Won’t You Be My (YP) Neighbor?

So last Thursday was the second annual YP Expo at the Birmingham Museum of Art. Although we have yet to hear the official totals of attendees, we can say that the crowd was large, enthusiastic, and most importantly, diverse.

There will likely be several takes on the success of the Expo, but we want to submit that the most telling evidence could be seen by anyone standing in the crowd for just a few minutes. The cross section of our region represented in the room last night exemplifies much of the hope in our local YP movement. Artifical boundaries of race, sex, political persuasion, or geography have little place in a group of young citizens that are interested in knowing all of their neighbors, not just the ones that look, act, or think like them. Continue reading


Civic Groups Want You!

This Thursday, June 26th, over 30 organizations will gather at the Birmingham Museum of Art from 5:30 to 9:00PM to recruit you, local young professionals.  Thursday night is the second annual YP Expo— a free networking and volunteer recruitment event for young professionals. Last year, over 550 YP’s came out for the event and this year we anticipate even more.  Whether you are a newcomer to the community looking to get plugged in or an established young leader looking for your next big volunteer project, there is a little bit of something for everyone.  United Way Young Leaders Society will be there, so please stop by and say hello to us! 

Childhood Obesity Weighs on Central Alabama

Journals, newspapers, and magazines are tirelessly reporting on the childhood obesity epidemic facing our country, particularly in the state of Alabama.  Health care providers, community organizations, and advocacy groups are developing thousands of programs designed to fight childhood obesity, but we have yet to find a “solution” to this newest public health problem.  Perhaps, some of this can be attributed to the following challenges highlighted in this week’s Time Magazine:

  • Our local and national culture celebrates food.  It is no wonder that a nation that chose a feast as it’s first national holiday is now facing an obesity problem.
  • Parents must learn how to make healthier meals available to their families, set better examples with their own food choices and manage the critical issues of self-esteem that can be so disabling for overweight kids.
  • Policymakers are studying the growing body of research showing how everything from income to race to education plays a role in how much kids weigh, making it difficult to craft targeted, local solutions to solve these local problems.
  • Doctors  deal daily with the ills associated with childhood obesity and work to repair the damage that’s been done.
  • And perhaps most important, teachers, mentors and public role models struggle to help kids navigate a culture that fosters fat but idealizes thin and as they teach them that what truly counts is getting themselves as fit as their body type and genes allow — and then loving that body no matter what. Continue reading

Fresh Faces on Board

Baby on BoardWe are incredibly excited to see in the Chronicle of Philanthropy that the nation’s top universities are placing M.B.A. students on nonprofit boards for a semester of service.  The students gain knowledge of the nonprofit sector and the community change process.  At the same time, nonprofits benefit from the students’ knowledge of the newest business practices as well as gain perspective on the young professional culture.

“Older board members ‘are somewhat removed from the state-of-the-art business tools,’ says Dan Cain, a Columbia alumnus and investment banker who served as a mentor to Ms. Poirier during her service on the Rockwell museum board. Older trustees, he notes, may not know how to market the charity via the Internet, for example.”

Most importantly, this type of program holds the potential to change how the nonprofit sector views diversity.  Nonprofits are reconsidering their idea of diveristy at the highest levels of governance and bringing in new perspectives to guide decision-making.  For nonprofits, the new insight provided by younger board members may mean a new way of tackling community issues.  For young professionals, this means new doors in community-level leadership are opening.

“It sort of breaks through that barrier that says you have to have a lot of money or a lot of connections or a lot of business experience to serve on a board…’A lot of people my age don’t consider serving on a nonprofit board because they’re too young or don’t have a lot of experience,’ says Mr. Scrase, 31. Without the board fellowship program, he says, “I may have never considered sitting on a board in the capacity I have until I was in my 40s or 50s'”

Chairman of the United Way Young Leaders Society, Matthew Menendez, recognized this same trend in central Alabama.  Under his leadership, United Way partnered with Catalyst and the Nonprofit Resource Center of Alabama to host the region’s first Board Connections event in 2007.  Board Connections is designed to introduce talented young professionals to nonprofits looking for fresh faces on their Board of Directors.  Planning for Board Connections 2008 is already in the works and applications for this year’s event will be released later this summer on this website.

In the meantime, we pose a question:  If the trend of recruiting and engaging young leaders in Birmingham at the highest level of decision-making was adopted throughout the community, what would Birmingham look like?  What would be different?

Corporate Social Responsibility

Given the recent economic hard times, a lot of economists and social commentators are asking whether the new trend toward corporate social responsibility (CSR) can survive a recession.  After hearing the question a few times we stumbled across this gem from Intel’s CSR blog.

Money quote:

It might be fair to ask if a certain business, product line or initiative would be hurt by a recession – but the WAY you conduct business doesn’t stop in a period of uncertainty.

You’re probably saying to yourself “only a tech company would be trendy enough to be into CSR and have a blog about it.” You may be right about the blog, but at least one local company has been lauded for its corporate responsibility and it isn’t exactly a tech company. So what do you think, will the economy hurt this move toward more responsible business or is CSR here to stay? Also, what do you think the role of the not-for-profit should be in this new, more responsible business climate? Organizations like United Way have built a strong reputation as philanthropic advisers to donors and corporations both locally and nationally. As companies seek to streamline costs as much as possible do you anticipate social impact strategies will continue to be outsourced to non-profits or will companies bring this work in-house? What about at your company? What will you do when you’re CEO?

If you’re interested in hearing more about CSR or how it looks at a local company, we still have a couple seats available at our Lunch & Learn with Vulcan Materials CEO, Don James.  Mr. James was the CEO of the year in Birmingham in 2007 and he will be sure to lead an entertaining and engaging conversation.

Event details:
Lunch & Learn with Vulcan Materials CEO, Don James
When: June 24th @ 11:30
Where: 1200 Urban Center Dr, Birmingham, AL. Click here for a map.

Lunch is provided.

*RSVP by Friday, June 13th is required.
Please email us at youngleaders@uwca.org to reserve a seat.



New magazine focuses on state-wide issues

A new homegrown magazine,Thicket, seeks to highlight what it means to live in Alabama.  Editor-in-Chief, Julie Keith, emphasizes the state-wide focus of the publication. 

“According to her editor’s letter in Thicket‘s inaugural issue, Keith saw a need for a magazine that covers the entire state, not just one region. She hopes it will touch on Alabama’s ‘politics, food, business, health, arts, sports, culture, family, education, homes, gardens, philanthropy, history, faith, books, music, and the environment'”

This type of publication may work to expand the boarders of what some Alabamians consider their community.  So, the next time you are in the check-out lane at the store, take a look at the state and local issues highlighted in Thicket and let us know what you think.

How to Survive a Disaster

Time magazine’s most recent cover story asks the question, “How do you survive a disaster?” In our tornado prone region, we rely on alerts from the national weather service and local news stations to tell us if we are in danger.  However, is advanced warning enough?  What if a disaster strikes and quick action can save you, your colleagues, or your family?  Do you know what to do?

“We have technological advantages that our ancestors lacked, and we know where disasters are likely to occur. And yet we flirt shamelessly with risk. We rely on a sprawling network of faraway suppliers for necessities like warmth and food. If the power cuts off, many of us still don’t know where the stairs are in our skyscrapers, and we would have trouble surviving for a week without Wal-Mart. Hurricane season starts June 1, and forecasters predict a worse-than-average summer. But for many of us, preparation means little more than crossing our fingers and hoping to live.”

United Way is working with community partners throughout central Alabama to raise awareness about the importance of disaster preparedness through Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) chapters.  These community groups help local businesses, nonprofit organizations, faith-based groups, and volunteers identify the resources and information they need to react quickly to aid their family, neighbors, or friends in the event of a disaster.

Resources are available to help your business, community organization, or family prepare for a disaster.  If you are interested in participating in free disaster preparedness or survival training, please contact United Way Young Leaders for more information at youngleaders@uwca.org.