Learning to Lead: Chris Herron

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YNPN Boston is a big reason that I play a lot of board games in support of great nonprofits. But more on that in a moment…

Way back in 2009, I was in a slump. I’d moved back to Boston after finishing business school, and I just couldn’t find a job that was a good fit. Besides a project here and there, I was spending lots of time studying my Stanford Social Innovation Review, doing New York Times crossword puzzles (mostly Mondays, really), and searching high and low for informational interviews.

Then one day, a friend of a friend of a cousin of a friend suggested that I look at a group with an acronym that sounded quite lofty. That group was, of course, the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network of Boston (YNPN Boston). I got introduced to Ben Weisman, a long-time YNPN Boston Board member and, it turns out, a very persuasive and good fellow. I dropped by a couple YNPN events, met some wise nonprofiteers, and before I knew it, I’d stumbled into a position on the board.

My two years on the YNPN Boston Board proved invaluable as a source of professional growth and friendships that are among my most important today. One of the highlights of my time was the work I got to do with Marc Baizman (my fellow co-chair), Matt Taylor, Lindsay Jensen, Julia Propp, Katie Ferrari and several others on re-building YNPN Boston’s strategy. We created an entry-level leadership position called Ambassadors that helps make the organization great today. We also deepened our focus on events that sparked the professional growth of our members, and set the stage for Lindsay to eventually vault to leading the national board. (I bow down to what she has since accomplished.) These efforts were a great experience for me because they deepened my understanding of how high-functioning boards operate (and don’t) and they helped me appreciate the depth of the nonprofit community around Boston.

So, how does this connect to me playing board games, you ask? Well, first, some important context is that I grew up playing so much Parcheesi and other games that it is truly in my blood. Second, I am lucky enough to work at a venture philanthropy firm called New Profit, which helps me see how we have only begun to tap into the potential that nonprofits have to tackle our greatest challenges and to improve this planet. All of this has led to a playful, outside-of-work experiment that a group of us are calling Yes We Catan.

Yes We Catan is a community of us exploring how we can use the popularity of a great board game to fuel the growth of great nonprofits. Anyone who joins our “league” can play Settlers of Catan on behalf of a nonprofit they believe in and periodically earns prizes that support and celebrate their nonprofit of choice. The goal is to create a large and diverse community that has fun, shares more openly about why they support the nonprofits they do, and, over time, gets better and better at fueling the growth high-impact organizations. If you love games or nonprofits or you’re just plain curious, take a peek or drop me a line.

And, for all of this, and much more, I am deeply thankful for YNPN Boston.

Chris Herron is a former member and co-Board Chair of YNPN Boston from 2009-2011. He currently works as an Associate Partner at New Profit Inc., a venture philanthropy firm dedicated to improving the economic and social mobility of low income families in America. He is also a modestly ranked but very excited founder of the Yes We Catan experiment.

Ready to learn to lead with YNPN Boston? Apply to join the Leadership Team today!


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