Strengthening Leadership

In the 1990s, the Jessie Ball duPont Fund focused on the need to provide training and support to the leaders of its grantees in order to build their capacity and maximize their effectiveness.

In 1999, the Fund commissioned Georgetown University’s Center for Public and Nonprofit Leadership to provide a learning experience that would:

  • Increase the organizational capacity and effectiveness of eligible organization;
  • Enhance the leadership abilities of board and staff members;
  • Help the organization see itself as part of the larger nonprofit sector;
  • Create a sense of community among participating organizations.

Through a five-day residential program, teams of participants from each nonprofit received a battery of training from Georgetown University faculty and experts working in the field. Participants brought projects from their organizations, tackled them as teams and received followup from Georgetown leaders. And each year, past participants were invited back to a two-day alumni sessions, with a learning component and lots of networking time.

Through the years, Georgetown University has modified the curriculum and approach to meet changing needs. Today, for example, there is a special session of the Institute for emerging leaders within the organizations, designed to better equip them for the challenges ahead and keep them working in the nonprofit sector.

The impact of the program is best understood at the organizational level. Participants talk about the specific skills they acquired – in strategic planning or marketing or volunteer management. Beyond that, however, in interview after interview, CEOs and board members point to the benefit of:

  • Being challenged, especially being pushed to look at their operation in new ways;
  • Finding a cohort of colleagues who could provide support outside of their organization;
  • Seeing their organization in the context of their community and the larger field.

“The match with Georgetown was particularly good,” said Fund President Sherry Magill, “because they were really scholars of the nonprofit sector. They were learning just as we were learning.”

Through the institutes, the Jessie Ball duPont Fund has a robust cohort of nonprofits with which to work, supporting the needs and ambitions of people in the communities that were so important to Jessie Ball duPont.