Words by Hannah Burchill // Photos by Marie Ketring
It’s hard to tell which choice came easier for Randi Yoder, senior vice president and chief development officer at Minnesota Public Radio: a life in Minneapolis or a career in nonprofits. Speaking to a group of YNPN-TC members and Pollenites, Randi explained that it was the exceptional nonprofit culture, as well as national recognition in the arenas of education, community development, and urban development, that drew her to the area to start her career. The parks and lakes didn’t hurt either.
Since arriving in the Twin Cities, Randi has brought her brand of determined and forthright leadership to organizations large and small. Reflecting over a career that has carried her through multiple major giving campaigns, a return to school for a master’s degree, a break to take care of young children, and multiple stints in consulting, Randi dished out advice to young professionals to help guide them in keeping the nonprofit sector as strong as it was when she first joined.
“It’s very encouraging to me to see the caliber of young talent coming into the nonprofit sector.”
Five Must-Know Nonprofit Tips and Tricks
Think Bold, Take Risks
When Randi took the reins as associate dean of external affairs at the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management, she had no development experience and hadn’t lobbied before. Within nine months, she and her team had completed a $45 million building campaign. In her next position as vice president of advancement at St. Catherine’s University, she launched what was to be an $80 million campaign. Randi notes that young professionals should not apologize if they don’t know everything—this provides opportunity to collaborate and learn from one another.
“If you’re younger and bringing in new ideas, you have to be persistent,” Randi advises. Coming from a family of “quiet leaders,” Randi suggests finding a leadership style that fits your individual personality and to seek out new ways to lead either at work or through volunteering.
“You don’t have to be a ‘noisy’ leader to be effective.”
Give It (At Least) A Year
There is no clear career path when working in nonprofits, but allowing a full cycle for new opportunities to come up will give you time to build new skills and allow for greater clarity and vision. Sometimes you burn out. Sometimes roles don’t fit the way we think they should. Recognizing the needs of the self allows young professionals the breathing room they need to be present in the moment outside work hours.
“Don’t be afraid of wealth. Don’t be afraid of wealthy people. Don’t be afraid of CEOs,” Randi says. “Get to know those who power your organization.”
Keep Up With Trends
Philanthropy used to be easier, Randi concedes. Individual donors are now more educated, sophisticated, and expect more from their giving. And in a field that is seeing more global competition, the young nonprofit professional has to work smarter. But this should also lead to a greater satisfaction in the field.
“The joy of major giving in nonprofits is the deep relationships we form. I don’t know what can replace that.”
This piece is a summary of a conversation with Randi Yoder, which took place at MPR on April 10, 2015, as part of Pollen and YNPN-TC’s joint Breakfast of Champions series. For more information, or to register for an upcoming event, check ynpntwincities.org.