Last week I asked my friends on Facebook what I should blog about that day.  My friend, Aaron, commented:

This doesn’t help for tonight, but next week you can blog about the awesome YNPN Phoenix event you will have attended =)
My frame of mind that evening was like, “Sure…whatever you say Aaron.”  Nothing against Aaron or Robert Egger, the speaker scheduled for the “awesome YNPN Phoenix event,” but at that time the topic didn’t interest me.  And it’s partly because I had no idea what Robert was going to talk about.

I am a member of YNPN Phoenix(Young Nonprofit Professional Network–http://www.ynpnphoenix.org), a professional development and social networking organization for young nonprofit professionals in Metro Phoenix.  Every month, I look forward to attending a YNPN event.  Even though I’m older that many of the members, I like the energy of the group.  YNPN is full of eager, young nonprofit professionals from a diversity of backgrounds who serve a variety of nonprofits ranging from human services to the arts.  At times, I would like to think I’m still young, and in the whole scheme of things I am, but sometimes I get a bit sad that I’m not in my 20s anymore.  Oh well!  It’s good to grow old gracefully.

Robert Egger, Founder and President of DC Central Kitchen (courtesy of YNPN)

Robert Egger, Founder and President of DC Central Kitchen (courtesy of YNPN)

Today, YNPN held their event with Robert Egger this morning at 7:30 a.m.  Despite the early start time and the fact that I was still trying to wake up, I was truly moved by Robert’s presentation (thus the blog, thanks Aaron :P).  I am very impressed with the fact that he started his working career in managing nightclubs and then transitioned into nonprofit due to his love of community.  He is the Founder and President of  DC Central Kitchen (http://www.dccentralkitchen.org) and has been there for over 18 years.   I am also impressed that he was listed in Non Profit Times “50 Most Powerful and Influential Nonprofit Leaders” in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009.  What I’m most impressed about is that he confessed that Zoolander was one of his favorite movies and he loved Will Ferrell’s character, Mugatu (I had to throw that in).

I admire Robert’s passion for commmunity and the role that nonprofits play in ensuring a thriving community.  I’m equally as excited about his work with the V3 Campaign (http://www.v3campaign.org).  I believe this Campaign is exactly what the nonprofit sector needs…it’s exactly what Arizona needs.  Oddly, his presentation today came after a candid discussion I had with my supervisor just yesterday about nonprofits, specifically social services, having a voice in government. 

Our discussion centered around Arizona’s current budget deficits and cuts made to social services that affect the most vulnerable members of our community.  Arizona residents really rally around education. I admire the fact that hundreds of people came out to advocate to restore funding to budget cuts made to education.  I believe advocacy around education is important, but at the same time I notice little advocating is being done for human services.  While education is critical to our community, I don’t feel that it is the resolution to all the huge issues that face children and families in Arizona and  is the “be all and end all” solution to developing a thriving state.   Education doesn’t resolve the fact that homelessness, drug addiction, domestic violence, unemployment and untreated mental health are rampant in our community and when it comes to budget cuts these are the items that are cut first and deep.   These are root issues that hinder progress in education and prevent our community from truly thriving.  Yes, education is important to the future success of our society and preventing these fundamental issues from affecting the future lives of our children, but it doesn’t address those people who are going through these very real issues right now. 

Robert’s presentation this morning really brought home the importance of nonprofits having a voice in government.  I believe that Arizona’s “human services” voice is very quiet, but I don’t think it’s something that can’t be changed.  In order for change to happen, we as nonprofits, need to work together.  We can’t afford to continue to sit on the sidelines and wait to see what happens.  We need a voice on behalf of nonprofits in our government and I believe that Robert’s efforts and the V3 Campaign can help us to begin that conversation. 

Despite my complaints about feeling old, I know what it means to be the baby of the group.  A few months ago I asked my supervisor why she hired me.   I started with Crisis Nursery as their grant writer (after 10 months I was promoted to their Communications and Marketing Manager).  I found out that the other candidate they were looking to hire had more grant writing experience than I did.  I asked my supervisor, “why did you choose me?” 

She told me that it really came down to my young, fresh perspective on nonprofit work.  The other candidate was the same age as the four individuals who made up our Senior Management at that time.  They are all over the age of 50 and preparing to retire.  She honestly said that she didn’t want to hire someone just like them.  She added, “little did I know what I was in for.” 

I love the fact that I’m the youngest member in management at Crisis Nursery.  I am also in a position to try new strategies and initiatives.  Some of the ideas I propose require that our organization think outside of the box and step out of their comfort zone. While it can a struggle to push my ideas through and at times they are flat out rejected, I think that our Senior Management and Board of Directors appreciates this new approach to looking at how Crisis Nursery operates.  And honestly, this opportunity, though challenging, has been a great learning experience for me.

I see simiarities between the situation I was in when I first started at Crisis Nursery and YNPN Phoenix’s opportunity to make a difference in Arizona’s nonprofit sector. I am also honored that Robert sought YNPN to help bring his vision into reality.   I believe this is a great opportunity for YNPN Phoenix.  My hope is that this presentation doesn’t end with just today and YNPN Phoenix takes an active role in helping the nonprofit sector find its voice in government.  Yes, YNPN members are young and maybe we don’t have a of experience like our predecessors, but we have ideas, an open mind and initiative.  Let’s capitalize on this opportunity and do something about it.

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