The Healthcare Foundation of La Porte knew there were skills gaps in the city’s nonprofits. Local nonprofit leaders had told them they needed more knowledge and experience to properly run their organizations and increase their impact. The Foundation searched for a solution and found it in SPEA Executive Education’s Nonprofit Leadership Academy.
The 10-month, on-location program covers practical topics designed to increase the leadership capacity of nonprofits executives. Those who complete the course receive an Executive Education Nonprofit Leadership Certificate from Indiana University.
Pastor Nate Loucks attended the Academy in La Porte. He leads the Pax Center, a nonprofit that focuses on food injustice and insecurity, runs a food pantry, provides free community gardening space and support, and hosts weekly community meals.
The group’s mission, Loucks says, is to keep LaPorte County “loved long and fed well.”
Yet the need is great, and the Pax Center is growing. To fulfill their mission, Loucks knew he needed to strengthen his professional foundation.
“Pastors often have great ideas but sometimes they don’t have all the requisite skills to get from one place to another,” Loucks says.
Maria Fruth, Healthcare Foundation’s president and CEO, hosted a listening tour for local nonprofits and heard far too many stories similar to Loucks’ struggle.
“It was eye opening,” she recalls. “We needed to make absolutely sure those who were leading these organizations had the tools to lead, function, and deliver services effectively.”
The tour helped the Foundation identify key areas of knowledge that nonprofit leaders were seeking. Fruth began searching for resources to fill those gaps. She visited Welborn Baptist in Evansville and heard about the Executive Education Nonprofit Leadership Academy and its success with the Evansville nonprofits.
“I met with Sara Johnson and asked to tailor the curriculum to our community’s needs, so we could all speak the same language,” Fruth says. “The Executive Education team’s guidance and expertise were invaluable in developing the curriculum.”
The Foundation also wanted to ensure organizations both large and small would benefit from the training. They decided to remove one potential barrier and cover the cost for anyone who attended. Representatives from nearly two dozen nonprofits signed up, including Loucks.
“Being with people who have more experience and a better scope of knowledge is always beneficial,” he says. “It fills out my experience and allows me to do my job better. If I do my job better, more people get help.”
Participants worked through courses that focused on nonprofit management, strategic planning, fundraising and financial management, and other topics that would help them better manage their organizations.
One course that hit home for Loucks dealt with marketing. He says he avoided spending money on marketing because his view had been that a dollar not spent directly on helping those in need was a dollar wasted. The Academy changed that outlook.
“It honestly challenged my beliefs and showed me how spending that money ultimately impacts the success and efficiency of an organization,” Loucks says. “It allowed me to take something that I struggled with and put it in a paradigm that made sense and that I now fully embrace.”
He’s now working with his board to develop a new marketing strategy for the Pax Center.
It was one of many positive outcomes for Loucks after the Academy. And he wasn’t alone. Other participants offered more praise during their review of the program:
- “I came into this Academy virtually knowing nothing about the nonprofit and how it works. I now understand what a healthy nonprofit organization looks like.”
- “This was a great experience and a great opportunity to build on things that we are doing at our agency. I think one of the things that came out of this that I was not expecting was the relationships that were built among the various agencies. I am looking to partner with other groups in ways that I never imagined.”
Loucks seconds the sense of camaraderie participants built during the session as an unexpected benefit that will last throughout his career.
“In nonprofit work, we can feel like our organizations are the only ones struggling with certain issues,” he says. “There are people who can guide you with their experience and encourage you to keep working hard to do good in your community. One of the best parts of this program was realizing you’re not alone.”
Gaining intangible and tangible skills alike was the goal of the Academy. Fruth says the first Academy was so successful, they have already planned another for a new group of local nonprofit leaders. She says it was all in hopes of improving life for everyone who calls La Porte home.
“These leaders can take the tools they learned back to their organization to provide more effective and efficient services to the community,” she adds. “My hope is that they continue to grow because this was just the beginning.”
To learn more about how the Nonprofit Leadership Academy could benefit your community and local organizations, visit Executive Education’s website.