Nonprofit Executive Leadership Academy

A one year leadership experience for female nonprofit leaders

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Application Information

We are building a strong network of nonprofit professionals who are dedicated to creating lasting change that transforms organizations, local communities, and the greater society.

Take Your Leadership to the Next Level

Leading a nonprofit is a challenging experience, especially with limited budgets, high staff turnover, a changing political climate, and reduced support for social progress. Executives need additional training in managing change, embracing innovation, and strategic thinking to help their organization reach its missions. The Nonprofit Executive Leadership Academy is a year long leadership program for female nonprofit executives that includes networking with other nonprofit professionals, access to training and professional development on executive skills in social change leadership, and a chance to receive strategic support and coaching.


Why is leadership development crucial for female nonprofit leaders especially those in executive and senior roles?

Though women make up the majority of the nonprofit workforce they are often working with less training, resources, and compensation than their male counterparts. 

90% of women leaders believe management training would help them lead but less than 30% receive it

The majority of nonprofits with smaller budgets are led by Female CEOs

Only 18% of nonprofit executives have confidence in their management skills

Program Description

The Nonprofit Executive Leadership Academy (NELA) is the ideal course for women executive leaders who are looking to enhance the impact of their work in the social sector. This year long leadership program connects you with a strong network of nonprofit professionals who are passionate about making lasting change in their communities. Participants will have access to extraordinary training and professional development focused on executive skills in social change leadership, and a chance to receive strategic support and coaching. Fellows are selected through an open application process and a small group of finalists are chosen to participate in each regional cohort.

Your Investment Includes:

  • A year long program full of interactive learning, peer discussions, and real-time coaching 
  • The opportunity to connect with and learn alongside a cohort of other nonprofit Executive Directors
  • A chance to think about yourself as an individual leader, an organizational leader, and a system leader, who is equipped and empowered to create real and lasting change

Ready to take the next step in your career?  


Program Components

Leadership Institute

Participants choose a regional cohort and join their peers for a two-day intensive learning and networking event to kick off their year long leadership experience.

Quarterly Meeting

Participants will join interactive discussions with program leaders and cohort members focused on solutions, and strategies to overcome challenges. 

Strategic Coaching

Participants will have the opportunity to engage in two strategy sessions with an executive coach to discuss specific leadership challenges in their organization and role.

Training and Supporting

Over the course of the year, participants will engage with other fellows through online forums and have access to online courses specifically for nonprofit executives. 

Regional Leadership Institute Locations and Dates

Application materials are accepted and reviewed for all program regions on a rolling basis up until the location's final application deadline or all spaces are filled. You will be required to submit a resume, purpose statement and letter of recommendation as part of your application. You can apply to attend the Leadership Institute in any location, but applicants are encouraged to choose the region closest to their home location to increase the networking potential and regional understanding of challenges expressed by their peers. 

March 21-22, 2019


Application Deadline

March 1, 2019  

April 25 - 26, 2019

Application and Tuition Deadline

April 18, 2019  

May 28 - 29, 2019


Application and Tuition Deadline

May 21, 2019  

June 10-11, 2019


Application and Tuition Deadline

June 3, 2019  


A limited number of applicants will be accepted to participate in each region so submit your application as soon as possible to secure your spot. 

What to expect from the Leadership Institute...


Fellows will have a chance to look at their dreams, goals, challenges and beliefs about their role as a women in a leadership position.

New Skills

Fellows will learn innovative ways to operate, lead and guide social good efforts through in depth workshops tailored to nonprofit management.


Fellows will gain a new network of women in similar roles to bounce ideas, gain feedback and support through the challenges of leading social good organizations. 

 Program Start

The year long NELA program kicks off with a two day intensive regional leadership institute but fellows will participate in additional learning and networking opportunities over the next year with fellows from across the country.

Tuition covers program costs for the entire program year and includes access to all courses, coaching, and program materials. Participants that successfully complete the program receive a program certificate, digital qualification badges and membership to an exclusive networking community of women in nonprofit leadership.It does not include travel expenses for participants to the Leadership Institute. Participants are responsible for booking their own lodging and travel expenses for the event. Hotel suggestions will be provided to participants. 

What NELA Fellows Say About Their Experience

"At the time I got involved with NELA, I was looking for a way to connect with women leaders serving nonprofits in similar roles to mine. It was and remains important for me to be a part of a community of individuals actively working to improve the conditions of the communities we serve. NELA is a forum for women in the nonprofit sector to gather and learn from each other. NELA, also placed a heavy focus on self-reflection and understanding our individual strengths and learning edges. Additionally, through our in-person gatherings, we were able to dive into deeper conversations around leadership and gender that addressed common workplace issues, challenges, and solutions. How wonderful to be in a room with intelligent and passionate women, where everyone had a voice, and solutions and best practices flowed in abundance."

~ Danielle Marshall Executive Director Playworks Baltimore  

"I was inspired to apply for NELA when I learned it was a year-long commitment with other individuals from across the country in similar roles as myself willing to learn from one another.Being an executive leader can be very lonely when you feel the weight of your responsibility to your mission and the desire to keep your team motivated and protected from any challenges you can possibly prevent. I think NELA recognizes that there aren't a lot of safe spaces out there for women leaders to collaborate and share best practices and admit challenges. Any organization or group that provides a safe space for women to collaborate and share is filling a large void that exists in the workplace -- in the non-profit sector and others. It's also worth noting that there isn't a great amount of non-profit specific support like NELA. I appreciate the recognition that a non-profit executive deserves its own group of thought partners to collaborate with. "

~ Bethany Housman Director PromiseCorps  

"I have a high level of respect for professional development and the power of strong networks and I believe NELA was able to provide me with both of these things.Women thrive in collaborative environments. We are natural collaborators and together we make one another stronger. NELA has been key in having women in leadership collaborate, share, hear each other and network in a way this is both effective and fulfilling. I have new friends as a result of my NELA fellowship. "

~ Renee Flagler Execuive Director Girls Inc. Long Island

"I didn’t think I would be able to relate to the fellows in the cohort because I was Native American and in a very different field from most of them but I realized that I do share a lot in common with these women who work across the country even though we aren’t in the same exact type of organizations.One thing that I quickly realized during the NELA Leadership Institute is that someone recognized and understood the issues and needs of women in nonprofit leadership roles. It has been a positive part in my career and has given me the incentive to push myself further not only in this role but in my field. "

~ Rose Marquez Execuive Director Native Community Finance

"I am relatively new to the nonprofit world. I worked as a lawyer for 13 years prior to taking on this roll and I haven't had many opportunities to step back and reflect on the work. I just had to dive in from the beginning and feel my way through it. NELA seeks to provide an area where we can speak up and reach out to one another without worrying about being perceived as weak or unknowledgeable. As a leader we often are afraid to ask questions because we are supposed to be the ones who know what we're doing. Having a cohort in the same position allows us to be vulnerable and as such to learn and grow. "

~ Michelle Siri, JD Executive Director The Women's Law Center of Maryland

Eligibility Requirements

The training and resources presented in the NELA program are designed for women serving in an Executive Director or management level role in a nonprofit or social venture.  

Applicants should receive a professional recommendation by a board member, funder or program stakeholder.  

Education requirements include a Bachelor's degree or Life experience of 10+ years leading in the sector. 

You will be required to submit a resume, purpose statement and recommendation as part of your application. 

We are looking for women who have a personal and professional interest in one of the following focus areas:  

  • Human Rights, Equality & Social Justice
  • Poverty Alleviation and Society Change
  • Youth Development and Education
  • Environment and Conservation
  • Health and Wellness 

Providing strategic resources for mission driven work  

We provide strategic resources to increase the effectiveness, knowledge and capacity of those leading mission driven work and entrepreneurial ventures.  

We empower individuals to change global social problems and lead strong organizations. We equip groups and organizations with the tools they need to not only make a difference but to make a lasting and sustainable impact through their efforts.

We design trainings, courses and online learning systems to make learning accessible and easy for mission driven individuals and organizations.  

Learn more about our consulting and training work at

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