How many times have you been encouraged to step out of your comfort zone?  In our head we know doing this can be anxiety-producing, but it also creates opportunities for growth and learning. But for me, I don’t typically embrace the opportunity when presented.

As a participant in the Nonprofit Leadership Initiative’s (NPLI) Leadership Institute, I was provided an opportunity to get out of my comfort zone by participating in a role-playing simulation with a board of directors. And guess what – it delivered. I learned, I grew and feel like the next time I’m offered the chance to step out of the safe zone, I’ll be more willing.

The Leadership Institute consists of nine different educational modules and in February I, and my 12 Institute cohort members, were asked to apply what we’ve learned by preparing a proposal for discussion with volunteers taking on the role of board members.

My discussion topic, inspired by the marketing module, was to set marketing priorities for 2021. My “board” was quick to respond to what should be a priority, which target markets should be a focus and lots of advice on how best to present the topic when I have to do it for real. I’m grateful for the amount of engagement, passion and wisdom shared by my “board”.

Sridevi Buddi, a 2018 Institute graduate and “board member” shared her thoughts on the day by saying “I am very thankful to NPLI for the tools, techniques, and connections that encourage the growth of nonprofits of all levels and at various stages of development.”

As the group debriefed everyone expressed how beneficial the exercise had been for both the Institute cohort and the “board” members. Institute Coordinator, Nancy Heykes praised participants, “Kudos to our class and volunteers! I’ve been amazed all year at our current class members’ ability to learn together amid a pandemic, and today they and our intrepid volunteers made the most of a long Zoom session to learn and grow,”

My fellow Institute participant, Trina Doxtator summed up the sentiments of the class well, “I’m so grateful to live in a community that supports and invests in its nonprofit leaders through both creating an organization like NPLI, and a program like the Leadership Institute, and continuing to contribute to its success. It was really impressive to see dozens of community leaders, board members, investors, and alums take half of a day – during a pandemic, nonetheless – to show up for and offer insights to industry colleagues looking to learn and grow. Investing in nonprofit leaders is essential to the overall health and sustainability of our nonprofit sector and community as a whole, and we  live among very special friends and neighbors to recognize and act on this.”

My cohort has been learning virtually since last May and we’re all looking forward to our April graduation when we’re awarded a Certificate of Nonprofit Management from Fox Valley Technical College and the Nonprofit Leadership Initiative.