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Nonprofit leaders complete Leadership Learning Lab

Courtesy Photo Pictured from left to right in the back row are Lucille Chrisman, Bradley Somers, Katie Dunaj, Christine Dunaj, Denise Bearre, Arleen Wood, Suzanne Luck, and in the front row are Patrick Heraghty, Annette Wells and Dana Bensinger.

Nine northeast Michigan nonprofit leaders recently completed an eight-month Leadership Learning Lab program leaving them with enhanced skills to strengthen the organizations and communities they serve presently, and those they may serve in the future.

The members of the 2019 cohort were Bradley Somers (Boys and Girls Club of Alpena), Denise Bearre (Alcona County Library), Arleen Wood (Iosco-Arenac District Library), Kimberly Scott (River House, Inc.), Annette Wells (Community Mediation Services), Taylar Akin (Gaylord Area Chamber of Commerce), Christine Dunaj (MidMichigan Community Health Services), Jeffrey Mindock, and Katie Dunaj (Association to Rescue Kritters).

The cohort met for their final session and celebration in mid-December and plan to keep their connections through an optional continuation program.

“The whole Leadership Learning Lab has been an investment in my professional development. Gathering the perspectives of others and walking through scenarios has helped me adapt and become more cognizant,” said Bradley Somers. “Taking a step back and seeing what is working and not working has been instrumental in engaging my staff and putting us all in a position to succeed.”

Topics covered throughout the eight-month program included adaptive leadership, time management, board development, fund development, mission-driven storytelling and more. Throughout the program, participants create lasting, supportive relationships with other nonprofit leaders in the region. 2019 is the second year of a partnership between the Community Foundation for Northeast Michigan (CFNEM), the Frey Foundation, Rotary Charities of Traverse City, and 11 Michigan community foundations.

“Helping to build the capacity of our nonprofits is part of our strategic plan, as it is a key element in strengthening the entire nonprofit community,” said CFNEM Executive Director Patrick Heraghty. “When leaders and boards of these organizations are strong, the organizations are able to better fulfill their missions, serving our communities needs more effectively.”

“Getting out on the balcony and practicing patience has increased my openness with colleagues and helped me become a stronger leader,” said Somers. “Our group of cohorts were from diverse backgrounds, and through engagement with my group I feel like I have grown professionally and have a new network of support. I have learned to build better boundaries and become more of a time realist. This created a feeling of accomplishment and efficiency that I had really never felt before.”

The year 2019 was the second year of this three-year capacity-building initiative. The majority of funding for the Leadership Learning Lab across all of Northern Michigan is provided through a grant from the Frey Foundation, with additional support from partnering community foundations. For Northeast Michigan in particular, that includes the Community Foundation for Northeast Michigan, Otsego Community Foundation and Roscommon County Community Foundation. Through this support, nonprofits are only required to put forth $200 of the $1,500 cost for participation in the program. The remaining cost is covered by the partnering foundations.

The 2020 cohort will be chosen in the coming months.

The Community Foundation for Northeast Michigan is a charitable organization committed to providing people who care about the future of our region with unique and effective ways of supporting their community now, and for generations to come. Led by a volunteer board of local citizens, the foundation oversees a group of permanently endowed funds from a wide range of donors. Gifts of all sizes from individuals, families, businesses and agencies are invested in a balanced, well-managed portfolio to build endowments, enabling support for students and local community nonprofits now and forever.