The Philadelphia Business Journal – Bizwomen Mentoring Monday Keynote Remarks


February 22, 2021

Good Morning

Thanks so much for inviting me to this wonderful event. We have a large intern program at Girls Inc. about 60 college students intern with us each year. One of my favorite parts of my job, is helping these young women kick off their careers with significant work experiences and in some cases offering them their first full time job with benefits – so I’m very happy to be here with you today.

What I wanted to talk to you about is the importance of including nonprofit engagement through paid work or volunteerism in your comprehensive career planning. It is not just that it feels good to give back through donations of time, talent or treasure to a cause that is meaningful to you, it also makes professional sense. Most of my career was in the for-profit corporate world and as I was coming up in the late 80s and 90s, no one in HR or my supervisors talked to me about how my commitment to community would be seen positively as I sought increasingly higher profile positions. Now it is expected. Community engagement and philanthropy are at the top of mind of all major companies, and they expect their rising stars to be engaging at a significant level. If you look at the resumes of the mentors here today – you will see that most happily highlight their not-for-profit service. So it’s not just that it feels good and makes a difference, it will help you in your career, because of how you will be perceived as someone with the same commitment to community as your employer, because of the perspective you gain and because of the networking opportunities volunteerism offers.

And when I talk about engagement – I mean real engagement, not a once a year $20 donation, but donating your time and serving on boards or committees. Getting started is not as hard as you might think, start by doing something you enjoy and where your time and talent is needed. Be a book buddy or fill food donation boxes or contribute your professional expertise in finance, marketing, social media, or strategy to support an organization’s core functions and mission.

The next thing I want to talk about is paid work in nonprofits. It’s not for everyone, the pay is generally lower compared to private corporations, which is an entirely separate and much needed conversation. People who work for nonprofits do it for many reasons, but mainly, it’s because of the why, the mission. For me, what gets me out of bed and working hard everyday is the mission, to inspire girls to be strong, smart, and bold. Helping girls and young women in our region’s under-resourced communities reach their potential is what drives me and why I love my job.
Since I started in my current position a little over six years ago – I have observed that many professionals, mostly women, who had achieved success in their corporate life are interested in transitioning to nonprofits. As a result, we are seeing a higher level of professionalism and technical competency in nonprofit staff and boards than was evident even 10 years ago. Some exploring the transition to not for profit are considering starting their own organizations, others want to be in leadership of existing ones and all ask what the most important ingredient is to making that transition and I always say, experience having served as a volunteer. Proving you know how hard it is and comfortable with the reality that the thanks come primarily in successfully serving and making a difference in your constituents’ lives.

If any of you are interested in learning more about careers in the nonprofit world or how to make volunteerism a part of your work life balance – please reach out – my email is in the chat.

Dena Herrin

Learn more about Bizwomen Mentoring Monday here.