YNPN Chicago Board of Directors Speak!
When I think of my life in 5 years, a clear vision is etched into my imagination. I see myself meeting with nonprofit professionals, activists, social entrepreneurs, and artists to share what’s on our minds and brainstorm solutions to problems. Then we will act: strategically, creatively, and with clear purpose. This is why, over the past year, I started Social Innovation Advocates. That is why I am proud to serve on the Executive Board at YNPN Chicago. There is something inspiring about sharing a purpose with others. Being a part of a team. I need that fellowship. I crave it.
I have loved the concept of “team” as long as I can remember. I grew up in the church of sport. My high school basketball coach’s synergistic philosophy is still with me today: the team is worth more than the sum of our individual parts. We believed it. It was true. And we all played an important role.
It’s no different in the nonprofit sector today. On some level, we share a sense of purpose. I mean, no one works at a community-based NPO for a high paycheck. There is often something larger at stake. Something we can achieve together. And yet, within this sector I have experienced crippling isolation, felt marginalized, and have yearned for teammates to provide that support, laughter, and inspiration. Unfortunately, my experiences are not unique as I hear similar stories of frustration and burn-out again and again amongst colleagues and friends. So what can we do? How can we strengthen our organizational and sector-wide cultures and create a stronger team, especially as our influence grows as professionals in this space?
I propose two solutions:
1. Look inward. How can you be a better teammate to those around you? Meghan Brio suggests in her recent blog, Five Simple Truths – Nurturing Workplace Culture, that managers and employees all play a vital role in defining and maintaining healthy workplace culture. So, regardless of where you sit in the hierarchy of management, team culture is not a one-way street. Your actions influence others.
2. Look outward. Just as it is important to be a good teammate for others, you need support as well. If you aren’t getting it in-house, try not to point fingers. The reality of our sector is that everyone is stretched to the max. Instead of festering resentment and contributing to negative energy, try looking elsewhere. Last week, YNPN hosted its second Coffee with 9 Strangers event of 2012. During the bi-monthly coffee series, young nonprofit professionals break out into small discussion groups, and a facilitator leads conversations exploring the group’s experiences, concerns, and questions surrounding a variety of topical issues. After last week’s event, one participant commented, “This felt like a support group for exactly what I’m going through. I thought it was great.”
Know that we are out there, sharing your passion and optimism. Come find us. Our nonprofit team is huge, and we are always looking for new players.
David Flynn a YNPN Chicago At-Large Board Member and the Founder of Social Innovation Advocates. In Chicago, he has contributed to the nonprofit sector as a direct service provider, organizational leader, fundraiser, consultant, and executive board member. David has also worked in South Africa’s nonprofit sector for 2 ½ years. David has a BA from Michigan State University in Community Relations and enjoys playing sports, traveling, and listening to music.