Strengthening our Nonprofit Leaders

| by Lori O'Keefe

This month's Guest blogger is Lori O'Keefe.  Lori serves as president of the Triangle Community Foundation. In addition to leading the operations and strategic vision of the Foundation, she works to ensure that the Foundation’s donors and fundholders are engaged and connected to the causes they care about, and oversees programs to support the Triangle’s entire nonprofit community for the benefit of our region.

“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself.  When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.” – Jack Welch

Our region stands tall on the foundation of great leadership from visionaries who were able to go after what they dreamed of for the Triangle, and build it for future generations. Those who saw community needs not only as challenges, but also as opportunities for change.  They built strong nonprofits that will sustain our growing population for many years. 

At Triangle Community Foundation we believe in a commitment to leadership. We believe that the value of strong leaders, working effectively for important causes in our region’s nonprofits, is essential to making impactful change for those who need it the most. And we put our money where our mouth is.  We recognize the importance of this type of investment so that nonprofits can adapt and grow as shifts in funding and collaborative investments become prominent.  Organizations are often being asked to address their accountability. Nonprofits in the Triangle aren’t continuing to do business as usual. Our leaders – board and staff – need to make sure they have the acumen and adaptive leadership to adjust to these changes.  

We are investing in board leadership and effectiveness in partnership with Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation, Youth Forward, and Executive Service Corps of the Triangle through a Board Boot Camp. Through six training sessions, new board members of Triangle area nonprofits are tackling specific learning objectives aimed at improving the operational effectiveness of their nonprofit boards. Topics like improving collaboration between boards and executive directors, strengthening the board’s leadership role in financial management and fiscal oversight, enhancing board operations, and identifying problem areas and risks, will help these leaders grow and support their organizations.

We sponsor the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network - Triangle Region (YNPN) #NonprofitSTRONG Summit each year, sending our own staff to learn as well as teach.  Our sponsorship provides scholarships to other leaders who wish to grow their skills. This year's conference featured a variety of programming focused on professional growth, leadership development, and networking. Atrayus Goode, president & chief executive officer at Movement of Youth, served as the keynote speaker for this event.  He gave permission for our next generation of leaders to rise up and think outside the box, stand up for what they believe in, and make great change in their own way.

Alongside BCDC Ideas, Thirdspace Studio and Triangle Nonprofit Communicators, we hosted the very first ever FailFest this year, bringing seasoned nonprofit leaders together with new professionals to share and learn from each other’s struggles and failures.  Together we celebrate the risk-taking that has to happen in the nonprofit sector so that we can succeed in diminishing the challenges in our region.

Other funders and donors are also investing in this way.  Foundation fundholder Chuck ReCorr, through the Nonprofit Leadership Fund, is investing in 100 board and staff leaders in the Triangle by supporting their attendance at Harvard’s Executive Education Program.  This program is not only helping the individual organizations, but also creating a cohort of leaders in the Triangle that are using the same “vernacular” to enhance their mission’s impact and tackle tough community challenges collaboratively.

As a part of Our Focus, Triangle Community Foundation and the North Carolina Arts Council have teamed up to create a new organizational development program for arts organizations located in the four-county region of the Triangle.  Through this initiative we support many nonprofits specifically involved in youth literacy and community development, with capacity building grants. These grants make it possible in some cases for leaders to step back from their hectic workload and focus on how to build the capacity of their organization, their board, and their own personal development.

Ensuring the growth and development of our region’s nonprofit leaders – whether they are board members, young professionals, organization presidents, or volunteers – is vital to the success and sustainability of these organizations, the people themselves, and the sector as a whole. If every one of us feels empowered enough to stand tall and call ourselves a leader in our cause, then together, we can do anything. 

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