Greater Bflo Summer *On a Budget

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 2Step #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

ACTIVE3Step #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!

Tips for Event Season Stress

(Image Description: Man sitting at desk looking stressed with people reaching towards him with phones, stacks of paper, and watches)

By: Melanie Brem  Special Events Coordinator at Our Lady of Victory Homes of Charity and YNPN Greater Bflo Co-Chair for Marketing & Communications

When I introduce myself and tell people I plan special events for a living it is almost always followed up with “Oh, that sounds like such fun.”  And it is, most days.  However, during peak event season “fun” isn’t always the adjective that comes to mind.  Over the last three years of planning fund- and friend- raisers, I have found these to be helpful in keeping my sanity.

Timeline EVERYTHING

Before getting knee deep in anything, timeline out every step (even the super obvious ones).  Once you have all the steps down, add deadlines and who is responsible for that task.  Convey this information to all who are involved and make sure to post your timeline in a place you can see.  Make sure to actually check off what has been completed to help you stay on track.  I find adding notes along the way allows me to fine tune this timeline at the end of each event.

Learn how to delegate

I’ll be honest; this one is a hard one for me.  Once you have your timeline in place, comb through the list and find tasks on there that can be divvied up to volunteers, interns, or others who can help.  Before dumping a job on anyone, be sure to type up thorough instructions (again, I have found editing yearly helps to fine- tune these) and meet with the person to explain and answer any questions.  Meeting well in advance can prevent any unneeded stress later on.

Scheduling time for emails and voicemails

I attended a workshop once that talked about this and I left thinking that sounded impossible in the culture of people wanting answers quickly.  During peak event season, this is your friend.  Don’t feel like you have to check your email every time it pings, as long as you find time throughout the day to check and answer things.  Same with the phone- use the caller ID to your advantage and send those non- urgent calls to voicemail (remember to check and respond later).  If you are on task, you don’t want to interrupt that flow with something else.

Find a solid support system

Before it hits the fan, find these people.  Whether it is your coworker, administrative assistant, work bestie, significant other, your mom, or all of them- mentally identify those you can count on for a simple favor or your daily dose of sanity.  These people will help you through the long hours, skipped lunches, 11th hour frantic mailing stuffing and sign making, and help catch any of the other balls that have been carelessly tossed in the air.  And don’t forget to thank them.

Remember to be you

During peak event season, work can be an 8+ hour solid block of checking off things on a list and processing all the countless items needed.  Don’t forget the simple things- water (aka miracle liquid that really can make you better), food (because hangry really is a thing), music (turn on those work- friendly beats and rock through your work), and exercise (I’m not talking about a marathon, just a little something to get the blood flowing).  Even on the busiest days, these four things are your friends and can help turn a terrible day into something more manageable.

Once the event is over, and it will be (even when you don’t think it can come quick enough), remember to treat yourself.  You busted your butt.  You put in the long, hard hours in the office- and all those “what about…” thoughts on your time off.  Do something nice for yourself and make sure to find time to wind down, decompress, and return to normalcy.