Treading Water in a Sea of Smarties

This past Saturday I participated in NGen: Moving Nonprofit Leaders from Next to Now, the pre-conference session to the Independent Sector conference. The NGen program’s goal is to “enhance the visibility, leadership capacity and professional networks of emerging leaders under age 40.”

If you don’t know what Independent Sector is, I strongly encourage you to visit their website and learn more. It’s an amazing organization that’s working to bridge the conversations that nonprofit organizations and philanthropic entities are having. We must have a larger, more inclusive conversation about what’s going on in the charitable sector.

I signed up to go because the conference was in San Francisco this year and I’m interested in what Independent Sector is doing. What I didn’t expect was how many amazing, intelligent, insightful people I would meet there. There were nonprofit rockstars from around the country sitting at each table discussing sector wide issues, potential solutions, and having incredibly provocative conversations around these issues.

I have to admit I was caught off guard. I’ve always admired this high level thinking, and have thought about it once in a while, but to be able to work for an organization that is advancing these ideals has never been something that’s within my reach. And while I consider myself to be a relatively well versed nonprofit staffer, being surrounded by all these smarty pants was intimidating!

As I listened to what all of them had to say, I soaked up their knowledge and passion, and didn’t pressure myself to have the perfect response or even the need to keep the conversation going. I have much to learn in my time in this sector, and there’s no rush. I just feel fortunate I was able to be in the company of such inspiring people – and one day, I hope to become one of them.


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