Finding our place – Experiences from the YNPN/ESC Leadership Institute by Marissa Filippo and Dan Gould

YNPN Chicago Board of Directors Speak!

Are you headed for the Executive Director seat?  Do you know how to manage staff? Work with a board of directors to support you? Prioritize endless demands and delegate responsibilities? Fundraise? Plan a budget? Market your organization? So you want to be an Executive Director, eh?  Executive Service Corps of Chicago and YNPN Chicago are now accepting applications for the 2012 The Leadership Institute, offered exclusively to members of YNPN Chicago currently employed with a nonprofit organization.

Apply today and read this week’s blog post from 2 Leadership Institute alumni.

Marissa Filippo

I met Dan Gould and about a dozen other exceptional YNPN Chicago members when I participated in the charter cohort of the YNPN/ESC Leadership Institute in 2009.  The title of the program, “So You Want to be an Executive Director?” was a question I was interested in exploring as an aspiring nonprofit leader, so I took the l plunge, applied to the program, and was accepted!  Our group met once a month for 8 months and the program consisted of discussion of a discreet nonprofit management topic each month and included a conversation with a practicing Executive Director.

Having the opportunity to be around a table with my peers in the sessions and talking with my coach one-on-one were the highlights of the program for me.  I was able to connect with others at my professional level who were having similar experiences in their work at other organizations.  Our conversations raised questions I am still pondering three years later, like how do you practice a dedicated work life and find time for a lifestyle? among others.  It was also very helpful to have a coach who helped me think through professional situations that were happening for me at the time.

The Leadership Institute also helped with the hard skills I’ve needed as I made a job transition this past year.  Getting to know a new organization, finding my stride in a new (to me) area of the nonprofit sector, and dealing with difficult staffing changes have just been a few instances over the past 10 months where I have relied on some of the lessons from the Leadership Institute.  It’s also helped me as I have begun my involvement with the YNPN Chicago Executive board, and moved into the role of Executive Co-Chair.  As I engage with the other leaders on the YNPN Chicago Board to accomplish the work of this organization, the training and preparatory conversations that I acquired through the YNPN/ESC Leadership Institute have laid essential groundwork for the ways I’ve had to stretch in order to be effective in my role. 

Dan Gould
When I talk to people about my participation in the Leadership Institute, as much as I try not to sound like a cliché, the words poster child often end up coming out of my mouth. When I joined Marissa Filippo and my other classmates, I was craving professional development that was not available internally from the nonprofit organization I was working for at the time.  At minimum, I hoped I would meet some other professionals pondering similar questions about their work, life, and what it meant to be a young nonprofit professional.

After attending the first session, I knew I had made the right decision. Though my colleagues were all coming from different places (higher education, arts advocacy, community service, etc.), the room was pulsing with energy.  That excitement was equally matched by the facilitators from the Executive Service Corps of Chicago, who were just as curious and enthusiastic to have us in the room.

Like Marissa, I also greatly benefited from the monthly meetings with my coach.  After one session together, I informed her that I was looking for a new job.  In turn, she asked me, “Do people know you’re really looking?” I immediately got defensive and said “Of course!”  Later that night though, I found myself still brooding over that question. I realized that while I had talked a lot about needing to take a next step, I hadn’t really come to any of my peers and told them directly that I was in a job search.

I asked a few of the other participants for informational interviews, learning about their jobs and their organizations.  When I saw a position become available for Loyola University Chicago, I immediately connected with my colleague who worked there in Planned Giving.   It was absolutely what I needed to get my foot in the door and I felt confident enough to make a move shortly thereafter.

With my enthusiasm for the Leadership Institute still flourishing, I joined the Executive Board of YNPN Chicago last October.  As a board member-at-large, I work closely with the Leadership Institute and our growing network of alumni. Now recruiting for our fourth class, I can only hope that future participants get as much as I did from the program, and they build an equally great network of peers in the nonprofit sector.

Marissa currently serves as an Executive Assistant to the Chief Operating Officer at the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB), an organization which provides credentialing services to the dental community. Marissa has nearly ten years of experience working in nonprofits in Chicago and has been involved in programs related to public education, nonprofit management support and professional development training. Marissa maintains an interest in film and the arts and has taught Humanities at Harold Washington College, one of the City Colleges of Chicago. Marissa earned a B.A. in English from the University of Illinois and an M.A. in Interdisciplinary Humanities from Arizona State University.

Dan Gould is currently Associate Director for Alumni Relations at Loyola University Chicago. Dan joined the Loyola team in November of 2010 after working for several years in the Chicago non-profit sector. At Loyola, he works on building relationships with Colleges, Schools and Centers of Excellence in addition to assisting with communication and marketing strategies, focusing on social media. Dan holds an undergraduate degree in English and Music Performance from the University of Iowa and a master’s degree in Education from DePaul University. Dan is also a musician in his spare time, preferring the bassoon and accordion.  You can follow Dan on Twitter @fabulousdan



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