The following is an interview with Molly Rivera (M), Board Chair of Young Nonprofit Professionals Network of the Triangle (YNPN), conducted by Hiral Patel (H), Marketing and Communications Associate.

H: Why is it important to invest in young nonprofit professionals?  

M: Simply put, we are the future of the sector! It’s important to invest in the professional development of your up-and-coming staff, so they can carry out the mission of your organization in the years to come.

It’s also an equity issue. Young professionals, or even team members in entry-level positions, are often overlooked when it comes to divvying up the organization’s professional development budget, whether it’s sending staff members to a conference, paying for other training, or giving time off to attend professional events. And yet it is those early in their career who often have the most to learn and need the most support professionally. YNPN aims to fill that gap.

H: How is YNPN an asset for young professionals in the nonprofit sector?

M: Our vision is to create an inclusive and sustainable nonprofit community. This work has three veins: networking, skill-building, and resource-sharing.

  1. We organize free events every month that provide the opportunity to build a peer network. Whether someone is looking for a job, needs help solving a problem at work, or wants to build relationships with other professionals -we offer a supportive community.
  2. At those events, we offer professional training in areas such as social media, personal branding, and even salary negotiation. We also put on an annual conference every year. It is the only event of its kind in this area specifically for emerging nonprofit leaders.
  3. Our “poppin’ listserv” is the number one way people interact with us. Every day, local nonprofit professionals use it to post job opportunities, volunteer opportunities, nonprofit events, or ask questions like, recommendations for affordable office space. Sometimes people even give away free office furniture! It is a great outlet for sharing expertise and giving others a hand up.

We encourage young professionals to use us as a resource and as a gateway to experts, colleagues, and new besties who have been there, done that. If we work together, we can help each other succeed!

H: How does involvement go beyond the individual to benefit the organization?

M: We’re not only the future of your organization, we are the present. Millennials currently make up the largest portion of the workforce. When we learn to supervise, budget, or network, we bring that information back to our organization. We bring our skills, perspectives, and voice to the table.

H: The YNPN’s competency model includes effective communication, personal management, leadership development, and technical skills. How did you arrive at this model? How is it implemented?

M: Our competency model was developed by the board in the fall of 2016 to answer the question: What do emerging nonprofit leaders need to know to be successful? A group of board members did research on other organization’s competency models and on what professionals need to know across the sector. We also reflected ourselves and collect member feedback through annual surveys and at events. We compiled all that information and synthesized it into four broad categories.

  1. Effective communications includes skills such as networking, presentation skills, and writing skills.
  2. Personal management includes competencies such as commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion, work/life balance, and financial management including negotiating your salary.
  3. Leadership development include skills such as supervising, motivating and supporting others, and decision-making.
  4. Technical skills are the harder skills you need to do your job like data management, social media, fundraising, and program evaluation.

This is our guiding compass as we think about developing programming each year. They are at the heart of each of our events, especially our conference. We want to be sure that we are touching each of the four buckets throughout the year and prioritizing those skills as we seek to develop emerging leaders.

H: Where is YNPN headed this year? What are you most excited about?

M: For the first time ever, we have significant financial capacity thanks to the generosity of Triangle Community Foundation. When I joined the board, we opened our first bank account with just a few hundred dollars. This year, we can truly invest in our programming by attracting issue experts, reserving better event spaces, and offering more benefits to our members. We also plan to contract with a data consultant to learn how to better utilize data to inform our programming. And finally, we will have our first paid intern! This will be the first time anyone has been paid to do YNPN Triangle work. This intern will be from Shaw University and will coordinate our programming for the year. This grant has completely transformed our capacity, and we are all excited to be able to really flex our muscles as an organization.

And as always, I am super excited about #NonprofitSTRONG! Our fourth conference will be May 18 in Raleigh – tell all of your nonprofit friends!

H: How can someone become involved?

M: Join the listserv. Ask questions and get monthly announcements about our group.

Come to our next event -we hold one every month. Be sure to come to our conference!

Join one of our committees. You can share your expertise or build your skill set in a new area such as communications or event planning.

You can even apply to join our board of directors in September. It’s a great opportunity to build leadership skills and build relationships with peers.

H: How can an organization tap into network?

M:  Send your emerging leaders our way! Have them sign up for our listserv, visit our website, attend our next event, join a committee, or apply to join the board of directors.

Sponsor our #NonprofitSTRONG Summit! Sponsorships start at $300. You will not only help build capacity for our organization, but you will also help to build the capacity for nonprofits across the Triangle by providing diverse young professionals with resources to maximize their impact.

Partner with us! We are always looking to develop partnerships with local organizations. Host an event for us, speak at one of our events, or host our monthly board meetings.

H: Is there anything you really want people to know about YNPN?

M: YNPN is such a supportive and encouraging network that I have tremendously benefited from during my four years on the board. I’m so happy to see that other leaders in the community recognize our value and want to invest in it.


Molly Rivera joined the ACLU of North Carolina in 2016 as the organization’s Communications Associate, handling all things communications for the team with a particular focus on digital media. Prior to joining the ACLU, Molly worked for the Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina where she managed the Food Bank’s blog, website, and social media accounts. Outside of work she volunteers at InterAct of Wake County as a Children’s Group Facilitator and speaks fluently in Spanish.