Young Fabulous Nonprofit Leader Interview with Larissa DeLuna!

This is part two of my Young Fabulous Nonprofit Leaders Interview Series! People write a lot about Gen Y, but what about asking Gen Y what WE think? What is this leadership crisis all about anyway? How can we manage Gen Y? Is there some defining characteristic managers need to be aware of? Let’s get to the bottom of this!

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to be interviewing different nonprofit leaders, asking them questions, and hopefully, getting some answers around what the nonprofit sector leadership is going to look like in the next 20 years.Larissa DeLuna, of YNPN and the American Heart Association

Larissa DeLuna, of YNPN and the American Heart Association

Who are you?

My name is Larissa De Luna, I am a 29 year-old Austinite working in the non-profit world.

What’s your day job?

I am the Director of Health Equity for the American Heart Association.

What are you passionate about, personally?

Helping others, whether it’s volunteering for a kids cooking class or holding the door open for someone. I like knowing that I help people in some way every day.

That is so noble. Rock on Larissa. What is a career goal that you have?

I would love to one day work in the Community Relations department for a large company and help them develop their strategy for supporting non-profits.

Ah, Corporate Social Responsibility. It seems to be a trend with bigger companies now. Perhaps eventually all marketing departments will be rebranded into social responsibility. What’s a trend that you see for young nonprofit professionals?

I am seeing a lot of non-profits focus on developing college students interest in the non-profit work by offering some great internships. I don’t think entering that non-profit sector is something that college graduates think about doing. I know it’s not what I had planned, but I’ve learned more here then I could have imagined.

I know what you mean, I never though I would be in the nonprofit sector either! That’s the funny thing, we go to college, and we don’t realize the mechanisms behind the college are all nonprofit mechanisms. But I digress. There are a lot of different jobs that people do in nonprofits. Where do you see the sector growing in terms of jobs, and where do you see it shrinking?

I see more non-profits developing more marketing/cause campaigns that support specific
issues online, I think that also helps with the funding side of the business too. Now you can show a sponsor that your funds did this specifically to have an impact of that certain cause. Statistical analysis is clearer.

What I’m hearing you say is that in the future, perhaps people should train themselves to be up on social media ways to measure statistics automatically. If this is what you’re saying, I see that too, and also, I see that people are quick to say things like “Direct Mail” is dead, and social media lives, or the backlash against that, that social media leads to “Slacktivism/Clicktivism” instead of real action and donations. You know, I think it’s important have every tool you possibly can in your toolbox, and use technology to make your job easier as a nonprofit professional, whether it’s measuring results or automating awareness campaigns.

So, what do you wish older generations understood about Gen X and Gen Y?

How much we depend on technology to help with our jobs. I remember early in my career having a superior who didn’t use their outlook calendar and had no desire to learn. The same person didn’t like Excel which made developing budget reports fun!

LOL. I bet that was fun. It’s so frustrating when people around you expect you to just do their tech work for them. I think it brings up a good issue that Gen Y are often asked to do the tech stuff, and it’s assumed they’ll just keep doing them, instead of making older generations learn how to do it themselves.

Do you think that Gen X and Gen Y need to be managed differently in the workplace?

Yes, I think so. I think Gen X and Y like to see the big picture of what they are trying to accomplish and as they work towards that they like to get pretty instant feedback. I think that has something to also so with the technology that we use, everything is at our fingertips.

Also, I think Gen X and Y are always looking to where the next step is career wise as opposed to the Baby Boomer who stayed with companies and organization for decades.

I would agree that feedback needs to be real and positive to keep Gen Y engaged. And I think Gen Y has learned that companies are not loyal to them, so why should they be loyal to their companies? All of these at-will employment contracts, GRRRR! But I digress.

Do you see more people of color, sexual minorities, or people from different class backgrounds leading nonprofit organizations, either as executives or board members?

To be honest I don’t. As we see more minorities go on to higher education I hope that changes. As with the diversity of board members, I think that must first start with the grassroots volunteers that help an organization. If you have diverse volunteers who are engaged with an organization then those are the people that you look at when cultivating board members. After all, if they are volunteering four hours of their Saturday to volunteer and an event, then you know they have a true passion for the cause.

I agree with you. We need to focus more on recruitment and engaging and empowering volunteers of different ethnicities and backgrounds to become leaders in our organizations. I think Rosetta Thurman is doing an excellent job of highlighting this in her blog.

What’s a cause you love that you wish got more attention from the media?

I think I would have to go with education for this. I am a first generation college graduate and know how much focus my parents put on me to make sure I was successful in school and college. It’s unsettling to see where Texas schools rank and even more so to see the rates of minorities that actually finish at a four-year university.

I agree. Education needs more attention from people in this country. Especially in terms of how we treat people in a classroom setting. A book I’d recommend on this topic is “A Different Kind of Teacher” by John Taylor Gatto. Thank you so much for this interview Larissa!

Anything this interview brings up for you? Anything you’d agree with? Disagree with? What do you think of Gen Y in the workplace?

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