One Effort to Diversify CNY Boards : “Nourishing Tomorrow’s Leaders.”
I remember very clearly the evening that I walked into the Central New York Community Foundation for my first Nourishing Tomorrow’s Leaders (NTL) session. Actually, running into it is probably more like it, as I find myself doing a lot these days. I was there because my boss had recommended NTL. “You really should apply,” she said, cheerfully handing me the application. I felt really connected to the program’s mission: to offer a local partnership-driven solution to the alarming diversity gap in leadership boards — even in the nonprofit arena. So, I was really curious about how the evening would unfold.
I asked myself the usual things: What is this going to be like? Am I going to get through the 2.5 hour evening sessions ok, or will I have to down three cups of coffee before every class? Am I going to click with my fellow classmates, or will this be more of a “just try to learn something and make the best of it” type of situation?
Luckily, I was more than pleasantly surprised. I met so many smart, caring, fun, and ambitious professionals that night, and I felt totally at ease from the first class. Over the next two months, I also got to become better friends with the folks that I already knew and was very happy to see in the room that evening.
Eight weeks later, on May 25th, 2016, twenty-six of us graduated from the program and became proud NTL Alumni. Recently, Juliet Maloff, from CNYCF (one of the program’s partners), reached out to me for some reflections on what I learned, enjoyed, and appreciated most about NTL. With her permission, I’ve published my answers below. I hope they encourage you to learn more about, support, or apply to the program.
- Why and how did you become involved in NTL?
This past January, I joined YWCA’s team as Director of Development and Communications. Our ED is one of those priceless leaders that invest in the growth of her staff, and she’s the one who first gave me the NTL application. Very soon after that, I met Sheena Solomon at SU’s “Panel on Foundations,” where one of our interns was presenting on YWCA’s work with victims of domestic violence. Sheena talked to me about her passion for empowerment and inclusion and encouraged me to apply too; so I did.
2) How has the program helped you develop your leadership skills?
Before I moved back to Syracuse, I led a national Latino youth leadership program in Washington, D.C., and I remember my students telling me after they completed our program that all they wanted now was the opportunity to continue to grow. They wanted new chances to lead and serve, and hoped for positions that would become more sophisticated and complex as their careers continued to blossom.
I could relate to them because I held the same hope for me, too. So, I’m grateful for NTL, because as a graduate of the program, that goal is even more attainable now — for me and for my former students. I say this because we know that leaders of diverse backgrounds tend to create opportunities for other leaders of diverse backgrounds, and because I still try to pass on to my students as many pieces of helpful info as I can. This wider impact applies to all of us who were in NTL, because we all have extensions of ourselves. And that’s pretty powerful.
3) What skills or lessons have you taken away from the program?
Two of my favorite sessions were the ones that covered the legal responsibilities of serving on a board and taught us new strategies for managing conflict within groups. The information was practical, and frankly, really useful. The presentations also made me even more curious about both topics, and I love becoming exposed to new fields or approaches.
But I’m particularly grateful for the networking that the program sparked. In addition to working at YWCA, I run a socially oriented branding agency, and got to make really helpful business connections during the program. They’re already leading to new contracts, and I’m genuinely thankful for that.
4) How will these skills and lessons be helpful to you when and if you join a nonprofit board?
Wow, in so many ways! But overall, I think the program has set us up for more lasting success — and not just on boards, but in other leadership positions. I now know a lot more about the role of boards and the responsibilities that each individual holds within one, and I’m more aware of what I need to know and ask before joining one. I already feel like a more solid contributor and hope that that the impact of my work will be stronger now that I’ve finished this program.
5) Do you plan to join a board anytime in the near future?
Yes! Before NTL, I was part of the Nosotros Radio Board, and over the summer I was invited to serve on the board of You Can’t Fail, Inc. Both are visionary, community-driven, and dedicated to increasing access to opportunity; and I’m really excited about what the year ahead holds for them both.
6) Is there anything else you would like to add?
I just want to say thank you so much again for this opportunity! I love that the partnership organizations behind NTL have come together in recognition of a very real societal challenge and offered a practical solution that will have an immediate impact on our community. Really and truly, thank you.
Thank you for reading! To be redirected to Central New York Community Foundation’s blog post on this year’s program, click here.