Welcome to The Dean’s List! The Dean’s List will profile up-and-comers in Memphis who are certain to be the next group of leaders in the nonprofit, corporate, government, and faith communities. The Dean’s List is curated by Kevin Dean.
The nonprofit world is constantly evolving to reflect the changes in technology, motivations, and best practices that will entice the newest generation of donors and volunteers. Twenty years ago, volunteers would have to call to request a volunteer application from a nonprofit and wait days to receive it in the mail. Today, volunteers can register online in three minutes with the click of a button on a nonprofit’s tweet. Donations are now mostly online, and social media is the biggest connector to causes people care about. Younger generations want instant access to the causes they love, and the competition among nonprofits is greater than ever. (According to the Alliance for Nonprofit Excellence, there are now more than 5000 nonprofits in the Mid-South!)
Understanding this change has been a source of worry for nonprofits, but United Way of the Mid-South is one step ahead, engaging younger volunteers and leaders through a series of programs managed by Karlisa Kuykindall. Kuykindall, 30, serves on the community engagement team at United Way of the Mid-South, and her work revolves around connecting millennials to the work and mission of the organization. “We (millennials) have to feel connected to a cause or mission to get involved, Kuykindall said.
Kuykindall, a native Memphian who was raised in Whitehaven, holds a degree in communications from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville and a Masters in Public Administration from Tennessee State University. When she isn’t finding new ways to promote United Way’s mission on Twitter or holding lunch and learns for millennials, she takes baking classes to perfect her pound cake recipe and enjoys the arts scene.
We chose Karlisa because of her awesome role engaging up and coming talent in Memphis, connecting them to important work by United Way of the Mid-South and its many partner agencies. Karlisa has a bright future ahead of her as a millennial superstar in Memphis!
If you could describe Memphis in three words, what would they be?
Honest, Soulful, Misunderstood
What led you to work at United Way of the Mid-South?
I’ve always wanted to be a part of making a difference, and United Way gave me an opportunity to make a difference in my community and serve people who are really in need. We support over 80 partner agencies, and they touch the lives of so many individuals under the pillars of education, income, and health. It was an opportunity to truly make an impact in Memphis.
You work to increase participation in United Way activities among millennials. Why is this work important?
This work is important because millennials will make up over 50 percent of the global workforce by 2020. Now is the time to start grooming the next generation with opportunities to make an impact in their community. We have to plant the seed now, with youth and college students. Millennials are the future VPs, and CEOs of organizations and corporations, if the values of making a difference are instilled in them now, they will be able to lead their companies in supporting the work of United Way. Millennials ask more questions; we are curious, and we want to be a part of a direct impact in the community in different ways. It could be volunteering, public speaking, mentoring, and or engaging in community issues and connecting with community leaders. We have to feel connected to a cause or mission to get involved.
What is the favorite part of your job?
I love connecting people. I also work with Youth United Way, a group of high school and middle school students on the weekends. We focus on college career readiness, community service, and life skills. I love showing them new things and exposing them to great leaders and organizations in Memphis. They are great kids and a lot of fun.
I love hosting community events and lunch and learns with the young professionals. Bringing people together to learn about how they can make an impact in their community is a great feeling. The United Way Emerging Leaders Advisory Committee is great! And they take the lead on planning events and different service opportunities.
What do you think some of the most pressing issues that millennials face in Memphis?
I think millennials are fighting to be heard in the workplace. They have great ideas; that can sometimes be pushed aside because of their age or them being new to an organization. I think it’s so important to mix the old with the new. Moving forward, I believe we should embrace new ideas and learn from the past. We have to let the foundation that has been built, lead us in the right direction. Also, I think that millennials want opportunities for upward mobility. We want to be able to move up the ladder in an organization.
What strengths do millennials have that can be harnessed for strengthening United Way?
Millennials have a fresh take on things. They have a way of simplifying processes that forces us to get straight to the point.
Again, Millennials are curious, and they ask more questions, and they challenge us to focus on the ‘why” and connecting the dots of our mission to their lives.
Millennials are challenging us to grow and move toward the future with innovative ideas that will help our mission to thrive in the future.
What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever seen in Memphis?
The Mississippi River flooding Tom Lee Park
What are your three favorite restaurants?
- Taziki’s Mediterranean Café
- The Farmer
Who are three people destined to change Memphis (and why)?
Dr. Mario Brown, Manager for Leader Assessment and Development at First Horizon National Corporation
His life’s work is around discovering the nuances that motivate and influence individuals to realize their full potential. I’ve witnessed quite a few of his workshops, he is a phenomenal speaker and has so much to give to organizations. As long as he continues to spread his knowledge, individuals and organizations will only get better in Memphis.
Kevin Woods, Executive Director of the Workforce Investment Network
Kevin Woods is the Executive Director of Workforce Investment Network, where he and his colleagues assist Memphis, Shelby County, and Fayette County with improving employment opportunities for its citizens. His work of connecting job seekers with employment opportunities as well as grooming them with interview skills, soft skills and updating their resume is a sure way to get people out of poverty in the city of Memphis.
Walter Casey, Director of Lester Community Center
He has been the only director of the Lester Community Center for 35 years. He lives in Binghampton and goes to church in the community. Lester Community Center offers over a dozen programs to children ages 5 to 18. They include football, basketball, and even teaching nutritional health classes. Casey and his team also provide 125 lunch meals a day to students who are registered with the center. The lunch is provided by Shelby County school system to ensure that every child receives a healthy meal. He has and still is making an impact in the Binghampton community by servicing the youth with extracurricular activities to ensure they are on the road to success.
What are your favorite things to do in Memphis on the weekends?
I enjoy plays at the Hatiloo Theatre or the Orpheum, live music at the Zebra Lounge, and hanging out with friends at Local.