Executive director leader circle
grow and learn with fellow leaders
United Way of Rhode Island invites executive directors who lead nonprofit organizations with annual budgets under $1 million to apply for our Executive Director Learning Circle.
The Executive Director Learning Circle experience centers on real-time situations facing participants. The issues might include strategy, board engagement, fund development, or a pending operational challenge. Key to the success of this process is that each organization is of similar size and capacity, and the learning is not just through the facilitator but from one another.
Feedback from recent participants
Kate Lentz, Director, Rhode Island Center for the Book
"Most nonprofit workshops I have attended present static models of best practices that smaller organizations either have to scale down to meet their organizational needs or do not have the resources to fulfill. Executive Director Learning Circle meets you where you are. Each session was a helpful blend of real-life experience, concrete takeaways, and inspiration. The third Friday of every month became a sacred space where we could share frustrations and successes, find immediate solutions for our real-time problems and glean advice from successful leaders from across our state.
Kristen A. Williams, Ph.D., Executive Director, Riverzedge Arts
“Executive directors working at small non-profits often wear many hats! Meeting monthly with Michael Fournier and the incredibly supportive group of peers assembled by United Way gave me the encouragement I needed to take on and resolve difficult issues in ways that best fit the mission of Riverzedge Arts. Each month, we discussed a different facet of non-profit leadership with an expert in the field, providing us opportunities not only to learn, but also to engage with the broader non-profit community. And since everyone in my cohort identified as female, I was extremely grateful that Michael not only made room for, but also encouraged, thoughtful discussions about the ways our roles as executive directors and our personal identities (gender, sex, dis/ability, race, etc.) intersected. At a time when equity and inclusivity are rightly being brought to the fore, Michael and United Way modeled those values in convening and supporting this group.”
Program details and application process
Participants meet the third Friday of each month from 8:30 – 11:30 a.m., starting in January. Each session includes competency topics, group discussions, and practical scenario sharing. (Currently, we are planning to hold virtually via Zoom for 2021. We may change to an in-person format at our United Way office, depending on state and United Way guidelines.)
Executive Director Learning Circle participants gain real-life experience and explore a variety of topics, including:
- Strategy development and implementation
- Board development and engagement
- Staffing and priority alignment
- Comprehensive fund development
- Risk management and emergency preparedness
Lead facilitator Michael Fournier
Michael Fournier has provided volunteer consulting to numerous grassroots nonprofits in Rhode Island and Southeast Massachusetts over the past 6 years, primarily in the areas of capacity building and executive coaching. He previously spent 35 years at the YMCA, serving in senior leadership roles in Manchester, NH, and Providence.
Commitment and finances
For the duration of the 11-month learning experience, participants must dedicate the third Friday of each month to the program. In addition, there will be the occasion to engage in some minor preparation for an upcoming session.
Participation in the program is free, thanks to generous funding from Bank Newport. Upon completion, each graduate’s organizations receive grants of $2,000 to complete an organizational goal identified at the outset of the program.
Applications are due each year in December for the following year’s program.
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