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Leadership Institute Providing Opportunities for Growth

Annette Look, NPLI Program Manager

We consider ourselves fortunate at the Nonprofit Leadership Initiative to be part of the professional development journey of so many nonprofit leaders.

This year we’re working alongside 15 nonprofit leaders who are investing in their professional development and becoming stronger leaders through participation in the Leadership Institute.

Harper Smith and Marci Hoffman

During this year-long, cohort-based program, nonprofit senior leaders participate in 10 educational modules which help hone their nonprofit management skills, so they can more effectively lead their organization.

I had the privilege of being part of the February board meeting simulation module. In a safe learning environment, cohort members present a topic to their “board” and manage the ensuing discussion. After the 20-minute board meeting, the group spends 10 minutes providing feedback and advice.

Laura Jones

I was a board member for three members of the cohort – Harper Smith, program manager, Fox Valley Memory Project; Laura Jones, social and community outreach service director, African Heritage Inc.; and Marci Hoffman, who began the program with the Trout Museum of Art and now works with UW-Green Bay Graduate Studies. Before we started the exercise Harper, Marci and Laura shared they were a little anxious about their presentations but appreciated having the opportunity to do a practice run before presenting their issue to their real board.

Harper Smith

After the simulation, Harper shared, “I got such valuable experience and input that won’t only impact my leadership development, but also the work I do at my organization.”

As each presented their topic, engaged in stimulated discussion, and received feedback, I felt like I was witnessing professional growth in the moment.

Marci Hoffman

“My presentation itself wasn’t my best work, but the feedback, open discussion, and fully engaged board members provided me with valuable insights that I was able to implement that same day, literally,” Marci commented. “The direction and ideas shared with me made a very complicated issue seem achievable. I was able to develop a plan of action as soon as I returned to my office.”

Some of the volunteer board members are former Leadership Institute graduates, including 2019 graduate Oliver Zornow, executive director of Building for Kids. “The board simulation provides an incredible opportunity to learn about the great work being done by nonprofit leaders in our community. The depth of discussion and willingness to be vulnerable while sharing their topics leaves me inspired.”

Not only does each cohort member present, but they also serve as part of the mock board, which provides an additional learning opportunity. “Having the opportunity to connect with students from previous cohorts was great,” Laura shared. “I really enjoyed the exercise because it allowed me to practice and perfect skills when it comes to leading a board discussion. Watching my other cohort members lead, and in return provide advice and help them navigate through real topics, was impactful.”

I’d venture to say I wasn’t the only one feeling fortunate that day.

The Nonprofit Leadership Initiative within the Community Foundation is a partnership of Fox Valley-area nonprofits, funders, educational institutions and businesses dedicated to providing resources needed by effective nonprofit boards and executive leaders. NPLI offers a wide range of leadership, management and technical skill-building programs, as well as peer learning circles, to the entire nonprofit sector in the Fox Valley.

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