Non-profit Cohort Completes Leadership Learning Lab

Nine northeast Michigan nonprofit leaders recently completed an eight-month Leadership Learning Lab program leaving them with greater knowledge to strengthen the organizations and communities they serve presently, and those they may serve in the future.

The members of the 2019 cohort were Bradley Somers (Boys and Girls Club of Alpena), Denise Bearre (Alcona County Library), Arleen Wood (Iosco-Arenac District Library), Kimberly Scott (River House, Inc.), Annette Wells (Community Mediation Services), Taylar Akin (Gaylord Area Chamber of Commerce), Christine Dunaj (MidMichigan Community Health Services), Jeffrey Mindock, and Katie Dunaj (Association to Rescue Kritters).

Pictured from L to R: (Back Row) Lucille Chrisman, Bradley Somers, Katie Dunaj, Christine Dunaj Riley, Arleen Wood, Denise Bearre, Suzanne Luck (Front Row) Patrick Heraghty, Annette Wells, Dana Bensinger

The cohort met for their final session and celebration in mid-December and plan to keep their connections through an optional continuation program.

“The whole Leadership Learning Lab has been an investment in my professional development. Gathering the perspectives of others and walking through scenarios has helped me adapt and become more cognizant,” said Bradley Somers. “Taking a step back and seeing what is working and not working has been instrumental in engaging my staff and putting us all in a position to succeed.”

Topics that were covered throughout the eight-month program included adaptive leadership, time management, board development, fund development, mission-driven storytelling and more. Throughout the program, participants create lasting, supportive relationships with other nonprofit leaders in the region. 2019 is the second year of a partnership between the Roscommon County Community Foundation (RCCF), the Frey Foundation, Rotary Charities of Traverse City, and 11 Michigan community foundations.

“When leaders and boards of these organizations are strong, the organizations are able to better fulfill their missions, serving our communities needs more effectively,” said RCCF Executive Director Suzanne Luck. “We are proud to partner with the Community Foundation for Northeast Michigan and Otsego Community Foundation to strengthen the relationships between non-profits in our region.”

“The time spent in the Leadership Learning Lab has been priceless” said A.R.K. Assistant Director Katie Dunaj. “It was an eye opening experience on how to better my communication skills and ultimately strengthen our structure as an organization. Being able to talk to other non-profits that face the same kind of trials and seeing how they were able to overcome them as been an amazing experience.”

2019 was the second year of this three-year capacity-building initiative. The majority of funding for the Leadership Learning Lab across all of northern Michigan is provided through a grant from the Frey Foundation, with additional support from partnering community foundations. For northeast Michigan in particular, that includes the Community Foundation for Northeast Michigan, Otsego Community Foundation and the Roscommon County Community Foundation. Through this support, nonprofits are only required to put forth $200 of the $1,500 cost for participation in the program. The remaining cost is covered by the partnering foundations.

The 2020 cohort will be chosen in the coming months.

The Roscommon County Community Foundation is a charitable organization committed to providing people who care about the future of our region with unique and effective ways of supporting their community now, and for generations to come. Led by a volunteer board of local citizens, the foundation oversees a group of permanently endowed funds from a wide range of donors. Gifts of all sizes from individuals, families, businesses, and agencies are invested in a balanced, well-managed portfolio to build endowments, enabling support for students and local community nonprofits now and forever.