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Jump Start 2015: Get Involved!

Joanna Humphrey Flynn (right) and Rachel Cossar of the Boston Ballet Young Partners 
Amy Breckenridge of the Animal Rescue League Young Professionals group
We're devoted to our family, friends, work... and probably a few other causes as well! Whether your passion is animals, the arts, politics, sports (or hey, even fashion!) there is a Boston organization that could use your help. Many of us are interested in giving a little time and expertise to a great cause, but are unsure where to start. So for the final installment of the Jump Start 2015 series, I spoke to two incredible Boston women about two incredible local organizations. Amy Breckenridge, co-chair of the Animal Rescue League Young Professionals group advisory board and Joanna Humphrey Flynn, vice chair of the Boston Ballet Young Partners have fantastic advice on the best ways to get involved.

How did you get involved in your organization?

AB: My involvement with the Animal Rescue League (ARL) Young Professionals group was kind of a long time coming! I've been passionate about animals since I was a kid and I feel the happiest and calmest when I'm spending time with animals. I truly believe that being around them is therapeutic for humans. When I got my own apartment in 2010, I adopted my cat Phoebe at the ARL's South End location. I became a monthly donor and stayed involved with the ARL - I even brought my company in once a year to volunteer! This past May, I decided to foster two kittens and ended up adopting one - my little Oliver! When the ARL started the Young Professionals group, it was a natural fit for me to join and I was eventually named co-chair of the YP group advisory board because of my history with the organization.

JHF: My parents are huge supporters of the ballet so I grew up with it - in fact, I was at the Nutcracker at just one week old! Of course, I danced (until I gave it up for gymnastics in 5th grade) and have always gone to the performances, but what really inspired me to get involved was something my mother said. When I asked her why she is so committed to the ballet, she told me there is so much hate, death and sickness in the world, that she really wanted to devote her time to supporting something that feeds the soul - I couldn't agree more. I want to do my part in making sure that Boston continues to be the home of one of the best ballets in the world. Not many cities can say that.

What does your organization do? 

AB: The group is still pretty new, but our main goal is to get young professionals more involved with the shelter in any and every way possible! The ARL's marketing has historically been geared towards older adults, so we're trying to reach a whole new subset of people who are also passionate about animal welfare. The board focuses on four main areas: recruiting new members, planning events (ranging from cocktail hours to Q&A sessions with ARL vets), promoting service advocacy, and gaining new sponsorships. Anyone who is part of the YP group and attends our events is helping us spread the word about our mission to help every animal find their forever home!

JHF: The Boston Ballet Young Partners (BBYP) is a group of young professionals who enjoy the arts and are interested in getting to know other like-minded people. We are the next generation of the Boston Ballet family and it is up to us to ensure there is ongoing support for not only the professional company but also the critical community partnerships the organization has with the Boston Public Schools - often, these programs are the only arts education some children have access to.

Rachel and Joanna scope out some of Boston Ballet's costumes
What are some of your responsibilities within the group?

AB: I help organize and plan both the advisory board meetings and YP group events, leverage my social media networks to share information about adoptable animals, events and fundraising, attend events as an ARL rep to answer questions and recruit new members, and brainstorm new ways to spread the word about the ARL in the Boston area.

JHF: I am a vice-chair on the council, with co-chairs, Koren Phillips (a brilliant leader) and Rachel Cossar (one of the Boston Ballet’s stunning dancers). Our responsibility is to put together a calendar of events and programming that engages our members and educates them on what the ballet does beyond the stage. From the Boston Ballet school (the largest in the world), to the community programs like Boys in Motion (for inner city boys) and Adaptive Dance (for children with down syndrome), the ballet is more than the performance! Of course, we also provide our members exclusive access to the ballet through things like private tours or viewing production rehearsals. We even take classes lead by principal dancers (followed by wine, of course)! I’m constantly thinking of cool and interesting ways to get the message out that the ballet is not just about classic story productions; it offers so much more - a wide range of choreography, community programs, and super cool things like couture (have you seen the costumes? All handmade. In Boston. No joke.).

How has being part of your organization impacted your life? Have you been surprised by anything? 

AB: I would do anything in my power to help animals, and being part of the ARL YP group has given me one more way to do that. Since I can't adopt every animal in the shelter myself (trust me, I would if I could!) (Ed. note: I hear you!) it's been extremely rewarding to know that my work with the group is raising awareness for the ARL in the young, professional community and helping more animals find a loving family with which to spend their lives. I've been surprised by how quickly our group has grown and by how many young professionals are just as passionate about this cause as I am!

JHF: The ballet is no longer something that I just attend and enjoy, but something to which I belong. Through the volunteer programming, I’ve developed an appreciation for the impact dance can have; I’ve watched young people become stronger, more confident and disciplined through their experience with ballet. I’m surprised at how much it has changed the way I look at ballet – not only do I know more about all the detail, time and effort that goes into each production, but I finally have a group of people with whom I can talk about it! I love running into BBYP members during intermission and gushing about the elegance and grace with which Misa Kuranaga danced in "that one part of the Act" (which I now know is called a pas de deux… another thing the BBYP has taught me)! I appreciate the performance so much more and I enjoy the opportunity to be more reflective and insightful about it. I’ve also met so many people – some of my very closest friendships have come out of the group and I enjoy the people I meet at every event.

Learn more about the Animal Rescue League Young Professionals group here
Learn more about the Boston Ballet Young Partners here
Has your presence on the board helped you hone any skills? Given you experiences that have helped you grow? 

JHF: I have learned so much from co-chair Koren Philips. From how to run a meeting efficiently (on time start and finish!) to organization and getting things done within a non-profit, she is a superstar. It inspires leadership in me outside of the office. It’s a fresh environment that allows me to develop a voice that I may feel too timid to use in a conference room with my boss. In turn, I notice myself bringing some of that confidence, creativity and leadership into the workplace and helping me grow professionally.

What is your advice to someone who is interested in joining a service organization or board? 

AB: Start by thinking about what organizations or causes you're passionate about and how you can get more involved with them. Call them, email them, tweet them - let them know you're interested in making a difference! With some charity/non-profit boards, you have to put in at least a year of volunteering for the board before you can be elected to it, so show them how much you care by doing as much as your schedule permits. If your favorite charity or organization doesn't have a board or YP group, ask if you can start one yourself!

JHF: My best advice is to find something you are passionate about and commit to it. Even after a long day, I am always psyched to go to a BBYP meeting because I love the people on the council and I love what we do. It's amazing the amount of energy I can bring to a YP event when literally an hour before, I could barely keep my eyes open! If you are passionate and committed – people in the organization will notice and believe me, they are not too shy to ask for help. 

If you can’t put a finger on what makes you passionate, think about what you want to get out of your involvement. Do you want a network? Do you want access to resources? Do you want to feel as though you are a part of something bigger? Whatever it is, figure out what you want, and then research organizations that you think may fulfill that need. If you aren’t sure about an organization, or want to know more – always check out their member page as many of them will have contacts listed who are happy to grab a coffee and tell you more!

If you're interested in learning more about the Animal Rescue League's Young Professionals group, visit their webpage, or contact contact Amy Breckenridge.

If you would like to know more about the Boston Ballet Young Partners program, visit their webpage or contact Joanna Humphrey Flynn

I hope you enjoyed TBF's Jump Start 2015 series! If  you'd like to see more content like this, let me know in the comments. Be sure to check out the other posts in the series:
Get Organized
Up Your Game at the Office
Start Your Own Business

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  1. Love this! I love seeing women get involved in things they're passionate about!

    1. Me too! I had so much fun writing this series, and this post in particular!

  2. thank you so much for featuring me, and more importantly, the ARL!! :)

    1. It is such a wonderful organization, and does really great work. I hope the YP group continues to grow and thrive! Thanks for being a part of this post!

  3. Thank you so much Kristen for featuring the BBYP! Obsessed with this series - GIRL POWER!

    1. How fun is the BBYP?? You speak about it with such passion - I hope the group continues to grow!!

  4. Loved this series, and loved this post! I wish I had known about these organizations when I was still in Boston but you can bet I'll be finding out more in London!

  5. Anonymous2/01/2015

    What a fantastic article!! I am a dancer with the Boston Ballet and fellow counsel member of the BBYP - Joanna is such a lovely addition to the Boston Ballet family, we are so grateful for her, and all who reach out to grow the network of our community...Thank you for the feature!

  6. I am continuing to love this series! Wonderful to see Amy, a great friend, profiled here. She also volunteers for many other organizations. She's a true Wonder Woman!

  7. Jump Start 2015: Get Involved" is an inspiring call to action. This initiative empowers individuals to actively engage in their goals and aspirations. What Is Good By participating, one embraces a transformative journey towards a brighter jump.