Greater Buffalo: The REGION of Good Neighbors

Written by Lucy Connery, Executive Director of Healthy Communities 2030!, YNPN Ambassador

Our country and our communities have demonstrated strength and resilience in response to the challenges 2020 brought. In times of struggle, our local responses provide creativity, compassion, and support for one another. For example, Mayor Byron Brown, the Office of Citizen Services, and many local community members and volunteers joined forced to start the ‘I Need a Good Neighbor’ Campaign. This effort brought helpful resources and information to the front door of 150,000 homes in Buffalo, and gave families the opportunity to ask for help as needed. Through actions such as this, our community shows time and time again that we truly are in a region of good neighbors.

Social Capital is a term used to describe the networks of relationships we as individuals, organizations, and communities, have with others that live, work, pray, and play in a society. Social Capital is built between people and organizations, and is based on norms of trust and reciprocity. For example, that if a mother needed to leave the house unexpectedly, she would feel comfortable leaving her child with a neighbor, knowing that the child is safe, and that if the opportunity arose, she would do the same for her neighbor. Although a simple example, Social Capital is a crucially important component to our professionalism, society, and democracy. We (hopefully) vote for people that we trust, and that have our best interest in mind. Buffalo is blessed with a built-in sense of Social Capital, in that it is a big city with a small-town feel. The Social Capital in Buffalo is so strong that the Buffalo-Niagara Region was the finalist in the National Civic League’s All-America City Contest two times, earning us a designation and a sign as you enter Buffalo.

So what? Why does it matter that Buffalo has such a strong, ‘natural’ resource of Social Capital? Because as we, the Greater Buffalo community, enter the winter months, we know challenges lie ahead. Social isolation, seasonal affective disorder (SAD), and many bumps along the way in mitigating COVID-19/flu-season will challenge our region. We need to encourage one another to ask for help when they need it, refuse to lose connection to our loved ones, and to be creative in how we carve out a NEW, new-normal. Professionally, building Social Capital is key to building strong foundations for partnership, community connection, and collaboration in our day-to-day work. Social networking may seem impossible now, but YNPN Greater Buffalo and many other organizations are working to integrate networking, connection, and coloration back into our work-weeks via virtual events, socially-distanced meetings, and activities to connect us! Our ability as humans to connect with one another is an invaluable skill, and connection provides us with more resources than we can begin to understand.

In an effort to promote Social Capital and community engagement, The Healthy Communities 2030! released a series of community wellness kits highlighting local organizations and resources to help support our region’s health. To learn more about these resources and/or Social Capital, contact the Healthy Communities 2030! Team at BeActive@City-Buffalo.org or call (716) 851-4052.

2020 Challenges or 2020 Vision?

Written by Lucy Connery, YNPN Greater Bflo Ambassador

“Out of adversity comes opportunity.” – Benjamin Franklin

2020 has presented so many challenges for our Western New York Community, our country, and the world; however, with these challenges come opportunities. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the world how important health is in day-to-day life, the Black Lives Matter Movement continues to combat social injustice and health inequity, and our Greater Buffalo community has united to show our community resilience and innovation.

Our culture is ever-evolving, and one aspect of this evolution is the definition of health; health is no longer defined as the absence of illness, it is now defined by achieving a positive balance of our social, economic, environmental, mental, and personal health. Our region is addressing the challenges we face in a multitude of creative ways. The Healthy Communities 2030! Team is collaborating with community partners and sponsors to broadcast BeEnriched Buffalo, a summer television series of STEM classes to help supplement time lost in the classroom and to reach families with unequal access to technology. The REACH (Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health) Ferry Street Project is introducing digital walking routes, events, and promotions to at-risk communities. The Mindfulness Alliance, the Mental Health Advocates of WNY, and many other mental health service organizations are working to support our community during these times of struggle.

Our local community health organizations are rising to the challenge of addressing community health, well-being, and quality of life, and our community members are doing the same to support one another. In many neighborhoods around Western New York, you’ll see supportive lawn signs, inspirational sidewalk chalk, and creative decorations to celebrate personal achievements and milestones with the rest of the neighborhood. In many ways, the challenges that this new decade has presented have brought our region closer together; in other ways, people may feel more disconnected than ever before. Our work is not done.

Although we have been adapting to our ‘new normal’ since March, the efforts to address community health and quality of life must continue to achieve our goals and improve our well-being. Your call to action as a reader is to reach out to your neighbors, local policymakers, community-based organizations, and to engage with your networks to raise awareness of the resources available to us. Our region is a two-time All-America City Award recipient, which demonstrates our ability to respond to challenges as a united community. Let us recognize the adversity, accept the challenge, and take the opportunities to improve your physical, social, mental, emotional, economic, environmental, and civic health!

For more information or resources, contact Lucy Connery of YNPN Greater Buffalo at (716) 851-4052 or ynpngreaterbflo@gmail.com. Thank you!

Accessibility & Intentional Inclusion

Written by YNPN Greater Bflo

YNPN Greater Bflo’s mission is to strengthen the nonprofit community by serving as an inclusive and innovative resource for networking and growth to empower young professionals.

To help guide our efforts to fulfill this mission, we recently defined our Strategy for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, which you can read here.

This year, we will be focusing on increasing access through intentional inclusion in the following ways:

-Removing financial barriers. In order to reflect the needs of our community, we lowered the price of our year-long membership fee from $25 to just $10. We understand that those who may need our training, professional development, and events the most may be the ones who can’t afford it.

-Provide recordings with closed-captioning so that people can take advantage of our event even if they’re unable to make it because of last-minute disruptions.

-Providing ASL Interpreters and closed-captioning for live events as well as recordings, for those who are Deaf or hard of hearing.

-In presentations, we will ask our speakers to use high-color contrasts for our color-blind peers, as well as alt-text/image descriptions for those with visual impairments. We will also ask them to use less text for those who may have ADHD or other issues focusing.

-Breakout rooms will be built for groups of three or more to reduce microaggressions that can occur.

-And always, ask – in registrations forms, we will detail what accessibility tools are available, and ask individuals to let us know if they need anything else. We appreciate any and all feedback from our network regarding areas to grow as an inclusive organization. 

This list was adapted from a recent YNPN National presentation given by Alley Jensen, Co-Director of Programming & Special Events for YNPN Greater Bflo and Luigi Fu of YNPN San Francisco Bay Area.

In their presentation entitled “Strategies for Embracing Technology and Making it Accessible,” Alley and Luigi recognized that there was a need to address the common challenges we are facing as a result of our worlds drastically changing since the beginning of the year — dealing with the dual pandemic of COVID and systematic racism.

They realized that as a result of this, our collective way of being with each other has shifted — from how we interact with our colleagues to how we engage our donors and volunteers. It has pushed us to adopt virtual solutions to continue our work. For some, that change has been tougher than others, through no fault of their own.

Throughout the presentation, they covered skills to embrace technology as a lever for good, instead of resisting it; how to make the most of virtual events and meetings; being intentional in building an inclusive and accessible virtual environment; and more.

View slides

View transcript

Readings:

Designing Inclusive Spaces – Sana Rahim

Enabling ASL Interpretation in Zoom

Language interpretation in meetings and webinars

Record a Zoom Session

Respectability.org

Knowbility.org

How to write an image description

Introduction to Web Accessibility

Accessible Social Media Guide

Creating Accessible PowerPoint Presentations

Making Your Content Accessible – Alt Tags, Captions, and Transcripts

How to Use & Promote Inclusive Language at Your Organization

Guidelines for Inclusive Language

Addressing Systemic Racism

Written by Jerome Singletary, YNPN Greater Bflo Co-Chair

We are deeply saddened by events that have taken place over the last several months, including the death of George Floyd. Unfortunately, this is just one of many recent incidents of racism and police brutality committed against African Americans in the United States. Racism towards African Americans and other persons of color is a systemic problem that has plagued our country from its founding. Naturally, this negatively impacts our ability to build a diverse and inclusive community. Simply put, the future of the nonprofit sector and our country does not exist unless Black Lives Matter.

YNPN Greater Bflo will continue to be intentional about addressing the systemic racism, prejudices, and privileges that plague our community. We are committed to serving as an inclusive resource and building a nonprofit sector that welcomes, listens, includes, and is led by people of all backgrounds and identities.

We do not have all the answers, but we encourage everyone to join us in taking steps to make a change. Below are resources and actions to help combat racism and push our community to become one that is more inclusive.

Readings

Have nonprofit and philanthropy become the “white moderate” that Dr. King warned us about?

How White People Conquered the Non-Profit Industry

Black Trauma And Showing Up At Work

White America Betrayed Me 

Dismantling White Supremacy in Nonprofits: A Starting Point from YNPN Twin Cities

YNPN’s Stance on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

Support black businesses and local organizations doing racial equity work

African American Cultural Center

Black Love Resists in the Rust

Buffalo Urban League

Coalition for Economic Justice

Niagara Organizing Alliance for Hope 

Open Buffalo

PUSH Buffalo

VOICE Buffalo

Local Black Business List

Donate

Black Lives Matter

George Floyd Memorial Fund

ACLU

Vote

Register and vote for candidates and policies committed to ending systemic racism

In Solidarity,
YNPN Greater Bflo 

COVID-19 Resources

Written by Bridget Scott, YNPN Greater Bflo Co-Director of Communications & Marketing

In this time of uncertainty, we realize how important it is for you to be well-equipped with resources that aide in the care of your mental and physical health. Whether that be tips on how to work from home, ways to help your local community, professional development opportunities to take advantage of right now, how to support the nonprofit community or different methods for taking care of your health – we’ve got you covered.

Take a look at our list of resources to get you through these unprecedented times. Have something you would like to add? Email us at ynpngreaterbflo@gmail.com!

Working From Home

Tips For Working From Home
Our favorite tip – avoid work creep! Working from home means that you are always around your work. Be sure to not let your work become too invasive in your personal life, ultimately causing burn out. Avoid work creep by setting specific work hours and sticking to them.

Setting Boundaries
Having trouble disconnecting? What about family members who may not understand your work hours? Forbes provides tips on how to set up the workplace boundaries…at home.

Nonprofits

Nonprofit Resources
How does a nonprofit navigate the world of social distancing appropriately? Check out the list our friends at AFP put together to get your organization through this.

How to Help Nonprofits
The Washington Post explains how nonprofits have been hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Community

Support Local, Eat Local
A list of local restaurants that are offering takeout and delivery.

WNY Response to COVID-19
The United Way has put together an extensive list of resources to get WNY through COVID-19.

Health

Pick Up A New Hobby
Try one of these quarantine-approved hobbies – maybe you will find a new passion!

Stay Fit & Healthy
Check out these free live-stream workout classes – living room yoga, anyone?!

Creating Mindfulness
Having anxious thoughts is nothing to be ashamed of – learn more about ways to deal with anxiety during a crisis.

Professional Development

Financial Tips for Dealing with the Economic Impact of the Coronavirus Pandemic
“Financial decisions made when we are emotionally flooded are almost always ill-advised. It is essential to calm down and get your rational brain back online.”

FREE Nonprofit Webinars
57 free nonprofit webinars? Sign us UP!

Social Distancing

An Astronaut’s Guide to Self-Isolation
Hear from those who know how to do it best – get tips and tricks from astronauts on what they recommend you do for self-isolation.

Make The Most of Your Time at Home
Just because we are stuck at home, doesn’t mean we can’t be productive. Check out these ways you can make the most of this time – including family dinner ideas!

Organizational Members

Our YNPN Greater Bflo organizational members are continuing to serve their incredible missions during this time – check it out!

ConnectLife – ConnectLife is ensuring that WNY maintains it’s critical blood supply. Now more than ever, your blood donation is needed. Please make your appointment to donate blood here. Blood donation is SAFE at this time.

Girl Scouts of Western New York – GSWNY is helping out our hometown heroes the best way they know how – cookies! Buy cookies from GSWNY and they will be donated to our dedicated neighbors fighting the virus on the front lines. Click here to buy.

Roswell Park Alliance Foundation – In addition to their every day care, Roswell Park Alliance Foundation has found innovative ways to take their fundraising virtual. Their head shaving program, Bald for Bucks, has gone virtual – and even schools are participating online! Roswell is also launching a new initiative, Team Roswell at Home. This campaign encourages our constituents to get creative and to pursue their passions through DIY, online fundraising.

Greater Bflo Summer *On a Budget*

Written by Jessie McKay, YNPN Greater Bflo Co-Director of Marketing & Communications

Summer in the Greater Bflo region can feel…overwhelming. Here to help you navigate the summer with some budget-friendly options (and, okay, a few splurges here and there) is your YNPN Greater Bflo leadership team! Please note that this is not a sponsored post–but feel free to get in touch with us if you want to sponsor some of the great work we’re doing!

Of course, the best summer events, IOHO, are our upcoming summer events! Make sure to keep track of all our great summer offerings, especially our Summer Mini Golf Powered by YNPN Greater Bflo on July 11th (free for members!) and our Summer Happy Hour at Lafayette Brewing Company (free for EVERYONE!).

Without further ado:

Buffalo River History Tour

Cost: $23 for adults for Buffalo River Tour

Take 90 minutes and enjoy two of Buffalo’s greatest treasures: our waterways and our incredibly rich history. Our Co-Director of Membership, Kaelyn Gates, promises this small splurge is worth the investment!

Woodlawn Beach State Park

Cost: $7 per car (or invest in your summer and buy an Empire Passport for $80 and enjoy admission to all NYS Parks for the entire season!)

Located on the eastern-most terminus of Lake Erie, Woodlawn Beach State Park has all the summer beach vibes you could hope for. With spectacular views (and great sunsets), swimming, picnic areas, an interpretive nature boardwalk, beach volleyball, and a playground right on the beach, load up your car to maximize the value! You may even spot our Director of Operations and Finance, Stephen Lutter!

Happy Hour at Nine29

Cost: Varies depending on your order!

If you don’t catch Stephen at Woodlawn Beach State Park, you may find him enjoying Happy Hour (running from 4-8 pm on weeknights) at his favorite local bar, Nine29. Located at 929 Elmwood Ave (get it?!). Enjoy great bartenders and specialties such as the Pickle Shot and Captain Crunch Shot.

Transit Drive-In Theatre

Cost: $10 ages 12 and over

Recommended by two of our Ambassadors, Melanie Brem and Bridget Scott, the Transit Drive-In Theatre is a summer staple for WNYers. With two features, you’re paying $5 per movie! If you can manage to stay up late and still make it to work the next day, check out their Retro Movie Tuesday line up (each benefiting a different local nonprofit)! Bring a car you’ll be comfortable in (bigger is, in this case, sometimes better), chairs in case you need to stretch out, and long sleeves for when it starts to cool off. You can bring food with you or stop by their snack bar.

Fitness in the Parks

Cost: Free

The YMCA Buffalo Niagara has teamed up with Independent Health to offer over 400 classes in over a dozen parks across Western New York, you should be able to find something that appeals to you! While Bridget loves the classes at Canalside, she also notes that there’s a class almost every day for the whole summer!

Hiking the Niagara Gorge

Cost: Free

Our Board Co-Chair Aurora Schunk is a fan of all 7 available trails (ranging from easy to difficult), and notes that while Niagara Falls may be full of tourists during the summer season the trails are typically secluded and provide an opportunity to enjoy nature at the edge of one of the most (in)famous waterways in the country. Aurora recommends the Whirlpool Rapids Trail as her favorite!

Shakespeare in Delaware Park

Cost: Free!

As the second-oldest and one of the largest outdoor Shakespeare festivals in the United States, Director of Marketing & Communications Alex Lauer recommends you join the 40,000+ people each year who enjoy Shakespeare in Delaware Park. The best way to enjoy the show is to bring a blanket and/or chairs, your own food and drinks, and get there early for a good spot on the hill! This season will see The Tempest playing June 20-July 14, and Love’s Labour’s Lost playing July 25-August 18.

Feel free to share your favorite summer events with us in the comments!

8 Reasons to Join the YNPN Greater Bflo Leadership Team

1.) Expand Your Network

YNPN Greater Bflo Directors, Ambassadors, and Members represent organizations throughout Western New York, including nonprofits, government, and for-profit agencies. You’ll have the opportunity to expand your existing community of friends and colleagues to include new connections with different backgrounds and insights. Not only can this enhance your current professional career, but you can also leverage this network for new job opportunities, additional community involvement opportunities, or simply to connect with people who have different outlooks and experiences than you do!

2. Grow Your Personal Brand

Is your LinkedIn looking a little sparse? Want to show your executive leadership team or potential employers that you’re engaged with the community? Add some gravitas to your resume by adding Board Member to your experience! A board role shows that you are committed to your community, engaged in forward thinking strategic initiatives, and are well-equipped to help shape the future of an organization.

3. Further A Cause

If the YNPN Greater Bflo mission, vision, and commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion resonate with you, you can be part of helping us to grow and reach even more young professionals in the Greater Buffalo region! YNPN Greater Bflo just celebrated our 5th Birthday in 2018, so the organization is still young, scrappy, and hungry to make an impact in our region—but we can’t do it without committed volunteers!

4. Challenge Yourself

Whether you apply for a Board role that closely aligns with what you do in your everyday job or choose a new role that you’re less familiar with, joining the YNPN Greater Bflo Board of Directors offers new opportunities for growth. You’ll be involved in making strategic decisions as well as being part of a hands-on working Board. Your co-director will support your growth and you’re sure to walk away with new competencies and skills.

5. Bloom Where You’re Planted

Joining the YNPN Greater Bflo Board will give you greater insight into how nonprofits in general operate. Your fellow Board members are from different backgrounds and industries and roles than you are, and may be people you would otherwise not have had the opportunity to work with. Breaking out of your typical circle and routine will expose you to different ways of thinking and approaching situations. Sometimes simply listening to different perspectives offered during Board meetings will help you become a more strategic thinker!

6. Be a Team Player

Being on a Board of Directors is a whole different dynamic. You’ll be in leadership roles, making decisions, and serving with a group of individuals who are just as passionate and dedicated as you are. You’ll learn patience when listening to others express viewpoints you disagree with. You’ll learn diplomacy in phrasing dissenting opinions while still maintaining camaraderie. Working with an all-volunteer organization can be challenging, but it makes all of us better.

7. We Have Fun

Whether it’s using colorful markers for a SWOT analysis, attending YNPN National Conference, setting up for Summit, or informal networking, being on the YNPN Greater Bflo Board is as fun as it is challenging. We share homemade macarons and industrial-sized bags of Sour Patch Kids while completing strategic planning, While working hard, we also share jokes and camaraderie. You have the opportunity to work alongside like-minded individuals who share similar struggles and are willing to be vulnerable who just seem to get it. You’ll form lasting friendships that will continue beyond your Board service.

8. Work Work Work (Work Work)

At its best, serving on any Board of Directors allows you to bring your whole self to the table—your emotional connection to the mission, your commitment to the overall nonprofit sector, your experiences, your skills, and your brain power. We need all your best ideas and your talents to continue to grow YNPN Greater Bflo.

If you found this convincing, we’d love to have you!

Apply now!

Board Management

A Conversation with the newly-elected Chair of the Buffalo & Erie County Naval & Military Park

Terry McGuire is the first in our series of talking to non-profit experts in the WNY area. With decades of leadership experience ranging from the military to the private sector, Terry has been involved with a number of area non-profits, most significantly including the WNY Veterans Housing Coalition and the Buffalo & Erie County Naval & Military Park.

Alex: So Terry, tell me a little bit about your background here in Western New York. I know you’re a native!

Terry: Well, I had a terrific, middle-class childhood in Amherst, New York. It was a lot like growing up in Mayberry—very old school. I went to school with kids who had families that were financially struggling as well as kids who had a lot of family wealth. I knew early on, in elementary school even, that I wanted to stand out from my three older brothers in some way. I wanted to be well-rounded. So to me, that meant trying to get better grades, display artistic talent, play in the school band and orchestra, and be good in sports too. I wanted my parents to be proud of me—so I guess I had a lot of fourth child ambition!

A:  So do you feel you meet that early goal of standing out?

T: Yikes! Well, the grades were a touchy subject for me. I failed second grade but got better with age. That early failure stung hard, seeing your friends advance, but I was back on track in a few years, and I managed to graduate in the top 25% of my class. That being said, I still had to do a year at the Army’s prep school at Fort Monmouth, NJ to get better SAT scores in order to be appointed by my Congressman to West Point. Many think that West Point is the best leadership school in the United States and probably in the world. West Point nearly killed me but I did finally graduate…near the bottom of my class! I graduated and ended up doing well in my professional military schools throughout my career and, more recently, graduate school. So overall, I went in a very different direction than my brothers and found my own definition of success!

A: When I met you, you had recently finished your term as the Chairman of the Board at the WNY Veterans Housing Coalition and were about to retire from the Army as a Lieutenant Colonel. Now, you’ve just been elected Chair of the Board of Directors at the Buffalo and Erie County Naval & Military Park. You’ve had a lot of leadership experience! How did West Point, and your other military experiences, shape your approach to leadership?

T: I learned one of my foundational lessons when I was in US Army Ranger School—never quit on yourself, even when failure appears to be imminent. If you fail a few combat patrols at Ranger School they throw you out of the 58-day course, and the patrols we were leading were graded heavily by our peers—both other officers and enlisted men. Everyone is always bone-tired exhausted, and the whole experience is set up to simulate combat conditions, so you don’t get enough sleep or enough food. I vividly remember one jungle phase patrol I was leading in the Florida panhandle where the weather was essentially a tropical storm—super windy with torrential rain. It was so dark that night that you couldn’t even see the fingers in front of your eyes. I thought the patrol was going very badly on our movement to our mission objective and I was certain I was going to fail. But lo and behold, when I was finally relieved of the patrol, the Ranger instructor pulled me aside and said that I had passed the patrol because even though things weren’t going well, I “never quit or showed fear.” That message has stuck with me to this day. If you quit on yourself, it’s easier for you to accept the shortcomings of others. As a leader, you never quite have that luxury as your personal shortcomings can often mean success or failure for your organization’s mission. There aren’t many quitters who can think asymmetrically or in out of the box ways to find a solution to a problem!

 A:  How does that translate to board leadership?

T: Board management can be messy business! You have very passionate people and volunteer committee folks working for free and who want to get things done for the mission of the organization. They want to do a great job. That said, all that positive board energy, if not harnessed and focused properly with a good strategic plan, will dissipate as quickly as a desert rain storm. You’ll need to continue to hydrate and inspire the Board. As a corollary, you must take steps quickly to mitigate negative energy. If you have board members you feel aren’t pulling their weight, then something has not been addressed or communicated properly on your expectations of them. In those cases, it’s time for candor. You have to ask them to consider if they’re involved in the organization to be part of a working board or if they are there to pad their CV to garner higher community status. A good ethics and disclosure policy that Board members should be prepared to sign helps to weed these types of people out before they join.

A good Board handbook with policies, bylaws, and a letter of expectations should be issued to the entire Board. Effective military units, private companies, not-for-profits, and organizations are built on trust and teamwork. To me, for a Board, this means an understanding and commitment on the tasks that need collaboration. Very few not-for-profits can afford a Board of high-performing individuals working in siloed, vertical efforts, especially when it comes to the most important Board responsibility: fundraising. Everyone has to work as a team to be successful, including staff and volunteers.

A:  So you started out on the Board of Directors and have now been elected to the Board Chair position at the Naval Park. What are the most important duties that come with that position?

T: Two things come immediately to my mind – the workloads of board members and my partnership and relationship with our full-time President and CEO, Paul Marzello. We have several talented and fully committed board members, but unfortunately, they do most of the heavy lifting as officers and chairs of committees. While this is not unusual among NFP boards like ours, I can’t just sit there and let them get burned out or have them ever feel that their efforts are not well appreciated.  Unanticipated board turnover wastes our effort, time, resources…and ruins momentum. So…I see my most important job as recruiting, developing, and retaining the best Board of Directors possible to execute our mission. The working relationship I have with our President and CEO is equally as important, and we have worked to develop well-established boundaries. That said, we must be unified on our work efforts towards the objectives of our recently adopted strategic and master plan. Constant communication is key…we speak to each other daily and exchange emails and texts often. I meet face to face with our CEO weekly. Any perceived fissures between us in a small city like ours can be easily detected….they can not only destroy board morale but  fundraising efforts among government, private, and other donation sources too.

A:  As you know, this is an interview for the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network. So as someone who has experience in the nonprofit realm, what sage advice would you give young nonprofit professionals?

T: I think it’s important to meet each day with an important self-awarenesss question—what am I doing to produce real value for the organization? Are my efforts really focused and synchronized to meet the goals of the mission statement? Is there duplication of effort within the organization? Take the time to look at your job description, and make sure you understand your role and your performance objectives. If you’re doing too many other things that are distracting you from your primary responsibilities, it may be time for a conversation with your supervisor.

A: You sometimes describe yourself as a little bit old school, so how well do you relate to your younger peers?

T: Well as a younger baby boomer, I have learned a lot of good things from my millennial friends and associates. Most importantly, I have learned to examine what is truly essential in life for happiness – better friendships and personal relationships, better health and lifestyles, and more effective work habits. Balance! That now means working smarter, shorter hours and not necessarily harder and longer hours to get the results you are trying to achieve. My military deployments, and twice coming home safely has made me appreciate how short, fragile, and fleeting life is, and how you just have to put the small stuff, the BS, behind you. That said, that ambition bug to be exceptional as the fourth child still makes me jump out of bed every morning!

Invest In Yourself, Invest In Your Future

(Image Description: Photograph of a pair of hands cradling a piggy bank)
By: Allison Jensen Marketing Coordinator at Compu-Mail and YNPN Greater Bflo Director of Programming
As a young professional, it’s important to think about investing now to secure a stable future for yourself. Of course, it’s natural to immediately think of investing in the form of financials, stocks, and bonds. These are great tangible investments to start thinking about, but perhaps equally important are the intangible investments you make, like how you spend your time.
Here are 3 ways to invest in yourself that are also an investment in your future:
1. Decide what you want to be, and design your career around it. 
Some people know what they want to be before they leave high school. Some may not figure it out until years after college. Either way, it’s important to turn inward to determine what drives you and what you are passionate about, then design your life and career in ways that support and nurture those passions.
2. Find people that can help you chart your path. 
Joining networking groups is great for meeting new people. Challenge yourself to connect with diverse groups of people. Depending on the groups you join it’s likely that you will meet people at all different stages of their career. When you take the time to get to know them on a personal level, you may find that they have insights on how to help you chart your path. Surround yourself with a network that can push you to grow and develop.
3. Show up and be present. 
Along those same lines, an important investment to make in yourself is to push yourself to go to events you might not normally attend. Maybe you were planning to attend with a friend or coworker and they had to cancel last minute. Go anyway. Maybe you have never been to an event with this group before and you’re not sure what to expect. Go anyway. The most important thing you can do is just show up and try something new. While you are there, try to stay in the moment. Put your phone in your pocket or purse and focus on the person in front of you.
These 3 simple investments in yourself are a strong long-term investment for your life.
Not sure what groups to join or how to grow your network in the Western New York community? Get started with YNPN Greater Bflo! Become a member today and start networking with other young professionals in the area. (Link to member registration). Already a member? Check out our upcoming events and mark them on your calendar!

Engaging the Active Citizen Continuum to Support Your Organization or Your Personal Growth

By: Aurora Schunk Assistant Director of the Civic and Community Engagement Office at Buffalo State College and YNPN Greater Bflo Board Co-Chair

When you hear the phrase “active citizen,” what comes to your mind? What do you think are the characteristics that make an “active citizen?” Can anyone be an “active citizen,” or do you need to be Ai-Jen Poo?

Active citizens are individuals who see the world through the lens of community.  They prioritize the community in values and life choices and take action on issues that matter to them. So yes, Ai-Jen Poo is without a doubt an active citizen. In fact so was/is Cesar Chavez, John Lewis, and you.

But how does one become an active citizen? Active Citizenship isn’t like the Birth of Venus, springing forth, fully-grown from the sea.  Break Away, a national nonprofit, created a developmental model, known as the Active Citizen Continuum, that they share with colleges and universities who host service immersion trip experience programs for their students (also known as alternative breaks). I’ve used this model with the students I supervise in SUNY Buffalo State College’s Alternative Break program, and my office has adopted much of the language into our academic community-engaged learning taxonomy.  This concept of an individual’s self-development and movement from one stage of the the Active Citizen Continuum is not only something that college students can follow through their engagement in an alternative break or community-based learning course. Rather, anyone can use the model to either motivate and encourage others’ movement along the continuum, or use as a guide as they expand their commitment to the community.

The Active Citizen Continuum is a model that provides language to describe an individual’s transition from mere existence to being a part of community-driven solutions to social justice and social issues.

ACTIVE CITIZENSHIP 1

So how does a nonprofit professional guide their volunteers, donors, board and staff members as they build active citizen skills to best assist the organization with capacity building, retention, and building a stronger network in the community?

Step #1: Identify placement on the Active Citizen Continuum

This can be done in different ways, but I’ve created this “pop quiz” to share with your target audience. You might incorporate these questions and create a corresponding rubric to evaluate board member or volunteer applications; or perhaps when surveying donors, you might similar add questions to better understand your donor active citizen IQ. Be creative in incorporating this into your role at your organization.  

Step #2: Thoughtfully create experiences

Depending on where an individual places themselves on the Active Citizen Continuum in Step #1, I’ve shared some ways you can incorporate to help them start their journey on the continuum.  

Member

Invite them to participate in a low-pressure volunteer experience but one that gives them direct service experience (if possible)

Provide orientation and resources (mission/vision; ways the organization impacts the community/key social issue)

Volunteer

Provide orientation that identifies the way the organization individually and in collaboration impacts the community/social issue(s)

Create opportunities for service projects that clearly connect to social issue

Conscientious Citizen

Provide opportunities for strong direct service where they can realize the kinship they share with the community members they meet

Help them connect their service experience to daily life

Create ways for them to advocate for community issues

Active Citizen

Facilitate opportunities for them to engage and lead others in your organization’s mission (ie: board service, committee, fundraisers, team leaders for service day)

ACTIVE 2

Step #3: Share Educational Resources and Inspire

It’s difficult to get involved or connect to an issue in the community if you don’t know anything about it. Furthermore, once you know something about an issue, you shouldn’t keep all that information to yourself; you need to share it with others to inspire them!

Member

Expose them to social issues and service by identifying other ways for them to get connected and learning more

Volunteer

Focus education on the issue and what underlies the need for service (why service is needed to tackle this issue)

Provide education that connects the social issue to social justice issues

Conscientious Citizen

Share information on the intersectionality of social issues so they see beyond this issue + gain a desire to make a broader impact  

Active Citizen

Encourage their own continued education

Give them a platform for educating others, sharing their experiences, and knowledge to other volunteers, board, staff, etc.  

Allow them to share ways they incorporate daily changes into their life

ACTIVE3

Step #4: Facilitate Critical Reflection

Reflection is oftentimes where learning happens. It’s when you pause to think critically about your experiences, how they connect or differ from what you have learned or from other experiences that things become clear.  

Member

Before they begin their service, board year, etc, ask them to articulate: Goals for this volunteer/board/ experience? Why this organization? What are they expecting (to learn, to do, to impact)?

Volunteer

Encourage them to ask “why” questions: why is this a need in the community; how will this provide assistance; why is the need greater than what can be provided; why is this an issue in the community, etc.

Conscientious Citizen

Encourage reflection to connect service work, daily actions, and education

Active Citizen

Ask them to reflect on their experiences life choices, education and the issue in a way that is promoted to others and serves as an example

Allow them to use their story to advocate

ACTIVE4

Thanks for sticking with me as I talk about the Active Citizen Continuum! Have other questions? Want to brainstorm some ideas for the role you have in your organization? Need an outsider’s perspective to help transform your own role on the continuum? Email me! Let’s chat! You can reach me at schunkam@gmail.com. Looking forward to hearing from you!