Dec. 1, 2023

New non-profit leadership course builds skills, capacity and community

Innovative new course designed to support and build Calgary's non-profit community
People meeting around a table
Social Work's new non-profit leadership course provides practical learning from local experts, mentorship, and builds community

Non-profit leaders might be the busiest people in the world. They are often their organization’s bookkeepers, marketers, human resource professionals, IT support teams, etc. etc.  With all these roles, it’s not surprising that one thing they often don’t have time for is professional development.

In fact, non-profit leadership coach Nadine Ryan-Bannerman says research shows that non-profit leaders typically have less than one per cent of their time available for learning. A new non-profit leadership course from the University of Calgary Faculty of Social Work looks to maximize that precious time by providing practical, applicable learning that fits their busy schedule. Says Ryan-Bannerman:

“Non-profit leaders have five places to put every minute and 10 places to put every dollar. But we believe our new course will help them free their time to become more strategic and impactful in what they do.”

Filling an urgent need for training focused on non-profit management

Leadership training for corporate executives is a multimillion-dollar industry. Newly promoted CEOs can jet off to week-long retreats with shamans and gurus who will help them chart a course for success. Similar training at a reasonable cost is simply not available in the non-profit world.

Ryan-Bannerman, who is helping to lead the new Social Work program, has decades of experience teaching, mentoring and coaching leaders. On the flip side, she has extensive experience with non-profits through organizations like the United Way. In recent years she says that she’s seen an unprecedented turnover in the non-profit sector as leaders retire, which she feels has created an urgent need for a practical, local, non-profit leadership program.

“I personally know of a couple of cases where a long-term leader has retired,” says Ryan-Bannerman, “and the organization has a brand-new CEO without much leadership experience. Where do they turn? So, we created a cost-effective program that a leader can do while they’re working, without a huge time commitment.”

New course designed to create personal networks and connect non-profits

The innovative course has several different components. Each month participants will have a presentation and discussion with an expert with extensive experience in a critical topic for leaders of mission-driven organizations. The seminars will focus on governance, strategic planning, fund development, social enterprise, delegation, diversity and inclusion, stakeholder collaboration, conflict resolution, coaching skills and much more.

A unique element of the new program will have participants being paired with an experienced mentor in small groups, allowing them to forge connections across Calgary’s non-profit community. The mentors will also coach them on how to apply what they’ve learned into their organizations. Finally, the students will create a capstone project, which they’ll present at the program’s closing reception and networking event, to non-profit, government and corporate leaders.

It's this element of connection for individuals and their organizations that really excites Yared Belanyeh, who leads social work’s professional development programs.

“One reason the Faculty of Social Work is offering this unique program is to support our community partners in their work,” he says. “To help their leadership to grow and hopefully increase capacity for the important work they do. Most importantly, we hope this will help organizations to better connect with each other.”

Belanyeh has decades of experience supporting non-profits through organizations like the United Way and the United Nations. He says the course is an important first step in leveraging the faculty’s social-sector expertise to help create real connection among grassroots and non-profits across Alberta.

“That connection,” he says, “should help organizations understand what they’re all doing as a whole. To see where there are overlaps or gaps in service and hopefully to move together to better meet their collective mission.”

Program begins Jan. 25

The new program kicks off Jan. 25, 2024 with an introductory networking session and the first seminar: Not-for-Profit Governance Best Practices.

Registration for the new program is limited to 30 people and Ryan-Bannerman expects the spots to fill quickly, “There’s a lot of interest out there,” she says, “and I think it’s because there are many people who need this training. From new and aspiring non-profit leaders to CEOs, to retired private sector execs who have taken on a new challenge and are realizing that non-profits are a different world than what they’re used to.”

The University of Calgary Faculty of Social Work is Canada's largest school of social work and a leader in North American social work research. Our professional development programs build community and support the social work, allied health and non-profit communities with course offerings and events focused on clinical social work, leadership and equity, diversity and inclusion. 

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