By Sarah Raser
Development Officer and Volunteer Coordinator
YWCA of Minneapolis
Our new YWCA USA CEO, Dara Richardson-Heron, M.D., visited the YWCA of Minneapolis during a recent visit to Minnesota. She shared her vision to find new ways to connect the YWCAs from across the country, and to infuse new energy into the national YWCA movement. I am so inspired by her vision and have been waiting for an excuse to connect with my YWCA colleagues around the country in meaningful ways.
Six summers ago (having worked at the YWCA in Minneapolis for less than a year), I was walking around Montreal with my now-husband on our very first real vacation together. I still remember walking past their YWCA. Then, on the last day of our honeymoon several years later, as we wandered around San Francisco, I got a photo of myself in front of that YWCA (looking rather wind-blown). But I didn’t go in. I didn’t say hello. I didn’t have the courage to connect.
Our YWCA vision of cross-country connection gives me that excuse – that courage – to reach out to my peers from the east and west coasts, and from north to south. Through an online platform, I now have the opportunity to learn best practices, ask questions, and form relationships with my fellow YWCA colleagues. I also had the privilege of being part of a highly-engaged team of young women who are strategizing and shaping the future of the YWCA.
As I continue to expand my network within the young professional community here in Minneapolis, the same question keeps coming up, time and time again: What’s in it for me? Research indicates that Millennials and Gen X-ers, like myself, are more interested in engaging with nonprofits who really show us how our contributions of time, talents and dollars make a difference. We want to grow through our involvement with the organizations that we hold closest to our hearts.
Simply said: we want more.
For example, one of the strongest assets of the YWCA of Minneapolis is our leadership, both the inspiring Vice Presidents within the organization and our smart, well-connected, all-female Board of Directors. The GenYWCA committee, a group of passionate young professionals in Minneapolis, has been strategizing around how to better connect GenYWCA with the leadership of the YWCA – how to provide opportunities to network with and receive informal mentorship from our powerful group of women leaders.
This is the type of work that YWCA USA’s network of young YWCA leaders wants to do as well. By bringing the younger generations of our organization’s leadership together, no matter where they live, the national YWCA will be able to provide specific trainings, conversations and resources to help us grow personally and professionally as employees and volunteers of the YWCA.
Those of us who provide direct services to local communities can sometimes lose sight of the larger movement with which we are connected. Reaching out and engaging your network is truly energizing. Sharing with and learning from my counterparts at other YWCAs reminds me that I am working in solidarity with advocates across the country – and that is a great and powerful thing.
Sarah Raser has been at the YWCA of Minneapolis for nearly seven years, first as the Development Assistant and currently as the Development Officer and Volunteer Coordinator. In her time at the YWCA, she has launched GenYWCA, a young professionals group for the YWCA of Minneapolis, continues to grow a robust multi-channeled giving campaign, and manages many aspects of the YWCA’s three signature events.