Blog: Angela Kujava

Puppeteering and robot-rigging are no small perks when it comes to Angela Kujava's volunteer work. A certified financial planner and investment management analyst, Angela is also the board president for 826Michigan and co-founder of YP Underground. Over just one week she'll make a strong case for Gen X and Y to lead non-profits, build retirement funds, and turn business networking connections into true friendships.

Angela Kujava - Post 3: Serve rather than preside

Millennials, so many attempts have been made to define the characteristics of you Gen Y-ers I'm surprised you're not yet the subject of a 300-level cultural anthropology class. Perhaps it hasn't been consequentially different for previous generations entering the workforce, but it just seems that tomes of information are being collected to answer the questions "who are they?" and "what on earth do they want?" (Read that with as much breathless paranoia as you feel it deserves.)  I wonder, do you sit in focus groups and take bets as to when it will eventually happen that some Boomer just outright pokes you with a stick?

One thing about you is certain, as shown by consensus of countless reports—you're civic-minded, ambitious and team-oriented. They also say you're also mind-bogglingly mollycoddled and won't do anything unless you walk away with a trophy. Yikes.

So, you deeply care about making an impact with your life.  As a whole, I'm certain this can be said of any age group. How Millenials are unique, and apparently stupefying to the establishment, is in their collaborative approach to attaining influence and power. Gen X strived to be individualistic; Gen Y fostered social networking groups that connect millions.

The Wall Street Journal recently blogged about the rules of online engagement as set by the Facebook Generation. One striking header "Leaders serve rather than preside" best sums a plea I believe your non-profit community is making to you.

As I’m sure it's been mentioned in this publication, there are approximately 300 non-profit organizations in Washtenaw County alone, and they are screaming for new blood. Sitting on the board of directors for a local charitable organization is not reserved for the stodgy and semi-retired. 

In January 2007 I walked into an office suite painted intermittently hot pink, neon green, bright turquoise and polka dot.  And there were monsters everywhere. Children walked in with wide grins and open minds to sit in this place and write. Not play—pen to paper writing. The Executive Director of 826michigan will very kindly argue that I was professional and polite, but I'll tell you it was an all-out ambush—I had to be a part of this.

Today we're in a different facility where the walls are plums and greens, but the store is still turquoise. There are no monsters, as they went on strike and have been replaced by robots. We fundraise with these robots in the Liberty Street Robot Supply & Repair store, and by organizing such events as an annual Mustache-A-Thon, Mittenfest, The Love Hangover and 24-Hour Theater. It is, by far, the coolest enterprise in which I have been involved.

It has also proven to be the most powerful forum to hone and contribute my leadership ability. Among other accomplishments of 826michigan in the 2+ years I have served on the Board we have: made major real estate decisions and transactions to relocate downtown, completely changed our brand identity, and opened a quirky niche retail store that is thus far thriving.

The point of this gushing is not to convince you that 826michigan and its people are incredibly awesome (though it is and they are).  I'm making an attempt to impress you before I tell you the part that still blows my mind sometimes. In each of these weighty decisions, as a board member and regardless of age, my opinion counted.  Whether or not one's views are in harmony with the end choice, each board member is considered an equally crucial part of the discussion. It's a heady feeling, but a great responsibility.

Step up and serve as a fiduciary on a board of directors. Find the organization that speaks to you, that causes you to ninja ambush the director (metaphorically, of course) and tell him/her why you absolutely have to be involved. NEW not only offers inexpensive classes teaching you your responsibilities as a board member, they will set you up with BoardConnect—think for you and non-profit organizations—so you can seek out your passion, or help it find you.

This is allegedly the exact sort of thing you want, Gen Y.  In return for it you'll create a vast network of associates, develop skills you may not otherwise in your chosen field of employ, and some of you may even find that your voice is much louder and more confident than you’d suspected.

Leaders serve rather than preside.  It's your schtick, and it's vital you act upon it.  And service is an unbelievable reward.

Angela is on the cusp of Gens X and Y and flits back and forth between the two as it suits her mood.

This post originally appeared in Concentrate.