Increased Diversity Leads to Changes in Nonprofit Certificate Program

Posted in News Story

November 8, 2021

This year marks the 20th Anniversary of the Nonprofit Management Executive Certificate Program, which is led by the Center for Public and Nonprofit Leadership, housed in the McCourt School of Public Policy. It is also the sixth anniversary of the Center’s partnership with the Crimsonbridge Foundation. Since publishing, “Three-Year Partnership with Crimsonbridge Foundation Leads to More Diversity and New Scholarships in Certificate Program,” in 2018, the Center has observed continued growth in diversity from 2019-2021. This article explains how the Certificate Program has been adapted to ensure that the increases in diversity are intentional and sustainable. 

Growth in Participant Diversity

Significant progress has been made in making the Nonprofit Management Executive Certificate Program more accessible to nonprofit leaders of color. In the three years before the partnership with the Crimsonbridge Foundation, leaders of color only made up 33% of Certificate Program participants. Six years into the partnership, leaders of color now make up 54.5% of program participants on average, an increase of 65%.

The impact of our partnership with the Crimsonbridge Foundation has been particularly evident for Black, Hispanic, and Latinx nonprofit leaders. Since 2018, the percentage of Black participants has increased from 19% to 28.8%, an increase of over 50%. The same can be said about our Hispanic and Latinx participants, who have experienced a 57% increase in  participation since 2018.

The increase in diversity has come at an incredibly important time—as the nonprofit sector works to address the twin challenges of racial injustice and the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on communities of color. These leaders have brought unique experiences, perspectives, and expertise to the Certificate Program that have pushed all participants and instructors to take racial equity and justice work more seriously. Efforts by the Center and Crimsonbridge, through its LeaderBridge Initiative, have helped make it possible for more local nonprofit leaders who identify as Black, Indigenous, Asian, Hispanic, and Latinx to develop tools, skills, and professional networks needed to meet leadership challenges in real time. 

Changes Made to Meet the Needs of Leaders of Color

Scholarships alone are not enough to create a learning environment that addresses the specific challenges nonprofit leaders of color face and in which leaders of color feel welcome and heard. As explained in greater depth in our 2020 article, the Center decided that all aspects of the Certificate Program needed to be analyzed through the lens of racial equity—recruitment, curriculum, support and network building.

In 2021, the Center made further changes to the Certificate Program, in response to the new virtual format and the need for nonprofit leaders to address racial injustice and the COVID-19 pandemic. Of particular importance was ensuring that issues of equity and justice were infused throughout. The changes made included:

  • Recruiting three new BIPOC faculty members;
  • Hosting workshops to encourage our faculty to engage in important discussions about racial equity and justice, and how these topics related to their sessions in the Certificate Program; and
  • Adding new sessions on “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion;” “Building Resilient Organizations;” and “Leading Systems Change” to the curriculum.

“Over the past six years, we have learned that designing a scholarship program must be more comprehensive than we had originally envisioned. It requires planning how we engage leaders of color at every step–starting with thoughtful outreach and continuing with networking and alumni engagement after the Certificate Program concludes. The time and dedication that our faculty and staff invest continue to make our Nonprofit Management Executive Certificate Program stronger,” reflected Luisa Boyarski, Associate Director of the Center for Public and Nonprofit Leadership.

In 2021, the Crimsonbridge Foundation launched a new initiative, LeaderBridge, which connects nonprofit leaders who identify as Black, Indigenous, Asian, Hispanic, or Latinx, to leadership development opportunities; works with program providers to build more inclusive and welcoming engagement strategies; and develops a network of leaders to elevate their visibility and impact. “Our region’s nonprofit leaders wanted to know about and access leadership development opportunities. With partners like the Center for Public and Nonprofit Leadership, we responded by creating LeaderBridge and initiating partnerships that fostered intentional marketing and outreach coupled with scholarships to establish welcoming and inclusive programs,” shared Crimsonbridge Foundation President and CEO Danielle M. Reyes.

The Impact

The intentional changes made to the Certificate Program have resulted in the increased knowledge, skills, confidence and networks of the participants.

Diana Ortiz, CEO and President of Doorways for Women and Families, said, “I have learned so much! The most important thing I gained with the Certificate Program is the confidence and credibility I needed for my new ED role. As an immigrant, and Latina, embarking on this new role meant I will have many eyes observing what I do and how I do it. It is part of being a person of color in a leadership position, and the Certificate Program has gifted me the internal confidence I was looking for.”

Isabel Argoti, Programs Manager at Collegiate Directions Inc., explained that she gained a strong community through the Certificate Program. “While I did not expect this, I gained a support network of like-minded, driven, and trusted individuals. I loved how the cohort was a safe space. Even virtually, I felt connected. I valued everyone sharing their honest opinions and personal stories. This is a group I see myself comfortable going back to for any advice professionally, or simply to reconnect and catch up personally.”

As the nonprofit sector continues to adapt to the changing needs of our communities, it is important that leaders have the space to learn new approaches and work through challenges together. To ensure that these opportunities are more affordable and accessible, the Center and Crimsonbridge Foundation encourage the philanthropic sector to increase its investments in nonprofit leadership development.