Molly Kay Stoltz is savoring her beer at Hell’s Kitchen on a Monday evening. She should. Finally, after many tries, she’s got in to a Young Nonprofit Professionals Network (YNPN) meeting.
She’d been trying for months.
“You have to register far in advance,” said the young insurance professional by day/dancer by night. “They fill up fast.”
You can see why. The events are fun; this one is called “Five Minutes in Hell,” and features five speakers each giving five-minute presentations on how to make a mark as a young person in the nonprofit sector. Stoltz hasn’t taken two sips before Jamie Millard, the board chair of YNPN, comes to introduce herself.
Millard, who’s 28, goes way back with YNPN, which is part of a national organization with 36 chapters and more than 40,000 members. Around town she’s regarded as someone with an Edmund Hillary amount of energy. She’s the co-founder of the arts magazine Paper Darts, the co-CEO of Pollen, a digital platform that builds better-connect communities, and the top leader at YNPN. She credits much of her career success to YNPN.
“I joined six years ago and I’ve gotten every single job since then because of YNPN,” she says. “I always knew I wanted to work in the nonprofit sector and give back to the community, and YNPN has been the key.”
YNPN has become so popular partly due to the 15-person board’s commitment to conducting regular events. It puts on a monthly event, like the one at Hell’s Kitchen, a monthly breakfast with executive directors called the Breakfast of Champions, and a monthly networking lunch, in partnership with the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits — lots of stuff. And you can’t beat the price, especially if you’re a millennial with college debt.
Everything is free — to attend events, to become a member.
“We do things for the right reasons,” says Brian Gioielli, who is a development director at the BrandLab and serves as vice chair of the YNPN board. “We want to help young find a community. In a lot of nonprofits you work with less than 10 people, and none of them your age. It can be isolating, so we want them to meet their peers, and keep them in the sector doing good in the world.”
Gioielli estimates that 50 percent of the attendees at each events are new members, and the total ranks are now over 500. The requirements are that you be 40 or under or considered emerging in your field, but even that’s not essential. “Everyone is welcome,” Millard says.
A newcomer to the area who has benefited from YNPN is Salena Acox, who is a VISTA program manager at The Jay and Rose Phillips Family Foundation of Minnesota. She moved up here from Texas a few years ago and didn’t know a soul. So she joined YNPN, and is now a self-described “Super Member.”
“The events are great not just in connecting with others, but helping you understand yourself better,” she says. “After hearing so many speakers and listening to their experiences, it’s helped me clarify for myself that this is where I want to be, and this is the work I want to do. I’m grateful for YNPN.”
Adam Wahlberg is the founder of Think Piece Publishing, which publishes singular voices on social, health-related issues: www.thinkpiecepublishing.com.