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: 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.

10 Questions with Alexa Sykes - Manager, Data and Impact, Teach For America

What does a typical day look like for you?

I typically try to start my day with some form of exercise - could be something as laid back as a walk through my neighborhood or something more intense like spin or barre class. After I’ve had a chance to wake myself up (and get my steps in on my FitBit, let’s be honest, that’s the real priority here...), I’ll shower and head into work. On Mondays, and Wednesdays, I travel to Teach For America’s office located in the American Tobacco Campus in Downtown Durham, and on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays I travel a couple of feet to my home office. Although I’ve been with TFA for two years as a recruiter on the National Recruitment Team, I recently switched gears and started a new position as the Manager of Data and Impact on the Eastern North Carolina regional team. This essentially means that I help quantify a lot of the anecdotal evidence that informs our strategies, and make recommendations to our functional team leads to ensure we are executing strong, data-driven tactics to achieve transformational outcomes for our students. How do I do this? A lot of conversations, a lot of surveys, a lot of observational testing, and a lot of collaboration. I am tasked with “telling the story” of our teachers and students in Eastern North Carolina, so it critical for me to understand how we are training our teachers and how they are responding to our training and support, and if our training is directly correlated to improved student outcomes. I’m never really “done” working because the work that I do is so close to my heart - the majority of students that we teach in Eastern North Carolina are African American students who demographics have already placed negative indicators on their life trajectories. As an African American woman who is very aware of structural racism and systemic oppression, I work with urgency to ensure that we are creating an ecosystem that will help them thrive and disrupt a system that was not created for them to do so. But I guess outside of work I absolutely love cooking and hosting friends for dinner at least once a week, spending time with my incredible boyfriend, and planning events for young professionals in the community through the company that we own.

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