Funding Leadership Training in the Nonprofit Sector

Leadership training and education is an important part of keeping nonprofits healthy, especially when it comes to transitioning between CEOs or other major leadership positions. The problem is, different organizations take different views on what kind of training is needed and funders have different ideas of what kind of training is worth funding. But according to Bridgespan, a nonprofit organization that works with other groups to improve leadership and subsequent impact, there is a gulf between what funders fund and what grantees need.

Much of this seems to come down to the ability of organizations to communicate their needs to funders, but in order to do that, the organization needs to understand what those needs are in the first place. Some might put the focus on individual training of leaders or even employees who could transition into such roles. Others might put the focus on larger changes to organizational culture, allowing them to instill certain leadership mentalities in employees across the board, hoping to improve the group as a whole.

What works for one nonprofit isn’t necessarily going to work for another, and figuring out what works in a given organization may take time and effort, all of which needs to be funded in the first place. As with so many other aspects of the nonprofit sector, the key to doing so is transparency. Donors need to know how money is being spent, and if that includes exploratory studies to figure out the best way to educate an organization’s leaders in order to improve its ability to follow through with it’s mission, then they need to know that.

Of course, once an organization knows what kinds of leadership training it needs to engage in to improve impact, that needs to be made clear as well. Funders want to help nonprofits achieve their missions, and if the argument can be made that leadership training will improve the chances of doing that, then those efforts should be able to secure funding.

Organizations Resources

Alternatives in Action Fosters Leadership Among Bay Area Youth

Alternatives in Action
IMG: via AIA

Alternatives in Action (AIA) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping youth in the Bay Area realize their leadership potential. Founded in 1994 with the vision of bettering the quality of life for children and teens in the greater Bay Area, AIA has spent the last two decades empowering young people through educational and community-based programs.

“We envision generations of young adults inspired and prepared to take meaningful action that positively transforms their lives and their communities,” explains AIA in regards to the original vision of the organization’s founders. AIA’s mission is to inspire Bay Area youth to realize their leadership potential, while simultaneously preparing them for college, future careers, and continual community involvement. AIA provides skill-building and other educational programs designed around real-world scenarios. Essentially, the organization aims to foster empowered young adults and provide them with the tools to improve their own communities.

AIA provides educational programs for high school students at the Alternatives in Action High School, the first youth-initiated charter high school in the country, at its Home Sweet Home Preschool, as well as in other community programs that partner with school staff, youth, and parents to create even more learning opportunities. AIA’s high school offers small class sizes, college and career counseling, and many leadership opportunities for teens. Its preschool, Home Sweet Home, supports working families of all kinds, offering enriching educational programs for young children, as well as affordable day care.

AIA has found immense success by fostering leadership in youth from a very early age, and by including families and educators in the process. The organization’s community programs, in accordance with its academic efforts, are what make it such a wide-reaching and empowering program. One of AIA’s youth members, Amanda, explains, “my peers and I were able to accomplish things I never imagined could be possible,” of the way she was empowered by AIA. Hers and other stories are compelling examples of the effectiveness of community-based programs, hands-on education, and the dedication of mentors and families.

Read other stories and learn more about Alternatives in Action by visiting the organization’s website.

Organizations Resources

A Shot at the Ivy Leagues

Ivy League
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New York City is a hotbed for creative, talented minorities who may never make it out of Brooklyn.  This is a shame because everyone else could benefit from their immense talent.  The problem is that there are not enough resources to supplement ordinary schooling.

A Harvard and Stanford study that came out this year emphasized the inadequacy of how low-income students are represented at selective colleges and universities.  What it showed was that “only 34 percent of the highest-achieving high-school seniors whose families fell in the bottom quarter of income distribution – versus 78 percent in the top quarter – attended one of the country’s most selective colleges, based on a list of nearly 250 schools compiled by Barron’s.”

However, the good news is that there are scouts in New York City seeking out the best and brightest.  In 1978, Gary Simons, a teacher from the Bronx, founded Prep for Prep.  His goal was to find talented students of color and prepare them to go to private schools.  So far, hundreds of his students have gone on to law, medicine, and business schools and work at some of the most prestigious firms.

Feeling that Prep for Prep was not enough, Simons and others later founded Leadership Enterprise for a Diverse America, or LEDA.  Their aim was to seek out and advance the best students from public high schools from around the country regardless of race.  Yet, almost all the students come from families who earn less than $55,000 per year.

Another popular program is Sponsors for Educational Opportunities, or S.E.O., whose mission is to provide “supe­rior edu­ca­tional and career pro­grams to young peo­ple from under-­served com­mu­ni­ties to max­i­mize their oppor­tu­ni­ties for col­lege and career success.”

When you look at the success rate of students who have attended programs LEDA and S.E.O., you can see why wealthy donors would want to contribute funding.  Recently Henry Kravis pledged $4 million in matching funds to S.E.O., which must have surely been a happy surprise.

The training they provide goes side-by-side with regular schooling to give exceptional students a shot at success.  S.E.O. was started by Manhattan lawyers and advertising executives over 50 years ago, yet it is still as successful as ever.

Organizations Profiles

Michigan Teens Take Action

michigan community foundation
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In the late 1990’s, the Kellogg Foundation issued a challenge in Michigan called the Michigan Community Youth Foundations Project.  The foundation would match 50% of funds raised by young people in order to create an endowment fund for community projects.  Today, the fund created by teens is worth $40 million altogether and awards up to $2.5 million annually.  The fund is managed by 86 groups around the Michigan known as Youth Action Committees.  The groups are comprised of young volunteers that learn how to write grants, engage a volunteer base and manage financial assets for non-profits.  Many teens say that their biggest takeaway from participating is learning that one person can make a difference in their community.  Several of them go on to pursue degrees in social work.

The Kellogg foundation believes that by investing in youth over an eighteen year period, it will help form a new generation of passionate citizens that will continue the charitable efforts for several generations after the initial funding period has ended.  As these children progress through adulthood, they will be more involved in their respective communities and contribute to the well-being of others throughout their lives.  Using fund matching is a way to engage volunteers and motivate them to participate in all aspects of the charity.

The project also sponsors leadership conferences and internships for participants and awards standout achievements.  Last year, one active group awarded over $40,000 in grants to nonprofits and schools in the local community.  Children as young as seven also participated by writing grants on projects with subjects that ranged from environmental conservation to anti-bullying.

Organizations Profiles Resources

Henry Kravis Leadership Prize Goes to Olympian Johann Olav Koss

Henry R Kravis Prize in Leadership
IMG: via Business Wire

Four-time Olympic gold medalist Johann Olav Koss is considered one of the best speed skaters the world has ever seen. But he’s done more than win Olympic gold medals for his athletic skills: he’s also the founder of Right To Play, an international nonprofit organization that uses the power of play to help children overcome adversity. And now Koss has one more reason to keep changing children’s lives—he’s been awarded the lucrative Henry R. Kravis Prize in Leadership for 2013.

The $250,000 prize is in its eighth year and seeks to recognize extraordinary leadership in the nonprofit sector. The prize will formally be awarded to Koss on April 18th, and the money will go toward supporting programs and events put on by Right To Play.

Henry Kravis, private equity mogul and founder of the prize, says that Right To Play and all other recipients of the prize “have a real and measurable impact in the community. Johann Olav Koss is not only a champion in his native country and a true hero for aspiring athletes, his legacy also now includes transforming the lives of hundreds of thousands of children through something as simple as the opportunity to play sports.”

In its twelve years of live, Right To Play has reached over one million children in 20 countries, helping to teach them skills that will allow them to overcome current adversity and create a better future for themselves. Right To Play also helps promote social change within communities, working with girls, boys, people with disabilities, those affected by HIV/AIDS, former combatants and refugees.

“Play can help children overcome adversity and understand there are people who believe in them,” Koss said. “We would like every child to understand and accept their own abilities, and to have hopes and dreams. But also, to have respect for the person on the other side of the field or who has been on the other side of conflict.”

For more information, check out our full profile of the Henry R. Kravis Prize in Leadership.


Organizations Resources

The Posse Foundation

posse foundation
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The Posse Foundation was founded in 1989 to identify high school students with “extraordinary academic and leadership potential” that may otherwise be overlooked by colleges and universities during the selection process. Posse is now one of the best youth leadership development programs in the nation. In the twenty years since it began, Posse partner colleges have awarded $486 million in leadership scholarships to young leaders.

Posse uses an alternative set of indicators to predict academic success in college. It identifies promising students and extends to them the opportunity to join a “posse” of 10 students to pursue personal and academic excellence in a multicultural environment. A select set of universities have partnered with the Posse Foundation and award Posse Scholars four-year, full-tuition leadership scholarships.

The graduation rate for Posse Scholars is an astounding 90 percent—and to think these students may have once been overlooked. Last year, Moody’s CEO Ray McDaniel was awarded the Posse Star Award for Moody’s leadership, support of, and contributions to the Posse Foundation.

“Posse alumni that currently work at Moody’s are extremely competent,” said Executive Director Gus Harris. “I’m also impressed with their professionalism.” Since 2006, Moody’s has hired 18 Posse Scholar interns. CEO RayMcDaniel cites the similarities between the way Moody’s ratings committees work and the way posses work.

“Diversity is valuable because we are in the risk assessment business,” McDaniel says. “We want to make sure we have the widest spectrum of perspectives available in that assessment that we can.”

“The way that posse approaches diverse teams… it’s the same way that we work,” he says, continuing on to joke that, “We probably really should think about renaming our rating committees as rating posses.”

Posse CEO Matt Fasciano praised Ray McDaniel and Moody’s, saying “[they have] been an incredible partner through the Posse Foundation, really helping scholars think ahead to their transition from being leaders on campus to being leaders in the workforce.”

Read our entire profile on Moody’s CEO Ray McDaniel here.