NELA Grows Future Nonprofit Leaders

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By Michelle Basham Executive Director

Ten years ago, I was concerned about the lack of professional development resources available for early-career nonprofit professionals in the Twin Cities. So, I teamed up with Executive Directors at other local nonprofits to create NELA – the Nonprofit Emerging Leaders Academy.

Each year, the ten participating agencies nominate two or three promising employees to participate in the six-month program. Participants learn essential leadership skills from current nonprofit leaders, and add current and future leaders to their professional network.

This year’s Academy includes participants from Community Emergency Assistance Programs, CommonBond Communities, FamilyWise, Neighborhood House, Opportunity Partners, Portico Healthnet, PRISM, Tasks Unlimited, and The Bridge for Youth.

The participants spend one day a month learning about different leadership different topics including human resources, financial management, fundraising, advocacy, and working with a board. The program finishes with a capstone project that gives participants the chance to showcase their new knowledge.

Two Bridge employees are part of the 2018 NELA class this year: Youth & Family Advocate Warlance Miner and Lead Youth Response Center Specialist Joe Valentine.

The 2018 NELA cohort.

“NELA is a positive step towards helping a broad range of people achieve their career goals,” said Valentine, who appreciates the diversity of the program.

Miner has appreciated the lessons on maintaining neutrality in challenging situations und understanding the hiring process for executive-level positions, while Valentine enjoyed learning how to work with a board and how different nonprofits approach their mission.

For both, the program has been a positive step towards their long-term career goals.

“I came from a broken family dynamic. As a child, the nonprofit Club for Boys taught me self-efficacy and gave me the tools I needed to succeed in life,” Miner explained. “Every day I work at The Bridge, I go home feeling fulfilled because I’ve put a smile on a youth’s face. I want to become an Executive Director at a nonprofit so that I can make a difference on a wider scale.”

Valentine has similar goals.

“I love the idea of helping to set a standard for the people who work for a nonprofit,” he said. As the leader of our Youth Response Center, he creates an atmosphere of camaraderie and focus. “I want to lead a team that’s happy to come to work and proud of the work they’re doing.”

I’m proud to be part of the team leading this innovating program, and helping tomorrow’s leaders develop the skills they’ll need to take on the difficult challenges the future holds.

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