My Thoughts on our Summer CEO Series

Well, Ladies and Gentlemen, just in time for our next upcoming YNPN Coffee with a CEO on August 23rd, I will (finally) update you on the first three meetings we had this summer.  I have no good apologies to give other than the heat has gotten to my brain, which impacted my ability to follow a schedule.  You see, that ability was already sketchy to begin with, and the Cincinnati Summer has really not improved it at all. Now that our annual Pro Seniors fundraiser has passed, I can fill you in on the 3 meetings we have had this summer.

On May 24, 2012, Erika Lehman, Director of The Center for Ethics at BBB, spoke about  A Worthwhile Cause: How to Effectively Evaluate Nonprofits To Know Where Your Dollars (and Career) are Best Spent.

June 28th followed with Peter Bloch, President and CEO of Jewish Vocational Services, discussing  “Nonprofit Mergers and Collaborative Funding.

And, last but not least, on July 26th, Suzanne Smith, President of Flywheel, spoke about  “Cause Storytelling.” 

I will actually begin by mentioning Ms. Smith’s presentation first, because she reminded us of the power of telling a good strong story. As she explained and highlighted, stories are the way that we connect with ideas and themes as children.  People never really lose the desire to hear or tell a good story.  Thus, as professionals working in the non-profit sector, it is our ability to tell compelling stories about the communities and the people we serve that connect our organizations’ missions to the community at large.  We can best express the importance of our non-profit and the impact that we have on clients.  Ms. Smith pointed out that a great deal of non-profit work has become outcome oriented in the past few years.  It is, however, a return to the human element, to telling the stories of the people we serve, that puts a face to our organizations and helps the community see the positive impact that their generosity in great times of need has.  We would all do well to remember that it is all about the people.

The gentle reminder that people connect by and through the stories that we tell and the stories that we hear is a great way to turn the
clock back another month to June and learn about Mr. Peter Bloch and how he came to be in charge of the newly created JVS and Easter Seals Tri-State.

Personally, I first came to know about JVS’s services outside of the vocational work for adults with learning differences when I was looking to make a job and possible career change and someone told me about the Cincinnati Career Network.  CCN was designed to help any adult looking for career guidance.  I went to a meeting there, and learned that CCN was more than I could have hoped for in a guidance service.  They offered multiple job searching boot-camps, as well as one on one career guidance sessions.  In participating in a number of the group and individual sessions, I learned how to brand myself better—so that every correspondence I had represented me and how I wanted to face the world with business cards, note cards, stationery, and resumes.  I learned about networking and the importance of social media in this increasingly fast paced world. I practiced interviewing for new positions.  All of these services provided necessary feedback on how to best present myself in an incredibly competitive marketplace.  I found the services invaluable and to this day I refer people to CCN.  Or, should I say to JVS Career Services.

To be continued…

Amy Kurlansky, YNPN Blogger


Career Planning with your Boss

As a busy professional in a public interest agency, the most valuable tool I feel that I have is the knowledge of my coworkers and colleagues.  But, with how busy we are trying to meet all of our client needs, it seems that we never have the time to share our thoughts and information.

That is exactly what I find most valuable about the YNPN monthly “Coffee with a CEO” meetings. YNPN members meet at Hoxworth Blood Center in Clifton and enjoy networking with other young professionals working in the non-profit sector.

In the last few years, there has been a rise in interest in attracting and maintaining young talent in the work force.  YNPN is unique because it originated with the idea of helping YP’s who choose to work in non-profit careers to network with each other.  As our agencies are often so much smaller than our for-profit counterparts, this can often translate into smaller offices and fewer co-workers.  Thus, meeting with other like-minded young professionals proves all that much more valuable. We can learn from each other and our respective experience.  I am still in awe of the amazing people I have met through YNPN, especially since there was nothing like this when I first began working in the public sector.  Back then, it seemed like mentoring young talent was not on peoples’ minds.  Employers expected you to do your job with minimal problems and no complaining. Grooming young talent for the future was just not something employers considered.

So much has changed since then.  According to H.A. Musser (President & CEO of Santa Maria Community Service, and this month’s “Coffee with a CEO” speaker) now, more than ever, leaders in the non-profit world are talking about succession planning.  He explained that this may be fueled because of the “dire predictions of the gap of skilled people to lead non-profits” after the anticipated retirement of many of the “Baby Boomer” generation who are currently in the leadership positions. He advised that the skills we learn by participating in YNPN will give us an edge over our colleagues who are not as well informed. 

Mr. Musser cautioned that some bosses will think ahead for us, while others will not.  He discussed a memorable experience for him when he was a young professional in his first few years at Santa Maria.  He was in the kitchenette when he ran into the Executive Director who asked him if he would like more responsibility in the agency.  This innocently simple question planted a seed for him, which with increasing responsibility, has lead Mr. Musser to a 28 year career working for the people of Price Hill at Santa Maria.

While there will be people eager to help us along the way, each one of our career successes lies in our own hands.  As Mr. Musser pointed out, there are leadership training programs where we can learn management skills, but, we also have to keep our eyes open for ways to expand our professional repertoire and skill sets. He highlighted practical guidelines for success, such as: being eager learners, taking initiative, working hard and getting results, and sometimes even pursuing advanced degrees.  If you have prepared yourself by solidly doing your job and getting good results, that puts you in a position for more advanced opportunities later.  Ideally, someone in your office or firm who notices you and your excellent quality of work would approach you with the chance to take on more responsibility. Based on your excellent track record, they will think of you as the go to person. Once the doors have opened up, you will be able to take advantage of showing what more you can do.

If you are not currently in a supervisory position now, Mr. Musser pointed out that you can still gain those skills by working with volunteers in your organization.  Sometimes, the opportunities to develop the skills you need are right in front of you, they just need to be revealed in a creative way.  As he said, people who follow want to follow someone who has already done the work.  So, the better we do our jobs now, and thoroughly complete them the better leaders we will become. 

When asked how he has stayed at Santa Maria for 28 years without his work becoming stale, Mr. Musser pointed out that passion for the mission of his organization has kept his work fresh for all this time.  His point about passion for our work was echoed by a number of YNPNer’s.  When our personal interests line up with the organizational interests, and we believe in how we deliver our services to the community, it keeps our work fresh for all of us.  It is why we continue to do the kind of work that we do.

Helping to build and maintain positive relationships are two more key elements in making work fresh and keeping it exciting and interesting.  YNPN will continue to prove invaluable in providing us the opportunities to learn from each other and support each other as we continue to grow and develop our individual leadership styles.  The non-profit world needs our talent and our current leaders want to see us become the leaders of tomorrow.  YNPN will keep us poised to fill their shoes when our time comes.

Hope to see you at the next “Coffee with a CEO” on Thursday, April 26, at 7:30 am.

Amy Kurlansky is a guest blogger and a member of YNPN Greater Cincinnati



Proof You Don’t Have to Be Old & Wealthy to Have a Lasting Impact

Today, I received notice of a planned gift to the Cincinnati Zoo.  I went through my usual routine when receiving notice:

  • Look up donor in Raiser’s Edge – if they are in there, mark as deceased and see if we have their families contact information to send our condolences and if they are not, give information to our database manager to make a new record.
  • Sign and date required paperwork
  • Find letter template to send to attorney upon being notified of a donor’s death and customize letter.
  • Put everything in the mail.
  • Look up obituary to put in file

It was here that I was stopped in my tracks.  The picture next to her obituary was of a beautiful, vibrant young woman and it wasn’t one of those old shots some families use because the mother never liked the way she aged and warned her kids she would haunt them if they didn’t use her favorite photo.  No, this was a recent picture.  She had graduated college in 2004 and after traveling the world volunteering had settled down in her hometown.  It was here that she fought her cancer and it was here that she made her final plans that her life’s work wouldn’t end with her last breath.

So many times we assume that only old, wealthy people can make planned gifts.  We plan our marketing strategy and stewardship events to attract those who are moving into a healthy retirement.  This gift opened my eyes and heart.  It illustrates that we can’t take it with us when we are gone, whether we are 90 or 30.  We can continue to make a difference beyond our final breath, whether we are 90 or 30.  It is never too early to become a philanthropist.

I encourage you to think about the causes you are passionate about.  Then I encourage you to think about how your estate – however small or large it may be – could make a difference to one non-profit.  After all, you can’t take it with you, so you won’t even miss it.  It just might take a nonprofit you love from surviving to thriving.

While I never had the opportunity to meet this generous young woman, I will forever be changed by her generosity.  Her gift to our endowment will support our mission long after I am here to watch it grow and be put to use.

It is days like today that I am reminded why I love what I do.  I put people’s hopes and wishes for the world into action and I am humbly honored to serve our community in that capacity. 

 Nita Douglas

YNPN Board Member

@Mike Tyson & @PhillyCheesesteaks in 3D

I came across this article some time ago from and saved it because it brought up some interesting points: Why Social Media is like a 3D Movie.  I agree with the thinking behind the article.  The fact that social media outlets have become rather mainstream in the nonprofit world is not surprising at all.  The surprising thought is that it has taken this long.  I think we see this a lot around our sector: the for-profit world embraces change.  Frankly, they take it and run with it.  They have the resources available (and resources available to take the risks) to try new things.  If a small-budget NP takes a flyer on a new idea or new piece of technology and invests countless time and man hours on it, and it fails, adios, small-budget NP.  But I think there has to be some middle ground here.  The million-dollar question is how and when should we jump on the new technology bandwagon.  With the way technology is rapidly changing, the successful social media strategy would be able to get on the upturn of outlets such as Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn and Pinterest.  So the question remains: how?  The answer is partially spelled out in the linked article.  And as you will read below, the answer is actually irrelevant, and doesn’t pertain to social media at all.


Like a terrible 3D movie (or a badly planned social media strategy), a flashy title (Twitter handle), awesome graphics (great Twitpics), and great advertising (RTs) is simply not enough.  If the movie has a bad plot, terrible character development and cameos by Mike Tyson, it simply will not be successful.  This is where the movie analogies will end.  Because here is what you can do to turn your NP into a Summer Blockbuster (sorry, one moreJ).  You must stay with what has made successful NPs successful since their inception—customer service!!!! 


Whether you went into the NP world because you had a higher calling to help others, or you went into it because you like to work countless hours for inadequate compensation, or you really like organizing walks, golf outings, and phone-a-thons, or a combination of the aforementioned things,  we are still in business of serving our customers.  We must have the groundwork laid to welcome new donors, develop a personable relationship, be able to ask for time, talent & treasure, be good stewards of these T’s, and turn these people into sustainable customers.  Allow me to share a quick side story.  I ate at a Penn Station once down the street from my house.  I don’t even really like Penn Station.  I mean, their sandwiches are just OK, their fries are outstanding, but it’s all over-priced and after eating there, you feel like it should come with an angioplasty on the way out.  But that one time I ate there, the two employees were extremely nice to me.  They weren’t the kind of nice where you can tell they are just putting on a show or acting cordial even though working at Penn Station is the last place they really want to be—they were genuinely nice to me.  I felt that they cared how my day was.  That they cared whether or not I wanted mushrooms on my Philly cheese steak (mushrooms are gross).  That they really wanted me to know that their fries were fresh-cut (I apologize for everyone now craving a Philly cheese steak and medium fry from Penn Station (see unpaid inadvertent advertisement)).  So you know what?  The Penn Station down the street from my house is one of the first places that pop into my mind when I am thinking about what to eat when I am out. Kind of strange isn’t it?  Remember, I don’t really like Penn Station.


This, my friends, is the answer to that million-dollar question!!!  All other social media marketing plans, annual fund and event calendars, choosing whether or not to use a business reply envelope or let our customers foot the bill for giving you money (this might be my next blog post. Shheeesh, come on, this doesn’t make any kind of remote sense), or whether or not to serve rubber chicken or roast beef at your next donor reception (may I suggest catering from the Penn Station on Colerain Ave.????) is all ancillary.  The key behind developing sustaining relationships and keeping your customers selling out your Blockbuster, even though it is in the cheap theaters and is only shown as a matinee Monday through Fridays (sorry, this is the last one, I promise), is how you treat your customers.  You must genuinely care how their days are.  You must genuinely care if they like mushrooms (gross).  You must tell them that your fries are fresh-cut, and be proud of that fact.


Have you ever met someone who you can tell right off the bat that they are only interested in getting the sale (ever been to a used car lot???)?  This cannot be a trait of your fund raising officers.  CANNOT.  ABSOLUTELY. UNEQUIVICABLLY.  CANNOT.  Everyone receives the phone calls from this organization or that nonprofit asking for money, donations, or both.  I don’t know about you, but I will take a second thought when someone calls that I know truly cares about the mission of the organization they represent.  It’s something in the tone of their voice, or their attitude, but you can tell when they care.  And you can tell when they are watching the clock and are just there for a paycheck.  These traits don’t change when dealing with our organizations.  As young professionals, we have many years to develop and hone these people skills, but the sooner, the better.  We have the advantage that we can see what works and what doesn’t now, so we can tailor our skill set to be successful later as we climb the nonprofit ladder.  We will develop our customer service skills so that when a potential donor walks into a meeting they will already have their hand out, waiting for their 3D glasses.


Kevin Wood is co-chair of chapter logistics for YNPN Cincinnati.  He is also System Administrator at the Bethesda Foundation, Inc.—the fundraising arm for Bethesda North Hospital, Hospice of Cincinnati and Fernside.  He is a 2007 graduate of Northern Kentucky University.  Find him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn or email.



Your Professional Network: More Than Just “Facebook Friends”

By: Nita Douglas
Executive Co-Chair, YNPN Cincy

When I was in college and just beginning to look for a job, it really used to bother me to hear people say, “It isn’t what you know but who you know.”  After all, I was graduating from a highly regarded private liberal arts college with three strong nonprofit internships under my belt and I felt like it should matter most what I knew.  People should be blown over by my resume!!  Finding a job and finding an internship proved to be two very different things.  Interns are free, and with an impressive resume and some proactive searching, I found internships to be fairly easy to come by, even at large organizations.  Finding a job ended up being much harder.  I finally landed my first job, only to have my grandfather ask what I was doing to find my next job!!  Seriously our conversation went from asking what the job entailed to what I was doing to find my next career move when I had just received my first grown-up paycheck only days before.  It took me awhile but I think I finally get it.

My network took root in 2007 when I joined the Association of Fundraising Professionals.  As many people will tell you, it is pretty impressive how friendly fundraisers are.  My network began to grow once I finished Development 101 (now Fundamentals of Fundraising) through AFP.  I joined the PR & Communications committee of AFP and all of the sudden, not only could I tell people what I do but I could prove what I was capable of to a handful of professionals from organizations around the city.  Little did I know how impactful that would be.  My network really took depth with YNPN.  Now, my network not only consists of individuals in the fundraising field but individuals from every aspect of the nonprofit sector. 

 You see, I’ve come to realize, it doesn’t just matter who you know OR what you know.  What matters the most is who is in your network that knows where your strengths lie, what your job entails and how you are excelling at what you do.  Who in your network knows what you want your next job to look like?  Who in your network knows you both professionally and personally and therefore knows not only what you are capable of accomplishing while sitting at a desk but how you will work within a team?  It is when your network knows who you are and where you excel that you begin to receive e-mails and phone calls asking for advice or guidance to solve problems…sometimes from professionals who have YEARS on you in the field.  From proving what you know, you become higher on the list of individuals your network recommends for open positions.  Those positions aren’t always jobs, they may be boards, event planning committees or coveted leadership programs.  You begin to become someone in your field.

 I encourage you to nurture your network.  View your network as your root system.  It will feed you, allow you to grow and help you get past the obstacles that might get in your way.  Never dismiss the opportunity to be part of a group outside of your workplace where you can let your strengths shine through.  The deeper your root system, the taller you can grow.

 Stay tuned to find out how growing your network can make you more valuable to your current employer.

Hello world!

Welcome to the YNPN Greater Cincinnati Blog Page! We plan to keep you informed on the fresh ideas and insights of our chapter board members on topics related to the nonprofit world. Be sure to check back every other week for a new post!

Feel free to comment, ask questions and provide insight of your own on any of the posts and be sure to let us know of any topics you would like to see covered!