might disagree with me, but when you connect to a deep trauma (even a historical trauma such as racism, which has a daily legacy of continued racism that clearly still exists if people can see it and find it every day) you re-traumatize people. It’s just psychological fact. There’s a reason why you don’t want to watch that movie about that tough thing that happened in your childhood. And you’d never go up to a rape victim and say, “I saw a news story about rape and thought of you!” At least, I sure hope you would not.

    This is one of the reasons I unsubscribed from “Upworthy” which I think is supposed to be a kind of “good news” thing that sends positive moments to inboxes all over. I subscribed and in one week got three posts from them about racism. Things like “this guy challenges racism” etc, you get the picture. Good intentions. Bad idea. I know, and most people of color know there is racism. We don’t need to be reminded of it at every turn, and it is self-serving of white people to share these things as a way of patting themselves on the back. I could not opt-out of posts about racism- I was not offered that choice. Perhaps Upworthy did not consider that people of color might be reading, or maybe they hoped we were. I unsubscribed completely.

    Seek healing, not praise.

    The advice I give to people is that they should discuss those “ah-ha!” moments with white people. So that instead of thinking of sharing their newly-opened eyes with people of color, they run to white people with the thought, “I saw something racist and I’m going to tell other white people so they won’t do it, and so we can work to change it.” And then tell your friends of color you thought of them when you saw something beautiful, happy, joyful—just like their personality that makes you want to be their friend. Those are healing acts, and will go much farther to help end racism.

  • December 23, 2014 10:44 AM | Anonymous

    We all want to be part of a community and to belong to something bigger than ourselves. When I joined the YNPN.GR board just shy of five years ago, I had no idea ho much I would learn about myself, the nonprofit community, and the necessity for an organization like YNPN to exist in Grand Rapids. As my time on the board ends, here are a few reflections:

    • Your voice is important – If you feel like your ideas aren’t being heard in the workplace, I promise you that they will be heard at YNPN conversation starters, educational luncheons, committee meetings, and “libations and conversations” happy hours.  Your confidence will grow and you will see this permeate your work life as well. 
    • Nonprofit relationships are legit – YNPN creates, fosters, and
    •  builds meaningful relationships as a “network”.  Some of the most amazing, creative and innovative thought leaders in our community work in the nonprofit sector. Don’t believe me?  Attend YNPN events and find out.  You will find yourself having constructive conversations with those that have a true passion for making Grand Rapids a better place for everyone.  The people you meet will become your friends, your gateway to increased opportunities within the sector, and your allies in social justice work.
    • Partnerships are crucial  – Public, private, and nonprofit leaders are feeling extreme pressure to keep young talent in their organizations so it seems like new “young professional” groups pop up daily.  These groups do help provide networking and professional development opportunities, but there is often overlap in programming.  For the past two years, YNPN.GR leadership has met regularly with the leadership from Grand Rapids Young Professionals (GRYP) and Business Leaders Linked to Encourage New Directions (BL²END), and others.  The coordination of our efforts has spawned multiple collaborative events, eliminated duplication of programming, and provided for efficient allocation of resources.  The best part about this simple collaboration is that connections are going beyond these events.  Personal and professional are connections are happening on an almost daily basis, improving the talent retention of young professionals in our region.
    • The word “young” isn’t really relevant – In 2012, YNPN.GR decided to drop the language on our website and printed materials that referenced “under 40”.  Here’s why - we found out that we were unintentionally excluding new-the-sector nonprofit employees that had valuable thoughts and ideas to add from the public or private sector.  Most importantly, the leaders in our community that were engaged with YNPN early in their career were shying away from involvement when they reached that arbitrary threshold.  Not good.  Here is my charge
    To the nonprofit managers and leaders with young professionals on your staff:
    • Be a vocal advocate for keeping young talent in our region.
    • Engage with YNPN by attending events and encourage your employees to attend, most are free. 
    • Invest in your staff by providing them with a YNPN membership.
    • Consider being a fiscal sponsor of YNPN.
    To the 2015 YNPN Board:
    • Continue to provide quality programming for our members and future members. 
    • Engage nonprofit leaders - of all ages
    • Push the envelope.  Lead by tackling the difficult, knotty issues in our community.
    • Create purposeful partnerships that advance the mission of YNPN. 

    I look forward to seeing the growth of YNPN in the coming years.  Kudos to Tera Qualls and the founding board (Jenn Schaub, Barbara Anderson, Amanda St. Pierre, and others) for having the vision to get this started more than seven years ago.  I also anticipate big things coming from YNPN National and Trish Tchume (Executive Director) in the coming weeks, months, and years. 

    Keep the network strong.  Stay connected.  Encourage and uplift each other. 

    Shaun served as a YNPN.GR board member from 2010 - 2014. He currently serves as Development Officer for the Grand Rapids Community Foundation. Shaun received a Bachelor of Business Administration in Marketing and a Master of Public Administration in Nonprofit Management and Leadership from Grand Valley State University. Shaun is passionate about the nonprofit sector because he gets to make a difference in the lives of others every day and because helping others reach their goal is fulfilling.

  • October 17, 2014 12:26 PM | Anonymous

    By: Lucy Dyer Joswick

    Do awards even mean anything? And are they representative of our community? These are great questions asked by an article in The Rapidian this week questioning the validity of the many, many awards in the Grand Rapids community.

    As we are just weeks away from our annual YNPN Leadership Awards, I want to join this conversation. It’s about time Grand Rapids got called out for our dirty little secret – we are not a racially equitable community. The many awards are an example, but that only scratches the surface of a more serious and systemic issue: in Grand Rapids, the color of one’s skin greatly impacts one’s likelihood of success.

    One of the great things about YNPN is we represent a membership with lots of different thoughts and opinions. I can only speak for myself, but with my experience as co-chair of YNPN and a past recipient and planner of the Leadership Awards, I couldn’t resist jumping in. Please allow me to pull the curtain back and lead with transparency and authenticity by addressing YNPN’s Leadership Awards and our own issues with racial inequity.

    A Bit of Leadership Awards History

    The YNPN Leadership Awards started six years ago when area nonprofit professionals voiced concerns of awards being only for high-level professionals, experienced leaders or the business community. Before the Leadership Awards, there was not a formal way of recognizing the unsung heroes of our community – its nonprofit leaders.

    But, then the Leadership Awards became a popularity contest. There, I said it. As the Young Nonprofit Professional of the Year winner in 2012, that reality quietly haunts me – did I win for what I have done as a nonprofit professional or did I win because a lot of people know my name? (Regardless of the why, I still consider my win a real win and quite a self-esteem boost.)

    Last year, I began my work as co-chair of the committee that plans the awards, and we started by completely dismantling our process in an effort to decrease the popularity contest vibe. In my mind we had two issues: we were giving awards to a disproportionate number of white people and we were doing it in a high school homecoming popularity contest style.

    So, we changed it up. But there is still room to grow.

    Leadership Awards & YNPN Now

    Previously, we promoted nominations to our members and those that follow us on social media. Once we had nominations, our board members chose the finalists and then a committee chose the winners. We were at that time a 100% white board with a 100% white membership base.  Seriously, 100 percent. We were also homogeneous in other ways – we came from similar parts of the sector, were mostly female and held similar professions.

    In 2013, we extended the reach for nominations. Rather than contacting only those we knew, I used an amazing community resource chock full of nonprofits: Family Futures’ Family Resource Guide (and yes, that is a shameless plug as I work at Family Futures. Check it out!). Committee and board members reached out to hundreds of nonprofits we had never heard of, asking them to nominate. The response was overwhelming. We tripled the number of nominations received and more importantly, where in 2012, 80% of our nominees were white, in 2013, 60% of our nominees were white.

    Getting nominations was only part of the battle. We still had to stop the popularity contest.

    We assembled a selection committee made out of those who had received awards in the past and asked them to cast a blind vote. This meant we removed the names and organizations people worked for and any other identifying information. We gave the selection committee one thing: their credentials.

    Once the finalists were chosen they were unveiled. We then empowered our members to vote and used that vote as the impetus to strategically diversify our member base.

    This is the process we are using again in 2014. I can’t say that we’ve solved racial inequity simply by changing an award process. But, rather than a 100% white board, this year 75% of our board was white and 10% of our members are now persons of color. This is a work in progress.

    YNPN & Race

    I think one of the best ways to confront racial issues is to open up the conversation. I am thankful that the previously mentioned article was written, because it’s doing just that.

    Confronting structural racism and racial inequity is a huge passion of mine, explored through undergraduate, graduate work and a professional career with companies who address this issue head on: Girl Scouts of Michigan Shore to Shore, Family Futures and Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for Healing Racism – but I do not have all the answers!

    So, Grand Rapids, I am asking you:

    • How can we improve the Leadership Awards?
    • How can we ensure YNPN GR racially represents the Grand Rapids nonprofit community?
    • What can YNPN’s role be in working to dismantle the systems of structural racism causing such inequity and segregation in Grand Rapids?

    Flood my inbox with suggestions, meet with me to discuss, or join YNPN on November 20th for our Conversation Starter where we will tackle racial inequity and segregation head on.

    And, please, continue to call us to the carpet. It feels rather plush up here.

    Lucy Dyer Joswick is the Chief Program Officer at Family Futures and serves on the board of YNPN GR as co-chair. Email her at

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