Leadership Development

Leadership Development

grow and learn with fellow leaders

Executive Director Learning Circle

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 centers on real-time situations facing participants. 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. Learning happens not only through the facilitator, but also from one another.

Since 2017, the Executive Director Learning Circle has supported 61 nonprofit leaders. This program is made possible thanks to the generosity of donors like you.

Program Details and Application Process

Executive Director Leader Circle 2018 (2)


The Executive Director Learning Circle runs for 11 months, from January through November. Participants meet on the third Friday of each month from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m.
Each session includes competency topics, group discussions, and practical scenario sharing. 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

An in-person or virtual format will depend on public health and United Way guidelines.

Lead facilitator

Michael Fournier has provided consulting to grassroots nonprofits for almost a decade. His areas of expertise are capacity building and executive coaching. Before serving as a consultant, Michael spent 35 years with the YMCA. He held senior leadership roles in Manchester, New Hampshire and Providence, Rhode Island.

Commitment and finances

Participants commit to some minor preparation before sessions.
There is no cost to take part in this program. Upon completion, each graduate’s organization will receive a grant of $2,000. The grant will go toward an organizational goal identified at the outset of the program.

Application process

Applications for the 2024 are now open and the deadline to apply will be Friday, November 17, 2023. For more information, contact Roshni Darnal at roshni.darnal@unitedwayri.org or Ruth Saah at ruth.saah@unitedwayri.org.

Executive Director Leader Circle 2019 (2)

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 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. 

WOON Riverzedge arts student profile copy

Deputy Director Learning Circle

United Way of Rhode Island invites individuals who work for nonprofit organizations with annual budgets of $5M and under, and serve in senior program/lead operational roles, to apply for our Deputy Director Learning Circle.

Program details

The Deputy Director Learning Circle strengthens the competencies of nonprofit staff who aspire to become executive directors. Core areas include staff leadership, financial management, board development, strategic planning, and marketing and communications.

The free program will run from August 2023 to June 2024. Participants will meet on the second Friday of each month from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. at United Way. (Classes may be held virtually as needed.)

Lead facilitator

Michael Fournier has provided consulting to grassroots nonprofits for almost a decade. His areas of expertise are capacity building and executive coaching. Before serving as a consultant, Michael spent 35 years with the YMCA. He held senior leadership roles in Manchester, New Hampshire and Providence, Rhode Island.

Application process

Applications for the Deputy Director Learning Circle 2023 are closed. For more information, please contact Roshni Darnal, director of community investments, at roshni.darnal@unitedwayri.org.


The Nonprofit Innovation Lab is a selective program from United Way and SEG that offers Rhode Island nonprofits the opportunity to transform innovative ideas into reality, enabling them to create even more social impact as they bring innovation and entrepreneurial thinking to their organizations. The program provides participating Fellows with the knowledge, resources, and networking opportunities that help bring transformative ideas to life.

A culminating, “Shark Tank-like” pitch event in November will award a total of $90,000 in funding, paired with other in-kind services, to support the three most compelling innovation projects.

Throughout the Nonprofit Innovation Lab, each participant is partnered with a custom team of coaches and provided access to hundreds of experts across the United Way and SEG communities. In November, the Fellows who offer the most compelling innovation plans will be invited to pitch for the prize funding.

Application process

Applications for the 2022 cohort of the Nonprofit Innovation Lab have closed. For more information, please contact Roshni Darnal, director of community investments, at roshni.darnal@unitedwayri.org.

Destenie Vital, Director, What Cheer Flower Farm 2021 First Place Winner

"What the Nonprofit Lab does is level the playing field, giving small nonprofits and BIPOC-led organizations, a chance to compete in a tough market in which organizations with the most resources and people power tend to dominate and acquire the most funding.

As a woman of color, operating in a space where merit was the foundation was highly affirming. My voice was respected, my voice was heard, and I was able to show up at every workshop as my authentic self. This speaks to the mission of SEG and the United Way of Rhode Island because it's the diversity, equity, inclusion, and access, we often hear about in theory... in practice.

If you are thinking about applying, do it!
Your organization will be better for it. You will be better for it."

Destenie Vital
Roshni Darnal is United Way of Rhode Island’s director of community investments. / Courtesy United Way of Rhode Island.

Five Questions With: Roshni Darnal

Providence Business News

Roshni Darnal is the director of community investments for United Way of Rhode Island... where she manages the organization's strategic direction to address the needs of Rhode Islanders through its grantmaking processes… Darnal spoke with Providence Business News about those grantmaking changes and what it means for the nonprofit community moving forward.



FCARI: Prescription Delivery Services for Seniors

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 89% of adults 65 and older take prescription medicine. For seniors who have mobility issues or are unable to leave their homes to go to the pharmacy, using a prescription delivery service is a simple solution.

This resource provides seniors and their caregivers with the top prescription delivery services, information on financial assistance options, and guidance on choosing the best service for their specific needs. Learn more at: www.caring.com/best-prescription-delivery-services/

Providence Business News Best Places to Work RI Awards Winner 2023 logo.

PBN announces 2023 Best Places to Work honorees

Providence Business News

Sixty-seven honorees, including United Way of Rhode Island, have been named by Providence Business News for its 2023 Best Places to Work Awards program... The honorees will be recognized June 7 for their efforts in a ceremony at Crowne Plaza Providence-Warwick in Warwick, where the company rankings in each category will be announced.


United Way Selects Leaders for Executive Director Learning Circle

Laser-focused on its work to support the needs of the state’s nonprofit community… United Way of Rhode Island has kicked off its latest Executive Director Learning Circle. The organization has selected 11 local nonprofit leaders to participate in the yearlong program that focuses on strategic development and increasing their organizations’ capacity to deliver their social impact work.

401Gives Registration Is Open to All Rhode Island Nonprofits

401Gives is returning on Monday, April 1, and United Way of Rhode Island invites all local nonprofits to participate and raise funds to support their mission-driven work. This year’s 401Gives is the fifth anniversary of what is the Ocean State’s largest single fundraiser to benefit and uplift the nonprofit sector.

Rhode Islanders Can Find Help With Medicare Open Enrollment

United Way of Rhode Island is offering assistance to those age 65 and older and adults with disabilities who need help enrolling in or reviewing their Medicare Part D and Medicare Advantage plans for 2024 coverage. The current open enrollment period ends on Dec. 7 and is the only time at which individuals can make changes.


Workforce Alliance Kick-Off

Wednesday, March 6, 2024
3 - 4 p.m.
RI State House Library

The Workforce Alliance is a partnership among adult education workforce training providers, business, labor, philanthropic organizations, and community leaders dedicated to ensuring that Rhode Island has a dynamic and comprehensive workforce development system that meets the needs of employers and workers. The Workforce Alliance is kicking off the legislative session to bring attention to adult education and workforce development policy priorities.

Emerging Leaders Welcome Celebration

Thursday, March 14, 2024
6 - 7:30 p.m.
The Guild, Pawtucket

Join us for a night of networking, learning, and a chance to become an Emerging Leader!

Emerging Leaders (EL) provides the avenue for early to mid-career professionals to take action and make the most impact in their communities through volunteer service, networking opportunities, impact-focused professional development, and philanthropy. Join us to take the next step in your career and make change happen in Rhode Island!