The Charger Blog

University Celebrates Newest Graduates of Innovative Nonprofit Leadership Certificate Program

The University’s Nonprofit Leadership, Innovation, and Organizational Sustainability graduate certificate prepares nonprofit managers to become leaders in their organization. The newest graduates of the program developed important skills, a network of professionals, and a strategic plan for their organization.

December 9, 2022

By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications

The graduates posing for a photo.
The newest graduates of the University’s Nonprofit Leadership, Innovation, and Organizational Sustainability Graduate Certificate program.

As a leader at a Connecticut nonprofit organization, George Reid-Perry wanted a way to continue to grow as a professional. He saw the University’s Nonprofit Leadership, Innovation, and Organizational Sustainability graduate certificate as an opportunity to further develop as a leader at his organization.

For Reid-Perry, senior director of adult services for SARAH, Inc., which offers services and programs to children and adults with differing abilities across Connecticut, the graduate certificate program was a great way to explore how nonprofits can apply business-focused principles to enhancing their services and operations. He was among the graduates of the program’s most recent cohort this fall.

“Being able to learn from a group of diverse professionals – including from academic and nonprofit-based organizations and institutions – was a great balance of experiences,” he said. “The conversations that were generated really enabled me to think outside of my sector of services and see how I could learn best practices that I could apply to my work.”

‘What I took away from the program…’

The new graduates, who represent a variety of nonprofit organizations such as the United Way of Greater New Haven and the Child Guidance Center of Mid-Fairfield County, developed their leadership and strategic management skills as part of the graduate certificate program. It was created to prepare current nonprofit managers to move into executive-level roles.

Candidates develop competencies in financial planning and analysis, strategic project management, and marketing while developing the business acumen they need to help their organization adapt to a changing environment. They learn by doing, creating a two-year strategic plan for their organization to help strengthen it while increasing its impact on the community and those it serves.

“What I took away from the program that was most pertinent was the importance of emergency preparedness,” said Reid-Perry. “An organization needs to be able to adjust on the fly and have a strong communication plan. This directly relates to business continuity, which is at the forefront of what I do.”

George Reid-Perry.
George Reid-Perry.
‘A small, intimate community’

As part of the program, candidates learn and gain insight from their classmates and from more than a dozen speakers and professors. Ron Kuntze, Ph.D., an expert on nonprofit management and the program coordinator, says the graduate certificate provides “real practical value” to both the candidate and their organization.

“Our candidates work on a project they can use immediately in their organizations,” he explained. “These organizational growth projects often result in the candidate receiving positive attention from the organization, as well as creating real and positive change. I believe this is very unique to our program.”

Housed in the University’s Pompea College of Business, the certificate program enables candidates to gain hands-on social entrepreneurship and business-planning experience. They also become part of an important network of likeminded professionals, something Dr. Kuntze says is an invaluable component of the program.

“It gives future – and current – leaders a chance to create a small, intimate community of local nonprofit managers that meets regularly over an 18- to 24-month period,” he said. “They become quite close to each other and also forge relationships with our expert executives, consultants, and professors who teach as part of the program. I’m very proud of these very unique elements of our program.”

Dr. Ron Kuntze speaks as part of the graduation ceremony.
Dr. Ron Kuntze speaks as part of the graduation ceremony.
‘Challenge your traditional way of thinking’

The program has further enhanced long-term relationships between community nonprofits and the University – both before and since it started. That was important to Andrew Eder, a philanthropist and chairman of Eder Bros. Inc., which has been in the wholesale wine and spirits business for more than eight decades, when he developed the idea for the program.

“We arrived at the goal of this program from conducting face-to-face interviews with more than 15 executive directors of nonprofits in the New Haven area and asking them how our program could be of the most help to them,” said Eder, who has served on a variety of nonprofit boards and is chair of the advisory board for the University’s Nonprofit Institute. “Almost all of them said words similar to, ‘I was woefully unprepared for this job, and I grew into it over time.’

“We seek to better equip individuals who were being promoted within their nonprofit institutions, as well as current executive directors, with skills that match the complexities of guiding today’s nonprofits,” he continued. “This program, taught by individuals with nonprofit experience, seeks to significantly shorten the ramp-up time for these up-and-coming managers, and to add new tools for their executive directors.”

At the end of the program, candidates and educators celebrated their achievements during a graduation ceremony. The next cohort of the program will begin in the spring. Reid-Perry says the program was an opportunity for him and his fellow candidates to learn and grow in their roles as nonprofit leaders.

“The program prepares working professionals at different phases of their career,” said Reid-Perry. “The uniqueness of the program is the schedule that allows for learning and the ability to implement what was covered during the classes. The courses cover a wide variety of topics that encourage you to challenge your traditional way of thinking and experience a multitude of approaches to meet your organization’s mission.”

Andrew Eder at the graduation ceremony.
Andrew Eder at the graduation ceremony.