Programs offered by the UGA J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development are helping an Athens area nonprofit executive director strengthen both her personal leadership skills and her agency.
Susie Weller became executive director of Children First, Inc., an Athens-based nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting safe homes for children in times of family crisis, in March 2016.
Already familiar with the Fanning Institute, Weller said a number of people in her organization and the community recommended she attend the Executive Leadership Program for Nonprofit Organizations (ELPNO), which is a partnership between the Fanning Institute, the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University, and the Institute for Leadership and Entrepreneurship at Georgia Tech.
“I want to be the best leader I can be, and ELPNO provided an opportunity to build up my skills,” said Weller, who graduated from ELPNO in 2017. “I didn’t go to school for nonprofit management – I went to school for social work – and I want to be able to run a nonprofit well and efficiently.”
A week-long program tailored for established and emerging executive leaders at nonprofit organizations, ELPNO participants learn from nationally recognized faculty on topics such as personal leadership, strategic leadership, board governance, financial leadership, and resource development strategies.
“From a personal standpoint, I enjoyed being in an environment at ELPNO with other people who wanted to grow and learn,” said Weller. “To be on the cutting edge of knowledge in nonprofit management and how to work effectively was wonderful. I go back and review the ELPNO material regularly.”
Following her graduation from ELPNO, Weller moved into another Fanning Institute leadership development opportunity, the inaugural Nonprofit Leadership Learning Community (NLLC).
NLLC is a small-group learning environment for nonprofit leaders in the Athens area looking to enhance their personal leadership skills and build a peer network with fellow nonprofit professionals to share information that can help themselves and their organizations.
According to Weller, NLLC has added to the nonprofit management and leadership foundation provided through ELPNO.
“While ELPNO looks at nonprofit management macroscopically, NLLC approaches it on a very microscopic level that connects specifically to me and my organization,” said Weller.
Also, by focusing on the Athens area and holding sessions over several months, Weller said NLLC has helped her develop relationships with other community nonprofit leaders that she can call on for advice and support.
Meanwhile, Children First, Inc. is very pleased with the leadership role Weller has taken on in the organization, said Jeff Miller, board secretary for the organization.
“She involves her staff on many different levels so they feel empowered, which is very important for a manager to do,” said Miller. “She involves her people and makes them feel that their work is appreciated by her and the community. That type of leadership brings a sea change to an organization.”
Weller said she appreciates the opportunities Fanning Institute programs have provided her.
“I am so glad the Fanning Institute is in existence, and I love that I have had so much access to its programs,” she said.
Helping nonprofit leaders and organizations will remain a priority, said Matt Bishop, director of the Fanning Institute.
“We applaud individuals, such as Ms. Weller, who show a commitment to growing as leaders and in turn, strengthening their organizations,” said Bishop. “Leaders such as herself are exactly who our nonprofit leadership development programs aim to serve. Through new and existing programs, the Fanning Institute is committed to helping nonprofits obtain the knowledge to contribute to their communities’ social and economic vitality.”