A Time to Celebrate and Double-Down on Our Responsibility

YNPN Triangle NC Chair Katie ToodFebruary can feel like a month of transition. We’re loaded up on fresh starts and new habits from January after we envisioned the possibilities for the year. The temptation of spring looms ahead in March, conjuring thoughts of warm weather and vacations. Those 28 (or 29 in the special Leap Years) days in between often pass in a blink.

But, for YNPN Triangle NC, February is a time for us to push pause and celebrate. On February 12, 2015, we received a letter from the Internal Revenue Service, declaring us an official 501(c)(3) nonprofit in the eye of federal tax law. Woo!

Alright, it may not sound that special given that there are more than 950,000 registered public charities in our country according to the Urban Institute. Still, we like to believe that YNPN Triangle NC truly is one in a million. And so are the people who come to our organization to learn, network, and connect with others trying to make our social sector more powerful and diverse.

YNPN Triangle NC started in humble beginnings. In fact, our chapter’s origins are traced back to a Craig’s List ad in 2009. A group of energized and frustrated young nonprofit professionals gathered at a local watering hole to brainstorm how they could create a system of support and learning. One of these founding members had been involved with the Twin Cities chapter of the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network. After many phone calls and emails, the Triangle chapter kicked off its inaugural year with a handful of network socials in Raleigh.

Each year, the leaders who served on the Board of Directors expanded the vision of what YNPN Triangle NC could be and, more importantly, how it could shift the narrative around our nonprofit sector. This required the board members to revisit the drawing table again and again, bringing in more diverse perspectives, and embarking on formalizing the organization. For us, this meant becoming an official 501(c)(3).

Why that route? We know that there are many community-run groups working to create a more just, equitable world that are not 501(c)(3) organizations. Some operate under other nonprofit categories, such as 501(c)(4) advocacy organizations or 501(c)(6) membership organizations. But, many aren’t registered in any way, shape, or form. And that’s okay. Often, these are the true grassroots, people- powered entities who may need emerging leaders to join the team and ensure the sustainability of their critical missions.

That is one reason why we elected to move forward in becoming an official 501(c)(3). Our board is run by leaders in their 20s and 30s. As you may well have experienced, a lot happens in our lives during those two decades, both personally and professionals. The board members in 2014 wanted to provide a structure that would outlive their tenure and expand opportunities in funding for future directors to leverage.

We also believe that we have a responsibility to dismantle some of the elements required in the cumbersome process associated with registering as a nonprofit. The sheer amount of paperwork and financial investments close the door to many of the community-run organizations who may be in operation for dozens of years but because of their lack of “officialness” may be overlooked for grants and other financial investments.

As we celebrate our two year anniversary on February 12, we also remind ourselves that inequities within our sector exist even in the most seemingly mundane levels: joining the ranks as a 501(c)(3) organization. If you have ideas for how emerging leaders can help to speak out and change how this system operates, our ears are wide open.

New year. New opportunities.

Happy New Year! We hope you’ve successfully dug out from this weekend’s wintry weather and are starting 2017 off right. We’ve got a busy year ahead of us, and we're counting on you to join us for revitalized programming, networking, professional development, and so much more. Let's get started.

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What makes a successful nonprofit leader? Find out with us in 2017.

This past Saturday morning, I took a few steps outside, snapped a few photos, and declared myself over the wintry weather. I grew up in the Southwest where wearing shorts in December and January was the norm, not the exception. Even after ten years living in a place where snow likes to make a curtain call at least once a year, I’m still not on board with sleet.

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Why I joined the YNPN Triangle NC Board

I joined the YNPN Triangle Board of Directors in December 2015. I joined for a lot of the reasons people join boards. See a pretty great list here or here.

Selfishly​,​ volunteer opportunities are a space to build on your strengths, when you may or may not have the opportunity to do so in your current work environment. Professional development isn't always done in a training, a grad program, or at a conference. I grow by doing and ​my first nine months as a board director have been ​full of incredible experience​s​.

Unselfishly, the most significant reason which influenced my decision to join YNPN Triangle is the very cliched - I wanted to connect and significantly give back to the nonprofit community.

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#YNPN16 Reflection: Elizabeth Byrum

This year, I was fortunate to be able to attend the 2016 national YNPN conference in Portland, Oregon. While we are working hard to create new, exciting, inclusive, and thoughtful programming and spaces for our Triangle members, it is sometimes hard to remember that there are hundreds of YNPN leaders doing the exact same things (and similar, but different things too) all over the country, from Las Vegas to Boston, Des Moines to Charleston. My first national conference was the best way to see this in action and to connect and learn from the brightest young nonprofit professionals committed to improving the sector.

YNPN Triangle NC has recently launched a specific programming component around the discussion and exploration of equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) in the nonprofit sector, and this focus is shared by YNPN National. I’ve been involved with the team focused on ensuring that EDI is encompassed in our work as a chapter and have recently committed myself to seeking out a myriad of resources to further inform the work. I was impressed that the conference provided multiple opportunities and different platforms to engage in dialogue about EDI and where we’ve been and where we need to go moving forward. This included a full day “deep dive” session that pushed us to practice confronting racial microaggressions in the workplace and several other breakout sessions focused on cementing our commitment to diversity in our boards, our events, and our greater network.

As the Triangle chapter and many other chapters engage in moving our work forward through an EDI lens, it was a neat experience to come together with other chapter leaders and share our success and struggles. For me, the best part of the national conference was the collective brainstorming that occurred around EDI and everything else, hopefully paving the way for improved outcomes for the entire network.

After two and a half days of learning and sharing, the national YNPN conference really reinforced to me that as the young nonprofit leaders, we truly have endless opportunities to make sure our voices are heard and our mark is made. Often, we face numerous challenges and barriers to progress in achieving our goals, but I was reminded of how robust and strong the community of YNPN leaders is throughout our state, region, and nation. As a result, I know I’ve come away from our weekend in Portland with a renewed energy for the future of the sector.

Elizabeth Byrum is YNPN Triangle NC's Outreach Chair. Read more about her here.

#YNPN16 Reflection: Katie Todd

#YNPN16 Reflection: Jessica Griffin

My first YNPN National Conference was an eye opening experience. The network has had a big year of growth and a great deal of time and energy has been spent to create a collaborative process for local chapters and our national organization going forward.

My biggest take away from our time in Portland is the power of seeing the collective network in one place. Meeting chapter leaders from across the country was fantastic. It is incredibly energizing to talk to other YNPN folks. To hear what they are doing well and what are their opportunities to grow. Their challenges and successes are powerful learning opportunities. It is also a substantial reminder that our organization is a large advocate for the members we serve and has the potential to enact change in our sector.

It was also really wonderful to meet national board leaders and national YNPN staff. As our board's national liaison, the majority of my first eight months on the board has been spent talking through the affiliation agreement, listening to network wide chapter calls, and engaging with folks I hadn't ever met on equity, diversity, inclusion and sustainability issues. To put faces with names and get in some hugs makes the work ahead feel more tangible and in a way, easier.

I'm still feeling excited and energized by the things I learned and the people I was able to meet during #YNPN16. Now to plan out how to best utilize the experience gained to make a impact for our board and our members.

Jessica Griffin is YNPN Triangle NC's National Liaison. Read more about her here.