By Steve Peters
It’s been an exciting summer for Rutland Young Professionals. For starters, we recently celebrated five years as an organization.
When I moved to Rutland seven years ago, RYP had yet to exist, though the interest and effort to get such a group going was already percolating. And that was lucky for me. I spent my first several months in Rutland mostly keeping to myself and volunteering at my out-of-town AmeriCorps position.
It wasn’t until I started attending events of the previous and current iteration of Rutland’s young professionals groups that I met many of the friends I have in Rutland today and obtained at least two of the jobs I’ve had in the past several years. Then it wasn’t long before I got involved with the organization and then joined the board in 2014.
In other words, there’s tremendous value in what we do, especially now, at a time when our community is actively looking to attract a younger demographic to help balance Vermont’s aging population. Had I not met the people I did through RYP or benefited from its mere existence, it’s likely I would have left town.
To be honest, I never planned to stay here as long as I have. But I’ve learned a couple of things in my time in Rutland. One, there is no shortage of opportunities to get involved and make a difference. And two, you don’t get to complain if you’re not contributing in some way. Even then, complaining does little to improve anything and it perpetuates frustration.
Yet, it’s my personal experiences with the organization that keep me motivated to further RYP’s mission. I was happy to take over the role of board president this summer, though skeptical I could fill the shoes of our past presidents: Will Gormly, Sara Gilbert and Katye Munger, who helped lead all that we’ve accomplished thus far.
Luckily, we have a strong board, and six new board members recently joined the effort as well, including: Erin Anderson, Travis Beauchamp, Shannon Poole, Kim Rupe, Joshua Lake and Charles Romeo. I look forward to working with them over the next year, along with existing board members: Laura Pierce, Lyz Tomsuden, Will Gormly and Leslie Doenges. It’s certainly a talented and dedicated group!
As I’ve also learned in my time in Rutland and involvement with various nonprofit organizations, there’s the constant expectation of needing to do more. On one hand, that’s good. I firmly believe that stagnation is the path to becoming obsolete. On the other hand, continuing to take on more and more is a great way to burn out a nonprofit that is likely operating with limited resources and staff. Or — in the case of RYP — no staff. Everything that we do is more or less done entirely by the efforts of our volunteer board members. For five years we’ve existed without a paid staff member and a rather small budget for the difference I believe we’re making in the community. That’s a huge impact. But the key is finding a way to make it sustainable.
Rather than focusing on how we can do more, I like to start with looking at how can we do better. That’s why, a few months back, our board took the time to evaluate our strengths, weaknesses and everything in between. A SWAT analysis is always a hefty task. You have to stop patting yourself on the back for a bit and recognize what isn’t being done well and what you’re missing out on. It can be awkward, but it’s something that organizations should always take the time to do periodically.
Out of that effort, we set some goals for the coming months that I feel good about. I believe they’re realistic and achievable. While doing more and doing better aren’t mutually exclusive, it’s my hope that we can improve the many programs and services we’re already offering before adding more to the plate of a group of volunteers. That’s why our goals include items such as improving and growing our relationships with our members, making sure we’re effectively communicating what it is we’re doing, finding ways to make our events unique and appealing and ensuring our future sustainability.
Steve Peters is the new board president of RYP. He is also the Executive Director of the Downtown Rutland Partnership, a board member of the Rutland Area Food Co-op, a local writer and a cooking and gardening enthusiast.