ASU Lodestar Center Blog

Current nonprofit sector research and recommendations for effective day-to-day practice from ASU faculty, staff, students, and the nonprofit and philanthropic community.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011 - 8:00am

posted by
Jessie Singer,
Executive Director
Dysart Community Center

As a proud young nonprofit professional in the Phoenix valley, I believe it's important to remember that age is not a qualifying factor in one’s professional abilities. I can testify that, on behalf of my young peers, we are investing in ourselves through professional development opportunities and networking, and many of us even share common higher education degrees. We are a group of individuals that have passion, motivation, and competencies to succeed, and we don’t let age get in our way.

When the younger generations start to enter into nonprofit executive roles, it is up to us, the leaders of the “now” and the “future,” to show the more experienced individuals what we are made of. We bring innovative solutions to community’s toughest problems. Long gone are the days of “Oh, you’re too young for that” or, my favorite, “How cute, you’re trying so hard!”

Being a young nonprofit Executive Director with minimal nonprofit leadership experience, I have entered the sector this year and have found a new home. I love being in the nonprofit industry and have found my forever place helping those in need. I may be young, but I have already started to move mountains! How important is age anyway if I have the passion and drive to succeed?

Young nonprofit leaders need to value education and experience — even though our resumes are not as extensive — because we can do anything we put our minds to. We need to learn from the individuals who have been in the nonprofit world for many years and have so many things to share. We are in no way discounting these individuals’ talents, but everyone needs to remember that age should not be a (dis)qualifier for someone’s ability to get the job done.

Whether you are young (in age) or young (in experience) to the nonprofit world, you have a lot to offer an organization, and it shouldn't stop someone from reaching for the stars. Next time you see someone “new” in the nonprofit world, make sure you congratulate them for choosing to make a difference. It is a selfless act for someone to choose to enter a world where money is not a driving factor, but helping others is. Find out how you can mentor one of these individuals to ensure they make the right decisions, create positive change in the community, and learn from you, the expert, in the nonprofit field.

We are not “Next Generation” leaders because we are here now. We are ready to make mistakes, celebrate successes, and grow in the nonprofit industry to lead it into the future. Watch out world because we are here and ready to get involved! Let’s all of us join together — new, experienced, young, old — as we work to overcome hunger and homelessness, ensure at-risk youth attend college and families are given basic needs to support their youth, and that we all flourish together for our various causes in the nonprofit industry!

Jessie is in her first year as Executive Director of Dysart Community Center. She was recruited for her passion, drive, and commitment to serving others who are seeking to reach the “American Dream.” Jessie comes to Phoenix from Chicago before she made the move to Tucson to become a Wildcat for life! She is Board Secretary for YNPN Phoenix and a member of the 2010-2011 Generation Next Nonprofit Leadership Academy. She believes that young nonprofit leaders are going to move Phoenix into the forefront of the nonprofit industry.

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Jessie, I admire your drive and optimism. You are right that what is important is not the age. Making a nonprofit grow and work well requires a need for action and a need for thought when action is not yet appropriate. The best team is when you have a diversity of ages, styles and experience levels working together to make a better organization and a better community. Good luck to you. From a senior nonprofit manager that knows there is much to learn and experience.

Jesse, as a returning student I have found myself to be the oldest person in most of my classes. I know that I have learned a great deal working with my younger classmates on projects and assignments. I definitely think that my experience at ASU working with younger students gave me a different perspective of how much of a difference the "Now" generation will make in the nonprofit sector. There is so much passion and knowledge to be learned for them!

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