Thursday, May 27, 2010


YNPN Detroit's blog is moving to our new web page... it will be done very soon. Keep your eyes out!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Lobbying: Nonprofits need to do more of it.

When I tell people that I am a registered lobbyist with the State of Michigan, they kinda look at me funny because I don't fit their stereotype of a lobbyist. Then they tell me that lobbyists are the ones really making the decisions up in Lansing. So I am here to dispel both myths: first that lobbyists do not and should not fit a stereotype and secondly they are not the ones pushing the green or red button in the House and Senate chambers and are definitely not the ones signing bills into laws.

And after I explain this all and some additional items, I am going to lobby all of you budding nonprofit young professionals to advocate in the legislature for your clients and constituencies. But you also have to ask something of them. Your clients and supporters need to vote and contact their electeds.

Having the right to and actually lobbying your elected officials and government and voting are the two founding principles of American democracy and our civic duty.

Lobbying gets a bad rap because the interests with deep pockets hire a whole lot of lobbyists to educate and then work with legislative aides on crafting legislation that is beneficial to them. However, I am here to say that it is possible to be a one person shop with very limited resources and lobby elected officials.

Here is Michigan the legislators cannot serve more than 6yrs in the House and 8 years in the Senate. This means it is a continual "rotation of amateurs" (to quote Gordon Wood in a NY Times article) that know very little about very little. But many of them want to learn about what is important to their constituents and for the state and what role than can play to advance those interests.

I'm not talking about insurance companies or banks, I am talking about what the local food bank needs to provide the increasing number of families that need its help or the social service org. that needs more resources. Legislators need to hear from these organizations, instead of the organizations complaining to each other in their own silos, because, now when MI is facing such a huge budget shortfall, resources are scarce and those who do the most lobbying are going to see the smallest cuts.

I know there is huge concern about losing your 501(c)(3) nonprofit status however, the IRS allows an organization to spend 20% of its first $500,000 of an org's annual budget to advocate. That is $100,000!!!! Also, it is not difficult for a (c)(3) to have a sister (c)(4) organization that gives it more flexibility to lobby. If you want more information on the rules for nonprofit lobbying, go to the Alliance for Justice for more indepth information and always consult a lawyer! The Michigan Nonprofit Association also is a wealth of resources on this subject.

Back to my point, when nonprofits are shouldering more and more of services that traditionally were provided by government and the increasing interest in public-private partnerships, it is more important than ever to make your voice heard to legislators and to those in the executive branch as well. Here is an example of this:

The ARRA money (aka Stimulus Plan) that came from the federal government to MI for energy efficiency and weatherization. The money needed to be appropriated by the Legislature to a government agency. Once appropriated, the agency, needed to draft up rules and regulations on how the money was to be dispersed and spent. The agency then submits the rules and regs. for public comment. And after adjusting the rules and regs from feedback it received during public comment period, then the agency could put out an RFP and disperse the money.

In this scenario, I count 3 different times an org that is seeking the ARRA money for its constituency could positively affect its chances of receiving the moeny. It needed to lobby the legislature to appropriate the money and change any MI laws that was required by the ARRA. Then it needed to talk to the agency and work with them on drafting rules and regs and finally during public comment. By doing this advocacy work, the org. greatly increases its chances of getting the resources it needs.

I know lobbying may seem scary, so I recommend you check out the resources the Michigan Nonprofit Association and the Alliance for Justice has on advocacy to ensure your org. is both effective and legit. Lastly, if you are still not convinced, many foundations are pushing their grantees to lobby and advocate for their clients.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Non-Executive Director

We spent a lot of time discussing the Executive Director position at the YNPN Conference and the impending need for new leadership that the sector will have to accommodate for. And while the Executive Director is often the title associated with nonprofit leadership, it is by no means the only title for leaders.

I want to stress to my fellow YNPNers and beyond that you can lead without becoming an Executive Director. Certainly, there is always a sense of pride and excitement when meeting and/or hearing about Gen X’ers (or even Millennials!) that are doing well as young Executive Directors of an organization. It is by no means a small task to run a nonprofit organization, and to do it early in life is a great achievement. I know several, and I have great respect for each of them.

However, I dedicate this post to those who do not see the ED title in their future, yet still want to lead. You can lead now, as an associate or program coordinator. You can lead in YNPN or in your community. EDs are not the only leadership positions available.

I believe that the vast majority of us share this in common: We want to have a strong professional career, make a decent living, and do good at the same time. But how that ‘strong professional career’ in the nonprofit sector looks like might be different from person to person, and that is ok. I spoke with a YNPNer who said that he would never want to be a ED, because he wants to remain in constant and direct contact with the people that his organization serves. I, personally, don’t see myself as wanting an ED position. That is not because I don’t believe myself to be qualified or able, but because I would rather devote myself entirely to a particular area that I am passionate about, as opposed to being in charge of everything. Of course, I am young and things may change. But the fact of the matter is, you can lead from wherever you are in the sector. Each nonprofit serves the community in some way, whether it is the local community or beyond. Leaders throughout organizations are needed in order for us to serve to the best of our ability.

Let us not forget that a hard working program coordinator can often find him/herself doing the workload of two or more staff persons in half the amount of time while still maintaining a smile and loving his/her work. I’m not meaning to put the “badge” on our shoulders… you know what I’m taking about… the “feel sorry for me because I do such a great thing but I am so overworked and underpaid and….” No. This is not what I mean. What I am saying is that term “leader” does not necessarily imply “Executive Director.”

Whether the golden ED title is hanging high in your head or if you have other plans, you can still lead. Volunteer with YNPN. Become a resource for your colleagues and for the community. Work hard at your job and never stop looking for ways to grow and learn. Take control of your career and lead it in the direction you want it to go. You are not limited. Lead in your own way.

Here is to all of the ‘young’ nonprofit ‘leaders’ no matter the title. I look up to each of you and couldn’t be more excited to share this great YNPN network with such amazing people.

-- Taken from YNPN Blog

Monday, April 26, 2010

Top Ten Recap for the @YNPN’s

I was just in Denver, where I was honored to be able to speak to the members of the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network who had gathered in the Mile High City to talk taking it up a notch.

Here a fast run down of my tips for them (minus the f-bombs):

1. When YNPN first got started, the only word in its name that was accurate was “young”. Now, YNPN is a powerful network of seasoned pros. Build on that. Post each others blogs, videos and op-eds. Constantly encourage each other. RT w/abandon. Support each others research and champion advocacy efforts. Get each other gigs. Be a good friend in practice, and practice being a good friend.

2. If you want to change the world, then heed the words of Dorothy Height, who said, “If the times aren’t ripe, you have to ripen the times.”

3. Modern charity has its roots in gender and race boundaries of 20th century America. The tens of thousands of charities that opened back then (that were founded primarily by women) were limited by the male dominated culture that made the wealth and administered the foundation system. As such, grants were mainly made to groups that engaged in non-threatening charity and not to groups that sought to use economics or politics to challenge the status quo of the day.

4. For 40 years, we’ve made that “redemption of the giver, not liberation of the receiver” charity model bigger, and then bigger still. Understand its origins. Always show respect for the intent and work of the founding mothers, but understand the unintended, but inherent limitations of this model….and the cost your generation would have to shoulder to maintain it.

5. Don’t buy the “leadership vacuum” myth. There are thousands of Gen Xers who have been in the mix for a long time before you, and like you, they are more than ready to assume leadership roles. The real question for anyone who seeks to lead–where are we going?

6. The Periodic Table of the wall of that university lecture hall where we met had only 103 elements listed. There are now 117. It is out-of-date. This can also be said about the attitudes and policies that govern nonprofits in America. For any new leadership to be able to move beyond the limits of the traditional charity model, then we must challenge outdated ideas, starting with the divide between .com and .org

7. This will take new policies, and for new policies to be enacted, we must elect a new generation of leaders (some could be you) who understand the stakes and realize the potential of every community if all its resources are utilized with vision and courage. They must understand the potential that nonprofits have to help rebuild the local, state and national economy. Given the size and scope of our sector, these new leaders should be prepared to appoint dedicated leadership within their administration to explore every option to better integrate the strengths of business, community and government (as Mayor Hickenlooper has done with the Office of Strategic Partnerships).

8. It sounds daunting, but ponder the resources we have to work with. Ahead of you are 80 million Baby Boomers. The oldest is only 65. They are the generation that raged against the machine, but then settled down, moved to the suburbs and gave at the office. Now, as they look forward, many are wondering how they strayed so far from the proverbial garden. As they seek to re-engage in community and account for their lives, they are pouring into the sector, all but dying to be part of making something truly powerful happen. With them will come powerful social, economic and political opportunities. RIPEN the times.

9. Behind you are the Millennials, America’s most diverse generation….and they are also 80 million strong. The oldest is only 25. They have been raised doing community service. Like you, they would love to merge work, life and spirit and find new ways to make a living, while making the world a better place to live. With them will come powerful social, economic and political opportunities. RIPEN the times.

10. The times are already half ripe. Interest in sustainability, healthy food, healthcare, fair trade products, social enterprise, micro-credit, volunteerism, farmers’ markets, new media–these are signs that people of all generations are seeking something very important, but missing in too many people’s lives–a sense of community. They are (clumsily at times) looking to re-engage…but are afraid. Help them over the divide. They are (clumsily at times) looking for new set of values to replace the “I am my paycheck” culture….but are equally as nervous about the new metrics of meaning. Help them see the value (and joy) of being engaged and liking where you work, what you do and the way you lead your life. Help them see that the future of philanthropy will be how you make and spend your money…and voting for people who will help us get ther

-- Written by Robert Egger

Taken from-
Robbert Egger: One Voice for Change

Visit the original post to read all the comments and discussion-- click here.

YNPN Annual Conference 2010 Blog

Friday, April 23, 2010

Nonprofits Need to Encourage Professional Development in their Under 40 Staff

I first became involved with YNPN this past summer. I was looking for ways to develop and grow professionally as a young aspiring nonprofit professional. Despite the fact that I double majored in college and graduated Magna Cum Laude, I had no idea how to move forward in my newly established career in the nonprofit sector – a career path I chose my senior year of college. (Why is it that so many college students seem prone to choose a career path for themselves only at the end of their 4 years of undergrad? Wouldn't it be so much more helpful if we made these decisions sooner?) Of course, upon finding about YNPN, I learned that there was not a local chapter in my area. With a small team of some great people, we are currently in the process of establishing one. This process will not only benefit myself, but should ultimately benefit the entire nonprofit sector of Detroit in years to come.

What I wonder, though, is this: Are the nonprofits that we work for supporting the efforts of their younger staff to improve themselves professionally? Are they supporting the idea that in order for them to succeed in their missions, they are going to need reliable leadership to replace them? This year's conference will focus on professional development in the nonprofit sector one day and on YNPN chapter development the next. Attendees will have the opportunity to take what they learn from this conference and not only improve their local YNPN chapters, but also return as better professionals in the workplace. I know that many of my colleagues are able to use their efforts with YNPN as professional development with their employers, such as this year’s YNPN Annual Conference. Some have more fully established chapters that are able to help fund members to attend. Others are to taking vacation days and/or spending a decent chunk of their own money to participate. For many young nonprofit professionals, spending several hundred dollars on a hotel and airfare in addition to having to take time off work would be more than enough to deter them from attending.

Support from nonprofit employers is crucial to creating strong next generation leadership. Verbal support is not always going to be enough when time and money are involved. Of course, the truth is, many nonprofits are struggling, making now a difficult time to make such requests. This makes it all the more important for the nonprofits that can support their younger staff in growth and development to do so. YNPN helps to ensure that there is a pool of experienced, bright and reliable nonprofit professionals in an area. A successful YNPN chapter in any given area helps to increase nonprofit collaboration, creates better communication between nonprofits, and also creates avenues for nonprofits to find employees that have hearts for social change. I firmly believe that an organized group of young, social change oriented professionals in the Detroit area learning and growing together has the potential to do many great things for the region. Missions, strategic plans, and strong fund-raising strategies will only get an organization so far until it is time for new leadership. (And of course the leadership exchange is inevitable.) The more equipped that new leadership is the better future nonprofits will have.

YNPN Annual Conference 2010

Friday, November 13, 2009

Operation Frontline Detroit

Here's another great Detroit nonprofit blog to follow. The most recent post addresses some of the struggles faced by those who choose to enter into the Americorps program.

OFL Detroit Blog Post: Understanding Our Participants

Check out the OFL Detroit Blog!! Operation Frontline: Detroit

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Journal Report: Philanthropy

Great articles from the Wall Street Journal in regard to the changing landscape of Philanthropy.