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Trish Tchume, national director of the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network, claims that she “found [her] way to the nonprofit sector sort of by accident,” and now she works to provide networking and career opportunities for young professionals in the nonprofit space. But with an upbringing rooted in hard work and a community based in her Ghanaian roots, her path to YNPN makes sense.

“I’m first-generation Ghanaian-American and my parents, they helped found and were active in the local Ghanaian association,” Tchume told Madame Noire. “I’d always grown up with this ethos that if you need something, you turn to your community or network and they can help you with what you need.”

After a stint working in residential life at a small liberal arts college and getting her masters in social justice education, Tchume made her way into nonprofits and never looked back. She talks to Madame Noire about her role in the organization, the goals for the network, which consists of 34 chapters across the country, and how technology and social media play a role in the YNPN’s work.

Madame Noire: Tell me a bit about your background and how you became the national director of the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network.

Trish Tchume: In 2004, after graduating with my masters from the University of Vermont, I got a job for in Philadelphia and it was my dream job for a lot of reasons, including the fact that I got to go home. My family was there and all my friends were there, but I didn’t feel like I had a professional network. Luckily, my boss at Idealist heard about YNPN and when I got to Philadelphia, he was in the midst of starting a chapter in Philadelphia, so that’s how I came to know YNPN. I worked with him to set up an affiliate chapter in 2004.

When I moved to New York, I was asked to join the national board of the organization in 2007 and I was on the board until 2011. While I was board chair, we were able to raise funds to finally hire the first director for the national network and I applied for the job. So here I am.

MN: What is your role as national director?

TT: The high-level job description is that I set a collective vision and strategy for the network. We have 30-plus chapters all across the country and they are in really diverse communities, which is great. But they all operate independently and they are all run by volunteers. So my job is to set the collective vision and strategy for the network. We’re doing what we can in the individual communities, but at the end of the day, we want to be the pipeline for moving diverse talent into and throughout the nonprofit sector.

I’ve also spent time being the voice of our membership. I go to a lot to conferences and speak on behalf on the young people that are working in the nonprofit sector, talking about the leadership development they are calling for, the change that they want to see in the sector, and areas they think are critical for this sector to invest in. Between 2011 and January 2013, I did 43 speaking engagements on behalf of YNPN. That was really important to me, making sure that people know who we are and know what our value is in the sector.

The day-to-day, I’m doing a lot of the project management of the infrastructure projects we’re doing. In early 2012, I developed and launched a project called YNPN 3.0, which is aimed at developing the systems that will allow our 30-plus chapters to be able to operate more seamlessly as a network. We started that 3.0 process with sharing data on membership and developing a chapter congress so they have a voice and vote in national decision-making. Day-to-day, right now, I am working on rebuilding that technology platform and looking to figure out how we can hire additional staff.

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