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.