YNPN Triangle NC Leadership: Arlene Brown

Arlene Brown, Board Chair

How long have you been a member of YNPN leadership? What have your roles been?

I've been a member of YNPN leadership since 2019. I began my journey as a Communications Committee Co-Chair in 2019, returned to a General Director role on the board that same year, became Interim Board Chair in early 2020, and was fully elected as Board Chair in May 2020.

What draws you to the nonprofit sector? 

The opportunity to make holistic, systemic changes on both a small and large scale. The charitable sector is one that creates opportunities and possibilities for communities to address their deepest struggles and as a result, provide hope for the future.

What drew you to join the YNPN Board of Directors?

My blanket response is, I wanted to find "my tribe". Nonprofiteers are my people. More deeply though, what drew me to YNPN and the board was, the chance to serve and support other young leaders in ways that help them know their worth. My personal mission statement rests in helping others pursue what sets their soul on fire. Having this opportunity to grow and learn, fail and flourish all while being supported by other emerging leaders is one of the best things I have yet to do in my life. As an ambitious, black woman, I have endured some excruciatingly difficult experiences in this sector through the words and actions of some employers, and I still believe better is possible. We can and will do better, and being part of YNPN Triangle's board has allowed me to turn my pain into purpose; helping others lean into their inherent leadership by ensuring they are seen, heard, valued, and understood!

Why is Black leadership in the nonprofit sector so important?

As a black person, the old adage goes, "You have to be twice as good to get half as much," and that is still the unfortunate reality, which is why having black leadership represented is so important.  It is an honor to help others know there are spaces and places that are safe to learn, grow and become all that you want to be, rather than adhere to what society tries to dictate to you.

What are some of the main issues facing nonprofit professionals, specifically Black nonprofit professionals, today?

Race and Gender pay equity-This is a result of so many other unaddressed issues of racial and social injustice.  Even as BIPOC become more educated and credentialed, we are continually in the fight to be given credit for our work and paid in a way that demonstrates the value of our contributions.

Meaningful mentorship and sponsorship within organizations-Being provided with a mentor who identifies as BIPOC to help navigate experiences in organizations across the sector. 

Imposter Syndrome-Feeling like you have to "fake it 'til you make it." This an issue within many nonprofessionals, but for black leadership, it is even more terrifying. Black vulnerability is not safe in many spaces, and though it's encouraged, it is sometimes weaponized to withhold opportunities for growth. It's scary to be a black, imperfect woman in the nonprofit sector, but still- I rise, WE RISE!

Burn-Out- We are all firing on all cylinders, addressing the needs of our communities without stepping back to fill up our cups. I appreciate that organizations are truly acknowledging the most important resource they have is their people, and they are taking steps to ensure team members are better supported.

What's it been like leading a nonprofit throughout 2020 to today? Do you think there is anything positive, for you personally/professionally or for the industry at large, that's come out of the struggle of the last 13 months?

It's been all-encompassing. It has been wonderful and awful, hard and fun, exhilarating and exhausting- Everything one would and would not expect of a year with unprecedented changes. The best thing to come out of this incredibly intense 13 months is true intentionality. I feel there is a lot less lip service being done with regard to the E. and I. of D.E.I. Additionally, I believe that with the current climate of change, young voices are not only being heard but now they're being asked to pull a folding chair up to many tables to be part of conversations. At YNPN Triangle NC, we want each young professional to know this is YOUR table, and we commit to always having a seat for you to pull up and be "fed"-personally and professionally.

I have learned some valuable lessons in the last 13 months through this #struggleisreal time:

  • Just because I/we can do something doesn't mean I/ we should
  • We can't let perfect  be the enemy of the good; progress should always be the goal

Have you seen YNPN's approach to diversity, equity, and inclusion change during your time on the BoD? What about the nonprofit sector generally? Explain.

I think the sector generally is challenging what the acronym (DEI) means- dissecting each of its parts to better embody the reality of different communities. I adore that our organization is always willing to meet emerging leaders "where they are" and help them thrive on their own terms. That is the beauty and the truth of what D.E.I means- Not one size fits all, it's not linear, and it's not prescriptive. It's real, it's messy, it's intentional and it takes conscientious effort all the time. We've got a lot of work ahead of us, but as YNPN Triangle has been saying for years, we are #NonprofitSTRONG. We got this!

When your time on the YNPN BoD has come to a close, what do you want your legacy to be?

Helping to build a stronger, more fortified Triangle nonprofit sector by equipping our emerging leaders with proficiency and confidence in their leadership abilities. We are the sector with the power, ambition, and audacity to change the world, and we will. It is my honor, duty, and privilege to see the greatness in others and help them explore it. In short, I want my legacy to be that I helped shift the equity paradigm in nonprofit leadership!

Any last thoughts?

For any young nonprofit professional that feels like they are looking for a safe space to be seen and celebrated as who you are, know that you'll find "home" here with us at YNPN Triangle NC. Remember, you matter, your skills and abilities matter, and YOU. ARE. ENOUGH!

YNPN Triangle NC Leadership: Chanae Wilson

Chanae Wilson, Vice Chair

How long have you been a member of YNPN leadership? What have your roles been?

I've been on the board since the end of 2018. I was the programming co-chair until the end of 2020 and I am now the Vice Chair.  

What draws you to the nonprofit sector? 

Nonprofits strengthen communities by meeting the need/people where they are at. The sector plays a vital role in building and working with communities to provide critical services that contribute to economic stability and mobility. I am committed to ensuring everyone in North Carolina has the opportunity to live healthy and prosperous lives. 

What drew you to join the YNPN Board of Directors?

I had been interacting with YNPN through their national conference and programming events. I received an email from the newsletter and thought, "why not". I was looking for ways to build my knowledge in the Nonprofit sector and grow as a leader.

Why is Black leadership in the nonprofit sector so important?

Nonprofits often work in communities that are facing issues rooted in systemic racism. Each employee should have a foundational knowledge of the challenges these communities face. When you look at Nonprofit organizations, their staff typically does not reflect the community and experiences of the people they hope to serve. We need all kinds of people to move the work forward, but the people directly impacted often do not rise as the leaders who drive the strategy to solve these pressing issues. If the current leaders have never faced the kind of challenges that come with being BIPOC in an impoverished community, how can they pave the way for change in these same communities? It is essential to have leaders from the BIPOC community to drive the change the sector hopes to see. 

What's it been like leading a nonprofit throughout 2020 to today? Do you think there is anything positive, for you personally/professionally or for the industry at large, that's come out of the struggle of the last 13 months?

At times it can be scary and uncomfortable, but mostly it has been an experience of amazing growth and constant learning. I don't think any of us could have anticipated 2020 would have looked the way it did, but my team was gracious, adaptable, and up for the challenge. We took things one day at a time. 

When your time on the YNPN BoD has come to a close, what do you want your legacy to be?

The group of folks I've worked with have been so intentional in creating a healthy culture where voices are heard and everyone feels included. We also set a solid foundation for the organization's long term sustainability. 

YNPN Triangle NC Leadership: Tanaya Suddreth Lynch

Tanaya Suddreth Lynch, Former YNPN Triangle NC General Director (2016), Summit Chair (2017-2018), & Chair (2019)

Tell us a little about you:

I am Program Officer for Triangle Community Foundation. I manage the Foundation’s growing capacity-building programs, focusing on systems and grassroots-level work, facilitating collaborations of various stakeholders, and building partnerships to ensure a strong nonprofit sector in the Triangle. In my free time, I enjoy spending time with family and friends, traveling and going to sporting events (pre-COVID of course), planning events, and I’m a major foodie, so I love trying new restaurants and recipes.

How long have you been a member of YNPN leadership? What have your roles been?

I was a member from Jan 2016  to Dec 2019.During that time I was the 2016 General Director, Summit Chair (2017-2018), and Chair (2019). 

What draws you to the nonprofit sector? 

The biggest thing that draws me to the nonprofit sector is my desire to help people. I always wanted to do work that allows me to make a difference and I find that to be a theme for others who work in the sector--genuine passion for doing good in the world.

What drew you to join the YNPN Board of Directors?

Short answer is the #NonprofitStrong Summit. I attended the first ever Summit back in 2015 and had the honor of meeting and connecting with Katie Todd, the YNPN board chair at the time. We stayed in touch and a few months later, an email came across my inbox announcing that YNPN was looking for new board members. So with some encouragement from Ivan Canada, my ED at the time, who happened to be on the National Board, I decided to apply and the rest is history! Beyond the summit though, it was the sense of community I felt, at the summit, and in my years of service, that drew me to continue to serve the organization and nonprofit community.  I also loved that I was helping to provide young professionals, myself included, with valuable resources to help them develop as a leader in the sector.

Why is Black leadership in the nonprofit sector so important?

Typically, nonprofit organizations primarily serve underserved and under resourced communities and those communities are predominantly Black and Brown people and for that reason, it is so important to have those voices represented as a part of the decision making process. Black leadership is so important to not only the nonprofit sector, but across all sectors, because WE ARE FREAKING AMAZING! We are smart, talented, and creative individuals and the perspective and lived experience that we can bring to the work is invaluable.

What are some of the main issues facing nonprofit professionals, specifically Black nonprofit professionals, today?

Some of the main issues facing nonprofit professionals that come top of mind for me are mentorship opportunities, leadership development/opportunities for advancement, and inadequate pay. Like me, many professionals entering into the nonprofit sector do so because of their desire to help people and do good in the world. As they become more entrenched in the work, they realize that it is something they wish to make a career of. Unlike the private sector, most nonprofit organizations don’t even have their own internal HR department, let alone mentorship programs to assist their workers in their personal and professional development. It is very much on the individual to seek out these opportunities. And as for leadership development/opportunities for advancement, particularly for black nonprofit professionals, I think is challenging because we don’t see a path forward for ourselves in that respect due, to the lack of representation in those senior leadership roles (and mentorship in getting there). Based on a 2017 survey conducted by the NC State Institute for Nonprofits, in the triangle 85% of nonprofit Eds/CEOs identified as white and national data correlates with this (check out Echoing Green’s research and Building Movement Project: Race to Lead). Lastly, is the issue of inadequate pay.  I think often times the world forgets that "nonprofit" is a tax status and not a business model. Nonprofits provide essential services for the community but often times donors and funders forget that it takes people-skilled professionals- to do this hard but very rewarding work, and to achieve the outcomes that they value the most (meals served, kids to college, etc.). Inadequate pay puts an additional stress on nonprofit professionals who are likely already doing mentally and physically taxing work in the community.

Do you think there is anything positive, for you personally/professionally or for the industry at large, that's come out of the struggle of the last 13 months?

I do. COVID brought both personal and professional growth my way.  I was new to my role at TCF and still learning the lay of the land and then I was thrust into leading the response efforts for COVID.  I was feeling unsure of myself and my abilities but I stepped up to the challenge because I knew nonprofits were depending  on us and I couldn’t let my fear hold me back. This time also forced people to slow down, think strategically and intentionally, both personally and professionally.  For me,  I focused on self-care, particularly around my mental and physical health and found ways to still engage with the people most important to me.  As for the nonprofit industry – I have heard over and over again, that while many folks are Zoom’d out, the move to virtual opened up some many opportunities. Organizations have seen increased participation in programming because transportation and time (travel time specifically) are no longer barriers. And beyond the nonprofit industries, I think employees have demonstrated the ability to be productive while working remotely and I hope that this inspires lasting change as a benefit offered by companies/organizations going forward.

Have you seen YNPN's approach to diversity, equity, and inclusion change during your time on the BoD? What about the nonprofit sector generally? Explain.

From my experience, equity, diversity and inclusion has always been a core value of YNPN. The year I joined the board (2016) was the first year that YNPN had been super intentional with its recruitment efforts, ensuring that the individuals that were recruited, represented the diversity of the nonprofit sector and the community. Since that time, YNPN has moved beyond representation to ensuring that  every aspect of the organization is working to operate from a lens of equity, diversity, and inclusion from monthly programming, to the Summit, and communications.

As for the nonprofit industry at large, I think that George Floyd's murder last summer brought the injustices facing people of color, particularly black people, to a head.  Now the whole country has embraced equity, diversity and inclusion work but I personally feel as though the nonprofit sector has been leading the way in terms of creating a more equitable society, even before it was the trendy thing to do. Achieving equity is a learning journey, not only for white people but for people of color as well.  We are all unlearning the values of white supremacy culture that is deeply ingrained within us as individuals and within our society. And while we may make mistakes along this journey, I am glad to be a part of a sector that is up for the challenge.

Any last thoughts?

I just want to thank YNPN Triangle for continuing to push me as a young nonprofit leader. I owe much of who I am today to YNPN and I am forever grateful. I know that YNPN will continue to be an advocate for young nonprofit professional and equity, diversity, and inclusion, and the nonprofit sector as a whole.

A Guide to Choosing a Graduate Program for individuals interested in nonprofit and social impact work

We all have different life trajectories that led us to be involved in the nonprofit sector. If you’re like me, you got involved in the social impact sector based on a cause or organization that you care about. And now, you may be wondering how to build a career from here.

There are countless possibilities. Pursuing a master's degree may be on your list of things to consider. It can be a little confusing to parse through the difference between the various degree and certificate options. Below is a quick guide to some options in the Triangle area.

While I've tried to be thorough, there are probably other options for graduate studies. Please leave a comment with other great programs I did not address here!

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What does it take to be resilient while working at a nonprofit?

When someone says resilience, what comes to your mind? Do you picture a house, standing erect during a storm, fighting against the wind and the rain to remain upright? Do you picture an old tree, battered and swaying in piercing winds but continuing to endure the forces of nature? 

While resilience can often be compared to tenacious objects or organisms, it can also refer to people or even whole organizations.

According to the S. D. Bechtel, JR. Foundation, resiliency is the “capacity to respond effectively to change” and to “adapt successfully to new and unforeseen circumstances—and to seize opportunity”. It’s not the absence of change that creates a resilient organization, but rather, how an organization responds to change.  An organization is not truly resilient until it has met these unexpected conditions and thrived.

The cliché that we learn from our mistakes is utterly true. Through an organization’s trials, employees can learn how to truly thrive.  The same can be said of our personal lives. As human beings, we must all remember that we cannot separate ourselves from our work.

Here are a few tips for tackling unanticipated circumstances while maintaining resilience.

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Our Board Chair on YNPN and ReCity Network's New Partnerships

Before I tell you what excites me about our new partnership, I want to reiterate the mission and vision of the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network (YNPN) Triangle NC. 

YNPN strives to cultivate and support young nonprofit professionals in the Triangle by fostering networking, skill-building, and resource-sharing. We envision an inclusive and sustainable Triangle nonprofit community driven by emerging leaders.

It was Summer 2013. I had just graduated with my MPA from UNC Greensboro and was on the job hunt. Full-time nonprofit positions seemed scarce in the Triad, so I decided to try my luck in Raleigh. I tapped my small network in the Triangle and set up numerous informational interviews. Through this process, I was introduced to the YNPN listserv. It was a game changer!

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Storytelling for Nonprofits: Whose Story? How?

“Using narrative to communicate shared values of your organization to clients, donors, and volunteers.”

Storytelling is most often referred to as  a marketing tool, which has the unfortunate effect of making it sound like an inauthentic sales tactic. For nonprofits, storytelling can wade uncomfortably close to exploitation of the sad stories with the organization cast as “savior.” But, storytelling can do much more. 

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Stronger Financial Management Means Stronger Stewardship for Nonprofit Organizations

By Jim Norton, Senior Technology Consultant at Dean Dorton

“It’s not that hard.”

“It’s not so different from any other kind of accounting.”

“I’ve never worked in a nonprofit, but I have 20 years of accounting experience, so how hard can it be?”

Having dedicated much of my professional life and passion to specializing in the nonprofit space, these attitudes were prevalent in more than a few cases. Each time is as frustrating as the next. Accounting and Finance leaders in nonprofit organizations face these comments and attitudes every day from all different stakeholders. I’m here to remind you of something important: you are not crazy.

The financial requirements of a nonprofit organization have arguably never been more complex than they are today, and the future of the industry is only headed toward increasingly rigorous and granular reporting requirements. Already, FASB issued Accounting Standards Update 2016-14, 2018-08, and ASC 606. Surprise – all these standards can and probably DO impact your nonprofit organization!

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Quick Takes with ZB, 2019 Summit Keynote

We just couldn't wait until May 17th to hear from ZB. Check out our micro-interview on all things fulfilling and fun.

What keeps you motivated to fight the good fight on the tough days? I know the tough days are a given and the biggest change I've made is making time for self-care before that happens, so I have the energy to get back up and keep going. When it gets too much, I have amazing people around me that inspire me to remember it's a marathon, not a sprint. Also, one of my favorite quotes from my favorite artist (J.Cole) - "If you truly believe it, that's step one. Step two, is, you know, the hard work that goes along with it."  

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Top Reasons to Attend the #nonprofitSTRONG Summit

Nowadays, you can use a host of online platforms such as webinars and Linda.com to access tools and advice for your career. But, there is nothing that can replace an in-person experience with amazing people and engaging content.

On May 17, YNPN Triangle NC will celebrate a great milestone. Our fifth year of the #NonprofitSTRONG Summit will unite nonprofit professionals all over the Triangle to share the best of who they are and what their organizations can do. Step up, step out and join us for what could be a career-changing experience!

We crowdsourced some Summit enthusiasts to bring you the top 12 reasons why you should attend the #NonprofitSTRONG Summit this year!

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