Reflections on YNPN National Conference 2018

ynpn map

(Pictured above: Map of the United States with YNPN chapters indicated with route from Buffalo to Indianapolis highlighted)

From July 27th to July 30th, four members of YNPN Greater Bflo’s Board of Directors took a road trip to the Young Nonprofit Professional Network’s Annual Conference in Indianapolis, Indiana. With 300+ attendees representing chapters from across the United States, there were plenty of opportunities to learn from best practices, share challenges, and seek solutions. Here, our representatives share their reflections on the YNPN National Conference 2018, as well as what being part of a national network means to them.

Aurora Schul Schunk, Board Co-Chair

Being a part of the national Young Nonprofit Professionals Network has been a large part of my growth as a young professional. Typically, when I have faced challenges I have tried to problem-solve on my own, going with the attitude of “no man is an island, but this woman is.”  When I attended the National Conference last year it was the first time I realized that I didn’t have to do that. There are many young professionals who want to hear about your challenges and brainstorm solutions or offer advice on how they solved a similar issue. Whereas last year Jerome and I went into the conference looking for advice on how to solve challenges;  this year we were the ones providing advice, frameworks, and answers to challenges young professionals from all over the country were having in their professional or YNPN lives.

Building connections and collaborating to leverage our voice and talents. I think that is what being a part of YNPN is all about. Whether it’s collaborating with local peers in the YNPN Greater Bflo chapter at Undergrounds Coffee House, or meeting over Zoom Video Conference with a colleague in Southern Nevada, we can all work together to solve issues locally, nationally, and globally.

Jerome Singletary, Board Co-Chair

This is the second year I’ve had the opportunity to attend the YNPN National Conference & Leadership Institute and for the second time, I am coming back from it energized and enthused about the work YNPN is doing, and the impact young professionals have in the sector. The Chapter Roll Call was again a highlight of the conference and seeing what successes and challenges other chapters across the country face was tremendously helpful in brainstorming strategies to make Greater Bflo an even stronger chapter.

Having the opportunity to present at the National Conference was thrilling as well. We teamed up with YNPN Triangle NC to give the presentation “Signature Conference: Why You Should Too” and shared how we plan and execute our annual YNPN Greater Bflo Summit. Topics from other presentations I attended included organizational membership and equity, diversity and inclusion, both of which our members and the Buffalo nonprofit community will hear more on in the coming months.

Overall, attending the National Conference has proven that it is not only a personal benefit to be a part of this network, but that YNPN Greater Bflo, and the Western New York nonprofit sector as a whole, will benefit from the work that YNPN is doing across the country.

Osaze Ibhawa, Special Events Co-Chair

Amazing is the word I would use to describe the YNPN 2018 National Conference at Indianapolis. In the wonderful company of fellow YNPNers from the Greater Bflo Chapter, we carpooled for a road trip to a journey I call GREATNESS. Yes, greatness, that’s exactly one word that explains the knowledge, experience, and benefits brought by YNPN National Conference.

We were greeted at Plat 99 at the Alexander Hotel with an art tour, wonderful pleasantries, and great refreshments, many local to Indiana. As awesome as I thought this networking opportunity was already, little did I know the best was yet to come with the conference itself.

The first day was very informative and one thing that stuck on to me was the mantra “Not fearless, still a leader” by Jamie Smith, Executive Director of YNPN National, as it was very motivating and empowering. This was followed by a roll call of all the YNPN chapters which gave all an opportunity to know what others were doing, how they are doing it, and how they can do better. I was wowed by what I learned from the other chapters, especially as Greater Bflo is now accepting members for $25! I am proud to be a member of YNPN Greater Bflo because my membership goes to providing more priceless benefits and immeasurable gains, and I hope you will join me by becoming a member here! Great insights and knowledge were gathered on the first day of the conference that helped with personal leadership and growth as well as growth and development for organizations.

The rest of the conference was equally informative and empowering as topics ranged from “Innovative Programming on a Shoestring Budget” to uniting professional groups for a collective impact were covered in different breakout sessions. A full overview of the topics covered can be found here.

My reflection on the conference can’t be complete without talking about our own Jerome Singletary and Aurora Schul Schunk, Board Co-Chairs of YNPN Greater Cflo chapter who both gave wonderful presentations on “Signature Conference: Why You Should Too” and “Engaging the Active Citizen Continuum to Support Your Organization or Your Personal Growth” respectively.

Still wondering how was my experience? I guess you can tell already it was a fun ride back home with Alex Lauer giving us good vibes all the way. And in all honesty, do not forget to become a member.

Alex Lauer, Marketing & Communications Co-Chair

On the first day of the conference, YNPN National Executive Director Jamie Smith said something that stuck with me throughout the rest of the event: “Not fearless. Still a leader.” As a young non-profit professional, fear is something that I’ve dealt with throughout my entire career. Fear, and the daily work that goes into conquering it, is what motivated me to join the Board, because as Jamie observed later in her opening remarks, while fear has the power to make us feel isolated and incapable, it can also bring us together as we empathize with one another’s struggles and build a stronger community that represents our shared ideals.

Being part of the broader Young Nonprofit Professionals Network connects us with people in our broader community on a national level (and international level—we’re looking at you, YNPN neighbors to the North!). It connects us to active citizens who share three beliefs, reflected by YNPN’s three strategic goals.

First, that emerging leaders are empowered and equipped with the skills and competencies to realize YNPN’s vision of stronger communities supported and strengthened by a diverse and powerful social sector.

Second, that staff and leadership in the nonprofit sector represent the diversity of our communities.

And finally, careers in the nonprofit sector are individually, organizationally, and economically sustainable.

As a network, these are the strategic results that we are rallying behind as part of YNPN, encompassing chapters and members from across the country. I am excited about the future potential this network has, and the role Greater Bflo and our members will play in prioritizing and achieving these results both in our community and our larger community.

This is the first in our NEW YNPN Greater Bflo blog series. If you are interested in submitting a blog to be featured, please contact the Marketing & Communications team (Melanie and Alex) at

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