At United Way of Metro Chicago, we don’t just unite changemakers across our region, we train them to help tackle the most pressing issues facing our neighborhoods. 

In our latest effort to prepare the leaders of tomorrow, we’ve partnered with Northwestern University Kellogg School’s Center for Nonprofit Management to launch the Board Leadership Institute. 

This immersive training will prepare philanthropic business leaders for service on the boards of directors of local nonprofit organizations and create a pipeline for nonprofits who are seeking engaged members. Additionally, through this program, we aim to enhance the diversity of leadership boards across the region by recruiting participants who reflect the communities we serve.  

“Someone who goes through our program will not just learn what it means to be a board member, but will have an understanding of the work that nonprofits are doing and the issues that they’re working to address,” said Caitlin Closser, United Way’s Senior Manager of Partner Engagement.

Through the 11-week course, Institute participants will learn from community and academic experts about the challenges that our neighbors face, like the social effects of income inequality and the health effects of trauma. In trainings with Kellogg faculty, they’ll also master the tools to effectively serve on a nonprofit board, including fundraising tactics and risk assessments. Upon successful completion, United Way will match cohort members with an organization that aligns with their community interests.

“United Way is well-positioned to lead a program like this because we have strong partnerships in the business world and in the community,” Caitlin said. “We have the ear of people who can help us find the brightest civic leaders of tomorrow and bring them through our training.” 

In preparation for  the launch of the first cohort, we hosted a preview of the leadership training. Our very own Vice President of Community Impact Kimberlee Guenther, Ph.D.  led a presentation about the state of poverty in Chicago and systemic issues, like redlining and school closures, that plague our communities. Attendees also learned what their role would be in addressing these issues as a nonprofit board member. 

After attending the preview, Emily Davis said it was “alarming to hear about and see the data in communities where the needle hasn’t moved in decades.” and “enlightening to hear about the communities that have improved due to the combination of investment, education and enhanced resources for residents.”

Sam Boebel, of Zurich Insurance Group, recommended the Board Leadership Institute to others interested in investing their time and energy into a nonprofit board. 

“[The program] was a great reminder and motivator for what you should look for in a board, what can you expect to get out of your participation, and what is expected of you (both professionally and legally) when you take on a board position,” she said.  

Nick Handorf, of Crowe LLP, also had high praises for the program. He said it “was an informative call-to-action blended with effective self-reflection elements. The instructors were phenomenal. One could sense their true passion about volunteerism, Chicago and educating others.”

Are you ready to lead our community into a brighter future? We’re accepting applications for the Board Leadership Institute’s January to May 2020 cohort. Apply by Dec. 2!