Learning to Lead: Andrew Dunckelman


Boston is not the easiest place to make friends. I moved here from Louisiana, and initially found it challenging to navigate the social scene. I relied pretty heavily on YNPN Boston resources, including its listserv and social media channels, to learn about professional opportunities and networking events.

About a year into my time in Boston, I joined the YNPN Boston board as its Treasurer. I was working at a large nonprofit consulting firm, and I was feeling disconnected from the day-to-day work and impact of the nonprofit sector. My time on the YNPN Boston board helped me connect to my new home town and understand the local nonprofit sector better.

YNPN Boston was a very entrepreneurial organization that felt like a start up. Everyone would just pitch in wherever it was needed. This entrepreneurial spirit gave me the chance to try my hand at projects that are really important in the nonprofit world, but that I would not have had access to in my day job as an entry-level professional. This included setting up a corporate bank account, depositing money, and balancing the books.

The most significant project I took on was researching the optimal legal structure for YNPN Boston based on the future we saw for the organization. For this project, I interviewed lawyers, accountants, and experts in the field - people I would not have had access to in my individual capacity. (Editor’s note - YNPN Boston has since incorporated into a 501(c)(3) thanks to the foundation leaders like Andrew left us!)

One of the benefits of being a member of the YNPN Boston Leadership Team was the opportunity to work with the other board members. YNPN Boston is a cross-section of life in the community, and I learned a lot about the issue areas that Boston’s nonprofit sector focuses on. I also learned a lot from the diverse vantage points the board members brought to the puzzle of how best to run our organization. And I did, in fact, make friends in Boston through my involvement.

My biggest takeaway from my two years on the board was a clearer sense of where I wanted to head next professionally. I knew I wanted to make an impact, but, at board meetings, I heard a lot of stories about burnout and lack of resources at small, grassroots organizations that discouraged me from heading in that direction. Instead, I chose to make change in a different way: by getting my MBA and pursuing a role in philanthrophy.

Now, I am a portfolio manager at Google.org, Google’s innovative philanthropy. In this capacity, I talk to nonprofits every day to help them scope projects, solve problems, and monitor results to make the biggest impact with our strategic grants. I was drawn to the philanthropic field because I see it as an opportunity to dream really big about the change you want to see and the world you want to live in. Google.org was the perfect fit - an organization with a great culture, sufficient resources, and a huge vision that isn’t afraid to take bets on creative, entrepreneurial people and risk failure.

I have never forgotten the conversations I had with my fellow YNPN Boston board members. Not only do I look for organizations with local buy-in and high impact to fund, but I also always remember the limited resources many of these organizations are working with and I never stretch them too thin.

And I still occasionally go to YNPN San Francisco Bay Area events.

Andrew Dunckelman is a portfolio manager at Google.org, Google’s philanthropy. He is the former Treasurer of YNPN Boston. He earned his MBA at Harvard Business School, and previously worked at The Bridgespan Group.

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


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