A post to Exponent Philanthropy's blog

We Invest in Nonprofit Leaders: Here’s How

For most professionals who reach a nonprofit leadership position, the hard work is just beginning. As a leader’s responsibilities grow, more people depend on them for success in their own roles and the success of the organization. From managing resource challenges to the emotional demands of nonprofit work, leaders of these organizations often struggle to find their own support network.

In an effort to strengthen the nonprofit ecosystem in Allen County, Indiana, Foellinger Foundation established the Helene Foellinger Leadership Development Initiative, which provides developmental opportunities for nonprofit board and staff leaders.

A primary component of the initiative is the Foellinger Leadership Lab. The Leadership Lab consists of the Executive Leader Program and the Rising Leader Program. Both programs are geared toward encouraging nonprofit leaders to gain adaptive leadership skills. Both programs follow a similar curriculum, but there are distinct differences between them.

Making it personal—the Rising Leader Program

For participants, class time and experiential learning opportunities offered in the Foellinger Leadership Lab programs can be life changing, both professionally and personally.

Ewelina Connelly, Clinical Director at Amani Family Services, believes the Rising Leader Program’s secret ingredient is focusing on developing leaders as people:

Thanks to the Rising Leader Program, I was given countless opportunities to develop a deep and intimate relationship with the leader in me. Constantly juggling work and family responsibilities, there would never be another time I could focus on myself so consistently.

Anne Hall, Assistant Director at the Community Transportation Network, agrees that the Rising Leader Program is an important resource that inspires and restores nonprofit leaders.

In the video Ready to Lead, Ewelina and Anne share more about how the Rising Leader Program made them, and their organizations, stronger.

Coaching and collaboration—the Executive Leader Program

The Executive Leader Program is designed for nonprofit executive directors. Participants are paired with a certified executive coach, who is not local and who has significant nonprofit experience. The coach provides an outside perspective as they support leaders who are building on their existing strengths and competencies while addressing difficult issues, setting goals, uncovering blind spots, or imagining innovative approaches to their work.

The Executive Leader Program has been one of the finest opportunities I’ve ever experienced. I believe this investment in me, as a professional, will yield excellent results for the Allen County SPCA for years to come. Not only has the program given me new skill sets, it’s helped me discover my own strengths and taught me invaluable lessons about time management, balance, communication, and strategy—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 Henry, Executive Director, Allen County SPCA

Both the Rising and Executive Leader Programs advance the foundation’s overall mission to serve children and families with the greatest economic need and least opportunity by strengthening the leadership of nonprofit organizations who serve them.

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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