The Ethics of Self-Care by Lauren King

In the nonprofit field, I have found that steadily increasing workloads paired with fewer resources leave many of us overwhelmed to the point that feeling “burned out” is the norm.  At a recent conference, self-care became the focus of several sessions. Usually this is the point in which I would tune out and use the time to catch-up on the e-mail that is piling up because I am out of the office. It’s not that I don’t think self-care is important, it’s just not something that takes priority among the many other to-do’s at work. But the conference presented it in a way that I couldn’t ignore. They presented self-care as an ethical obligation.

When I think of self-care from an ethical standpoint- it stops being a luxury that I should engage in when I have time.  It starts to feel like a priority. I really liked the way the conference framed the idea of self-care because it opened my eyes to its impact on others from co-workers to clients. If I allow myself to become overly stressed and frazzled then I bring that negative energy into the office.  Equally problematic, it interferes with the quality of work I produce.  I just cannot justify being “too busy” to work on becoming a better member of my team.

The conference left an impression on my colleagues too.  Our agency has since begun to incorporate self-care into our office space. Overall, we have embraced self-care in two distinct and helpful ways:

  1. One department has a “Sharpening the Saw” week in which we turn our attention fully to looking at our processes to see which are less effective and create ways to refine our work. The idea and name stems from the story in which a lumberjack is struggling to cut down a tree in the forest. Someone walks by and suggests they sharpen their saw to which they essentially reply, “I can’t, we are too busy sawing.” (  By setting aside a week devoted to strengthening our processes, we eliminate the potential distractions that may otherwise keep us from growing and strengthening as a department.
  2. Each Friday, there is time devoted to self-care. Different staff members volunteer to lead various activities that range from yoga to chocolate tasting. Not every activity appeals to all staff, thus there’s a different turnout each week. However, even though not everyone attends, it still creates a culture that values self-care, which extends throughout the office.

The biggest lesson I have learned is that self-care truly goes beyond self. We are all connected. It’s not fair to our co-workers, organization or clients if we don’t take the time to invest in our own wellness.

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Does Your Resume Tell a Story by Alnierys Venegas

During an interview, do you dread answering the question: “Tell me about yourself?”
If you do, have you thought about why?

As a job seeker you have probably submitted your resume to countless organizations,
corporations, or individuals in hopes of landing a job. However, getting a job involves
more than just submitting your cover letter and resume. It takes being strategic about
your next move:

Know YOU – Engage in self-reflection exercises such as the Myers Briggs personality
test. It will allow you to understand your strengths and career preferences. When you
have a better sense of the type of person you are, it will be easier to narrow down job
opportunities that fit your personality and goals.

Seek a mentor – Looking for a job can be frustrating, but it can be even more difficult
when you don’t have a sense of direction. Having a mentor allows you to set tangible,
realistic goals for which your mentor can hold you accountable. A mentor will also help
you with organizing your thoughts and provide you with constructive criticism on your
jobsearch process.

Create YOUR dream job description – For some job seekers determining what they
want to do with their life seems indefinable. One way to begin to figure it out though
is to write out your goals and describe the type of duties, responsibilities, and work
environment you desire. This will subconsciously force you to seek opportunities that are
aligned with your dream job.

Once you have gained an understanding of who you are, sought guidance, and written a
description of your ideal position, you will be able to look at your resume for a pattern
that tells a story of who you are.

So, the next time you are at an interview and the employer says, “Tell me about
yourself,” you will be able to respond with something like the following:

“My name is Alnierys Venegas and I have social service work experience in marketing,
public relations, multicultural education and outreach. Throughout my career, I have
been able to successfully support agency goals to increase brand awareness in the
Latino community and build partnerships with local community agencies. Developing
a career where I can help people and become a much needed leader and educator in
the non-profit community is my desire. I believe the Director of Hispanic Community
Outreach position with Dream Foundation would be an excellent match with my skills
and experience.”

A narrative like this does two critical things. It demonstrates to the employer that you
have a clear sense of who you are, and perhaps most importantly a clear and strategic
sense of where you are going.

And, isn’t that the kind of person we would all like to hire?

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New Year’s Greeting from YNPN Chicago

Happy New Year YNPNers!

2012 was a great year for YNPN Chicago. Our membership surpassed 6,000 young professionals – a feat shared by only a few other YNPN chapters. We continued to host our regular events, including happy hours, Coffee with 9 Strangers, The Leadership Institute, and many professional development workshops. Based on your helpful participation and feedback throughout the year, we look to expand our programming in 2013!

The new year is already looking bright! The all-volunteer Executive Board is working through a strategic planning process to further the success of our Chapter. Our partnerships with local organizations, like The Axelson Center for Nonprofit Management,  continue to benefit our members. Additionally, we’re looking to strengthen our networks in the new year to broaden the accessibility of high-quality programming for our membership.

In 2013, YNPN Chicago wants our city’s nonprofit sector to improve its investment in the nonprofit leadership pipeline. For this to happen we must push ourselves and our organizations to do better. As active members in the sector, you can help by attending one of our workshops, conferences, or networking events. Make an even bigger impact by bringing along a colleague. YNPN Chicago challenges you to lead the push toward investment in the leadership pipeline!

On behalf of the YNPN Chicago Executive Board, thank you for being an active member. We look forward to supporting you through another year of professional growth! We hope to see you at a YNPN Chicago event in 2013 – it’s going to be a great year!

Marissa Fillipo & Steve Strang
YNPN Chicago Executive Chairs

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‘Tis the Season: Be Intentional in 2013 by Katie Anthony

YNPN Chicago Board of Directors’ Speak!

Thanksgiving is a time many of us pause to think about all the good in our life.  The New Year causes us to look at where we have been over the last twelve months.  But how often do you really take time during the rest of the year to consciously think about your life – where you are, where you want to go, and what you need to implement to move towards the future you want?  That imbalance is the reason for my new year’s resolution – regularly scheduled time for self-reflection.tumblr_ltbx6rH3PU1qb1ipdo1_500

I have a tendency to think of all movement as good – if I am busy and involved in lots of things I must be moving my life forward, right?  But I rarely allow myself the opportunity to pause, step back, and say, “Where is all this energy I am expending leading me?”  And if you have not taken the time to really look at where you want to end up, it’s even harder to know if you are heading in the right direction or if you are just doing a lot of work to tread water.

Here is my plan and hopefully some elements of it can be helpful as you move into 2013 as well:

  • Block out time on my calendar: If you don’t have it on the books you will find another way to fill the time.  When something comes up force yourself to say, “Sorry, I have a prior commitment.” Constantly rescheduling means you don’t value this activity and it will fall through the cracks.
  • Realize I am valuable enough to have devoted “Me Time”:  You set aside so much time to do things for other people why don’t you deserve 45 minutes every week to think about yourself?  And this isn’t “reflect on my life while also squeezing in a workout” time.  Make a legitimate date with yourself – grab a glass of wine, coffee, hot chocolate, whatever – and dedicate the same energy and attention to yourself that you would devote listening to a friend.
  • Envision the future I want: I never thought about it until a friend told me to literally close my eyes and picture what I wanted to see.  The act of imagining myself in a situation lets me better feel what type of a fit it would be.  It’s like test driving parts of my future, I can see if it feels right before I invest too deeply.
  • Analyze all my current commitments: Think about whether your activities leave you happy, feeling energized and engaged, and move your goals forward.  There are groups that we grow out of, and we need to feel okay loosening our ties with them.  Plus if you aren’t feeling engaged then you likely aren’t giving the organization the effort it deserves.
  • Look at what personal characteristics I need to strengthen: This one can have a fun pay-off. Once you realize what you need to work on think of a friend who does that thing well.  Set up a date to meet with him / her and try to understand what strategies he / she employs that you could implement.
  • Make myself accountable: You don’t have to note your intention in a blog post like this, but put it on paper. Writing down your goals makes them more concrete and harder to go back on.  Take it a step further and tell your friends about your plans. Once you determine a next step schedule it right then.  Use Boomerang to prepare reminder emails to check in on your progress.  Do whatever you need to so that you remain on task.
  • Congratulate myself: This process will likely uncover some truths you have avoided facing.  It may make you feel like you have a long way to go.  But the most important thing is that you are finally making the effort, so stay positive and have a great time getting to better know a dear friend – YOU!

Katie Anthony is the Communications Co-Chair for YNPN Chicago.  Katie is currently studying at the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy for her Master’s degree.  She is hoping to work on issues facing the City of Chicago, including how to increase civic engagement, which she believes can be advanced by fostering strategic cross-sector collaboration. Previously Katie worked in the nonprofit sector for seven years and currently is an active volunteer with other organizations including the Junior League of Chicago, the Harris School’s Public Policy Student Association, and her alma mater Carleton College.

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Make Your Voice Heard On Tuesday

YNPN members and friends:

As you know, the 2012 General Election is coming up this Tuesday, November 6th.  As practitioners and supporters of the nonprofit sector, YNPN Chicago encourages all registered voters to get out and vote.  To make the process as easy as possible, we are providing the following general, nonpartisan information about voting in the Chicagoland area in order to help you more easily navigate the process.

  • Make sure that you are registered. If you are registered at a Chicago address, you can check your registration status online at  If you are registered anywhere else in Cook County (besides Chicago), you can check your status at If you live outside of the Chicago/Cook County area, you can check your registration through services like  If for any reason your record cannot be located, we recommend contacting your local election official directly.
  • Find your polling place.  If you are registered at a Chicago address, you can find your polling place on your Voter ID card or at  If you live elsewhere in Cook County, you can find your polling place on your Voter ID Card or at  If you are registered outside of the Chicago/Cook County area, you can find your polling place by visiting and selecting “Find Your Polling Place.”
  • Know what to bring.  Illinois does not require voters to show an ID to vote on Election Day except in certain circumstances.  Still (and particularly If you are voting for the first time), we recommend bringing identification which verifies your current address.  Possible forms of ID include: 1) Voter ID card; 2) Driver’s License; 3) postmarked piece of mail or a utility bill.  If you are voting in person somewhere else, you can find information about what to bring by visiting and selecting “Know What Kind of ID to Bring.”
  • Educate yourself about your vote.  You can see a sample ballot for the local Chicago elections online at  In other cities, you should also be able to find sample ballots on your local board of elections website.  Regardless of where you are voting, you can find nonpartisan information about the candidates at sites like  We also recommend reading local and national newspaper articles and checking out candidates’ websites before voting.
  • Remind your colleagues, friends and family to vote.  People are much more likely to vote when they know that others in their own personal community/network are voting as well.

If you have any other questions about voting or problems at the polls, the poll workers should be able to help you or you can call your local election officials to get more information.

Thank you for the work you do to build stronger communities through your nonprofit work.  And thank you for continuing to support stronger communities and a healthy democracy through your civic participation as a voter!

-Your friends at YNPN Chicago

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The Art of Saying “No” by Hilary Grunewald

A few days ago, in the wake of all that has happened with Lance Armstrong, I wondered if Livestrong, the Lance Armstrong Foundation, has seen the same backlash.  After a bit of research, this USA Today article stated that Nike, Trek, and Anheuser-Busch have all committed to continue their work with Livestrong. I can practically hear the sigh of relief all the way in Chicago from their Austin, TX headquarters.

The second-worst part of being in development is losing a sponsor for reasons out of your control. Now, you’re probably wondering what the first-worst part of sponsorship?? For me, it’s saying no, turning down money that you know could make an impact in your community.

I hate turning down sponsors because: a). They are offering money that will help to fuel the organization’s mission. b). No one likes to feel rejected or to reject someone, and c). You are usually talking to the most passionate person who has a direct connection to the cause, has a stellar personality, and won’t take no for answer. There are a million reasons why it is necessary to say no but this post is going to cover HOW to do it.

1. Express your concerns but do not give an immediate “yes” or “no.” Listen to the conversation. Take notes. Be polite. After the potential partner has explained what it is they would like to do say, “you know it is generally against our policies to partner with a [fill in the conflict blank].”

2. Set up a time for your next conference call or meeting. If you don’t set an immediate time and step 4 doesn’t yield any successful results you will end up putting this hard call/e-mail off. In the end, now you are not only turning down a partnership but you have also wasted their time. On your first call, set a follow-up phone call. Simple as that.

3.  Be thankful. Saying ‘thank you’ should be about as natural to a development person as it is for a dog to bark.

4. Brainstorm some other options. In what other ways can you engage this company other than a public partnership? Can you do an employee fundraising or education event? Any and all of these things will work. Just because the company isn’t great for a partnership that doesn’t mean that the people working there aren’t either.

5.  Rip off the Band-Aid. This is my least favorite part. So, I down a piece of chocolate because endorphins make you happy (thank you Legally Blonde) and make the call. I prefer calling because it allows for me to present multiple options for a mutually beneficial partnership and you can judge the potential partner’s tone and interest. Additionally, sometimes the company might misread your e-mail and see it as a rejection letter.  If you expressed concern from the beginning, they won’t be completely shocked and will be happy that you want to work with their company in one capacity or another. Voila! You’re done!

6. Remind yourself that it is OK to say “no.” In the long run, you will be happy, your constituents will be happy, the company will be happy, and most importantly, your mission will thrive.

Wishing you all tons of “yes’s” and very few “no’s” during your development journey. May the odds be ever in your favor!

Hilary Grunewald is the Development Coordinator for the Susan G. Komen for the Cure where she is responsible for organizing, planning, and executing a myriad of fundraising and development activities for the affiliate.

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It’s Time to Date Your Job Search – Unemployed and Ready to Mingle! by Katie Pieper and Alnierys Venegas

YNPN Chicago Board of Directors Speak!

We all know dating can be tough, but finding the right job can be even harder.  Can lessons about dating help us in the job search?

While we may have varying opinions whether they can, we can agree with the general basis that you should take charge of your job search at least as much as as you would in trying to find “the one” – or the right one, for now.

Here are some of our tips:

Mix-it-up – It is easy to sit around at home browsing the web, completing random job applications. But, you have to get out there! According to a recent report by ABC News, eighty percent of jobs are landed through networking.  That might include going to formal or informal networking events like the ones regularly offered by YNPN Chicago or tapping into the network of friends, relatives, former classmates, or colleagues. Like dating, if you stick to just one outlet, whether it’s strictly on-line dating or meeting people at a local bar, you will end up getting the same results.

Think outside the box – We all have are “types” when it comes to dating, and who doesn’t have “deal breakers”, but you don’t want to limit your experiences and chances for something special to happen with someone unexpected.  When looking for a job, try searching for jobs under different titles, different sized organizations than you typically prefer, and jobs where you feel you may not be qualified for yet.  Having too narrow of a vision can lead to you passing up on important opportunities.

Get rid of the baggage – Finding a genuinely compatible person can be draining and heartbreaking just like job searching, and rejection can lead to self-doubt, lack of confidence, and the desire to quit. One of the most important skills for a job seeker is the ability to keep going after hearing “No” or nothing from an employer. And, if you don’t have a good feeling about where you’ve applied, then walk away, and recognize the reasons why it’s not a good fit.  In job searching and in your personal life, it’s important to assess yourself, maintain your sense of self, and abandon what is not working in order to get where you want to be.

Rock the interview – Whether it’s the first interview or the first date, you are being assessed.  But one tip is to remember is there really are only three categories of questions being asked by the employer: (1) Can you do the job; (2) Will you stick around: and (3) Will we like working with you?  Focus your answers in a way that reinforce your “Yes” answer to those questions.

Best of luck in your job search and dating life!

Alnierys Venegas and Katie Pieper have been YNPN Chicago Executive Board Co-Chairs this past year, and have been busy doing major research on dating in Chicago in order to bring you this important message about job searching. Click here for their full bios.

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Make Your Mark on Election Day by Katie Anthony

November 6th is less than a month away and no matter your political persuasion, you likely feel that the results of the presidential election will have real-life consequences for you and your organization.  Well I’m not here to tell you who to vote for – YNPN Chicago is nonpartisan – but I am telling you that you should get involved!

Although it may seem late in the political season, there are still many ways to take part in the political process and fulfill your civic duty.

  • Make sure you are registered to vote!  If you are an Illinois resident you can double check on the State Board of Elections web page. This page will also give you the location of your polling place.
  • Watch the debates to see what the candidates have to say.  Even better join a debate watching party like the one YNPN Chicago is hosting on Tuesday, October 16th. And after the debate you can see if the facts that seemed a bit questionable held up by checking sites like
  • Make sure to form your own opinions by reading up on the candidates.  And don’t just choose sites that may reinforce your political preferences.  I strongly encourage you to look at sites that may be associated with the other party to better understand why they support their candidates and what holes may be in your candidates’ arguments.
  • I have been guilty of walking into a polling booth and not knowing about any of the judges.  One place to start trying to get informed about these candidates is the Chicago Bar Association’s evaluation of judicial candidates.  (They even have a guide for your smart phone.)
  • Know your voting rights.  For example, the state of Illinois has ruled that voters have the right to take up to two successive hours of time off work to vote.  (To guarantee you qualify for this exemption you need to apply for it with your employer before Election Day.)

There are obviously many more ways you can take part in the political process this year, but if nothing else please make sure to let your voice be heard via the ballot box!

Katie Anthony is the Communications Co-Chair for YNPN Chicago. She is currently getting a Master of Public Policy at the University of Chicago’s Harris School.  Previously Katie worked in the nonprofit sector for seven years and currently  is an active volunteer with other nonprofits including Woman Made Gallery, the Junior League of Chicago, and her alma mater Carleton College.

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A Recap of the 2012 BoardSource Leadership Forum by Lindsey Fila

I recently attended the 2012 BoardSource Leadership Forum as an honored receipt of a Judith O’Connor Scholarship for Emerging Nonprofit Leaders. The Forum aims to increase the impact of nonprofit boards by convening nonprofit, foundation, and government leaders from across the country to discuss innovative practices in governance. After a two-day conference featuring nearly 35 different sessions, I left feeling inspired and anxious to put ideas into practice. Though I learned far more than a blog post could do justice to, here are a few high-level takeaways.

  • Even nonprofits should take risks.  It’s natural for nonprofits coping with unstable and depleting funding sources to tighten their purse strings to “get by,” instead of investing in their programs. However, under-staffing and underfunding programs won’t ever lead to growth. Instead of starving your programs, consider growing them by swallowing some short-term debt, and (hopefully) improving their long-term impact. It’s risky and a bit scary, but if your mission is critical and your programs impactful, it’ll pay off.
  • Reframe your value proposition.  Sure, everyone wants to feel warm and fuzzy by donating to your animal shelter, but that won’t always pay the bills. In addition to doing social good, have you framed your work in terms of the long-term economic benefit your services provide? Can an individual or organization ultimately save money through your organization’s successes? It has become increasingly important to find ways to “sell” our ideas, and, dare I say it…think like a for-profit.
  • Give yourself time to think! How much of your day is spent thinking? I mean original, innovative, deep thinking? According to Daniel Patrick Forrester, it’s 5%. That means the other 95% of your time is spent reacting, responding, or searching. We need to create space for ourselves and for our boards to do deep thinking, because if we don’t allow ourselves to think, how will we ever generate new ideas? I am excited to read Mr. Forrester’s book, Consider: Harnessing the Power of Reflective Thinking in your Organization, for even more inspiration.
  • Nonprofits can lobby.  Your eyes do not deceive you. Nonprofits are allowed to lobby, so long as the resources spent on lobbying are “insubstantial.” But what constitutes “insubstantial,” can be fuzzy, unless an organization takes the 501(h) election. By taking the election, the organization will be subject to clear regulations on how much time and money they can spend on lobbying, without raising any red flags.
  • Embrace intergenerational boards! YNPN National Director Trish Tchume and two fellow YNPN-ers presented an awesome session on how to build intergenerational boards. The audience was comprised of both young and not-so-young attendees, all passionate about increasing the prevalence of youthful nonprofit board members. It was a rousing conversation about the strengths young people bring to the boardroom table, and it highlighted an important governance gap that YNPN can help to fill.

Slides from some of the sessions have already been uploaded on the BLF site, with more to follow, so please check them out. I’m already excited for next year’s conference in Los Angeles.

Lindsey Fila serves as Finance Co-Chair for YNPN Chicago and Director of Administration at Resolution Systems Institute. She entered the non-profit sector after graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Business Management from the University of Illinois – Urbana-Champaign, and she believes that efficiency and collaboration is the key to success for non-profits. In her free time, she enjoys exploring new restaurants and new music.

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Introducing the YNPN Chicago Nonprofit Employee Resource Guide

Chicago Nonprofit Employee Resource Guide

It’s been a few years since you started your nonprofit career. You’re all settled at your organization and you’ve fallen into a comfortable – yet still stimulating – routine in your position.  But you are starting to wonder what might be next for you or what else is out there.

To help you begin to think through those next steps YNPN Chicago is adding an employee resource guide series to our blog.  At least once a month we will have a “Chicago Nonprofit Employee Resource Guide” post to help you get a better understanding of the broader view of Chicago’s nonprofit landscape.  Entries will cover various aspects of nonprofit administration, issues, and causes.  We will also be tagging all our posts to help make it easier for you to do quick searches of your areas of interest. Whether you’re actively job seeking or just curious about what is going on in the sector, there’s something for you!

If there are specific topics you would like to see covered, or you would like to write a post, please contact us at

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