A post to Exponent Philanthropy's blog

We Achieve Our Greatest Impact Through Nonprofit Leadership Training

“Whatever may be said about human beings, they are, as a whole, a family.”

Our co-founder, Helene Foellinger, stated this publicly in 1954 and cast the vision for the foundation she and her mother would create four years later. They believed that, as individuals and a community, we have a duty to uplift each other in our times of need. The Foellingers also believed in self-reliance and empowerment—helping people help themselves.

Foellinger Foundation enacts this vision in its grant programming and leadership training, positioning nonprofits and their leaders to focus their resources on fulfilling their missions.

We continue to evolve and explore new ways to empower nonprofit leaders to build a better community—like with our recent Breakthrough Fund that invited nonprofits to submit an “out-of-the-box” idea that may help solve crucial and compelling social issues—but we know we can have the greatest impact when we directly offer leadership training to nonprofit leaders.

Building Adaptive Leaders

At the core of the most effective organizations, and therefore the most engaged communities, are adaptive leaders. But those leaders don’t appear overnight. They focus their entire careers on consistent and purposeful engagement, training, and learning.

The amount of time and resources an organization puts into professional development is crucial to effective leadership—and even more crucial for our nonprofit leaders. Yet, according to Fund the People, foundations invested less than 1% of charitable dollars in recruitment, retention, compensation, development, or retirement of nonprofit talent between 1992 and 2011.

Foellinger Foundation invested 9.3% of our charitable dollars to leadership initiatives in fiscal year 2017.

In 2016, we launched the Helene Foellinger Leadership Development Initiative, investing more than $800,000 in three different programs for nonprofit leaders: Executive Leaders, Rising Leaders, and Board Members.

As of spring 2018, we’ve graduated two cohorts of Rising Leaders and one cohort of Executive Leaders. These participants completed a variety of assessments that helped them understand strengths, talents, challenges, and motivators. They also participated in unique experiential activities that address learning objectives.

We’ve learned much about the value of leadership training from the individuals who participated.  Here are comments from two:  

“I participated in the Foellinger Rising Leader training last year as an employee of Early Childhood Alliance. I feel like I’m a Foellinger success story and so very thankful for the tools you provided me. I will be using the training on a daily basis in my new role as Executive Director of Super Shot.” —Connie Heflin, Rising Leader Program Participant

“The Executive Leader program through Foellinger Foundation has been one of the finest opportunities I’ve ever experienced as a nonprofit director. I believe this investment in me, as a professional, will yield excellent results for my organization for years and years to come. Not only has the program given me new skillsets, it’s helped me discover my own strengths and taught me invaluable lessons about time management, balance, communication, and strategy – and all alongside a cohort of professional peers with whom I’m now collaborating for combined efforts to improve our city as a whole. What a gift for me, my organization, and the community at large!” —Jessica J. Henry, Executive Director, Allen County SPCA, Executive Leader Program Participant

These learning opportunities for nonprofit leaders are designed to enhance their abilities to address complex community issues and design innovative strategies with the goal of securing a better future for our community residents—true to our donor intent.

Cheryl Taylor has been president and CEO of the Foellinger Foundation since 2001 and a member of its board of directors since 2002. She serves on its executive, investment, and finance committees, and provides staff support for its board development committee. She also serves on the board of directors of Community Partnerships, Inc.

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