Leadership training program launched for nonprofit executives

There’s a trait for-profit and nonprofit leaders share: At some point in their careers, both can stand to sharpen their administrative skills.

But for a variety of reasons, it’s not always easy for Lakeshore nonprofit executives to gain new leadership insights. LEAD 24/7 can help them clear that hurdle.

The nonprofit LEAD 24/7 is a 12-month immersive management program for executives who desire to hone their leadership skillsets and abilities.

Rodger Price, founder and managing partner of Zeeland-based Leading By Design, and Patrick Cisler, executive director of Lakeshore Nonprofit Alliance in Holland, joined forces to establish LEAD 24/7 for nonprofits. Its three-pronged goal is to shepherd leaders of Lakeshore nonprofits to learn how to be someone worth following, learn how to lead an amazing team, and create clarity of the nonprofit’s mission.

“We call that purpose, vision, and values,” says Price. “I believe this leadership stuff is not complex, it’s just hard to do.”

The all-day classes meet monthly and cost $2,500 per participant — drilled down from its $10,000 price tag, thanks to scholarships — and are taught at various sites in the Lakeshore area by nine executive directors from different West Michigan nonprofits. One-on-one executive coaching sessions are also provided.

A big goal

According to Price, LEAD 24/7 isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel, but he does have a big goal to achieve. 

“Very little of what we’re teaching is original,” says Price. “My goal is that West Michigan would become through leadership what Silicon Valley is to technology or what Nashville is to country music — that West Michigan should be the hotbed of the best leaders.”
Rodger Price is the founder of Leading by Design.
To reach Price’s goal, these are LEAD 24/7’s leadership topics: a leadership framework, feedback and public speaking, living systems and listening, shaping culture and leaning into healthy conflict, financial sustainability and fundraising, board leadership and building a great team part 1, building a great team part 2, building a great team part 3, casting vision and strategy, leading change, and leading yourself, followed by wrapup and project presentations.

One challenge for nonprofits centers on what donors designate their donations for, which is frequently toward programming and new building construction, according to Cisler. Not as exciting to donors, he says, is staff development.

“I think it’s something we as nonprofits have been combating for a long time,” Cisler says. “Donations directly to programs, on the surface, to serve the people in a community, that’s great. But what we see for a nonprofit’s long-term success, you have to invest in your people. People are often viewed as ‘overhead’ by donors.”

Such a mentality is a head-scratcher for Cisler.

Invest in people

“To me, it has never added up because, a lot of times, big-time donors own their own company, they run their own company,” he says. “They’re executives, folks who a lot of times have made a lot of money in the market, and, when you look at for-profits, they invest in their people, they send them to seminars, they provide professional coaching opportunities.”

Price says his interactions with leaders of for-profit companies revealed something telling: He’s been asked what happens if a nonprofit executive director receives LEAD 24/7 training and then resigns from his or her position? 

“My response is, ‘What if you don’t train them and they stay?’ says Price. “There’s this old parable that you have to keep sharpening your ax. Samuel L. Johnson had a great quote: ‘People need reminders more than they need instruction.’ If you want them to grow in an organization, you have to invest in them. Some are smart enough to know this on their own.”

LEAD 24/7 — so named because nonprofit executives sometimes find themselves working around the clock — has three divisions: for nonprofits, K-12 school administrators, and pastors.

“Patrick got the nonprofit one started in 2019 and then, of course, COVID hit, so it took a long time to get that cohort through the year,” says Price.

It’s long overdue for nonprofits to invest in their leaders, he says.

“One of the things I often said is there’s not a lot of pure leadership development programs in West Michigan, and when you look at the nonprofit sector, there’s virtually none,” says Cisler. “This is filling a gap. A lot of nonprofits don’t spend a lot of money investing in their people. We (LEAD 24/7) are able to really drive down the cost for folks to participate.”

Read more articles by Paul R. Kopenkoskey.