Standing Beside Alaska's Non-Profits

A New Year’s Resolution – I’ll Learn How to Better Manage My Organization

The Foraker Certificate in Nonprofit Management

A key factor in nonprofit sustainability is “human capacity” – and a key element in developing that capacity is education. One of the first programs we established at The Foraker Group, The Certificate in Nonprofit Management, was designed to enhance the skills of nonprofit professionals throughout Alaska. We launched the program in the fall of 2002 and graduated the most recent class in December. To date, we have had the privilege of working with seven cohorts, each averaging 20 students. These cohorts were comprised of people from all types of organizations — large and small, urban and rural – with missions that cover the nonprofit spectrum.

We believe the Certificate program has succeeded in the initial objective we set for it: To provide a higher level of understanding and proficiency in the management and entrepreneurial skills that are necessary to run an organization. Below is just a sample of comments we have received from our 2006 participants:

“There were so many inspiring and eye-opening moments during the Certificate Program that it’s challenging to distill the experience down to a few essential comments and reflections. More than anything, the experience reconfirmed and validated my career path in the nonprofit sector. As someone who arrived to the nonprofit sector largely by serendipity, there have been plenty of times when I felt a little less-than-prepared for some of challenges I’ve faced and I was eager for the opportunity to strengthen my skills. The quality of the curriculum and instructional materials was excellent. The quality of instruction was unsurpassed. Each instructor had his or her own unique style, but they all made the material relevant and engaging. The sessions were thoughtfully structured and organized to provide us with a thorough understanding of the nonprofit sector (from the most broad concepts to the most specific) and I think that structure worked really well. I also formed some great connections and bonds with the other participants in the program.”

“The certificate program has been exceedingly valuable to me. I have appreciated the opportunity to learn and to some extent practice the skills identified throughout the whole program. As someone who aspires to take on a higher leadership role in the not too distant future, I truly believe that this program will help prevent me from making unnecessary mistakes and guide me in the right direction.”

“I want to compliment you and the rest of the Foraker staff on what was really a terrific first session. The content and presentation was excellent and I am very much looking forward to picking up the discussion later in the month. I am already incorporating lessons from the course to improve the management of my department. I think there are also ways that we will be able to spread the lessons through out the organization, and to other nonprofits in the Region. Thank you again for an excellent class.”

The University of Alaska has been our collaborator from the very beginning of this innovative program. We’re especially grateful for the assistance of Operations Board member Jake Poole, Vice Chancellor in the Office of Advancement and Community Engagement at UAF, who provided the primary guidance in building our relationship with the university system. This is a non-degree program. However, UAF offers Continuing Education Units (CEUs) through its Tanana Valley Campus for people who complete all course requirements.

The Foraker Certificate is based on the “cohort” model of participation. Members of the class go through the coursework together. This way they get the advantage of building a peer network of other nonprofit professionals who can serve as a resource both during and after the program. One of the greatest strengths of the Certificate, according to everyone who has taken part, is this network.

After several attempts to conduct the program in Fairbanks and Juneau, we decided that to keep costs reasonable and promote statewide participation in each cohort, we needed to offer it only in Anchorage. However, to facilitate statewide participation and provide the diverse perspectives that add richness to the program, we do help underwrite travel costs. Thanks to both Alaska Airlines and BP for assistance with those costs.

This is a great time to consider whether the Certificate should be part of your educational objectives. If you’re in a management position in your organization, we encourage you to think about applying. More information is available at www.forakergroup.org, click on Educational Opportunities, then Certificate Program. Applications for the fall 2007 cohort will be available on the web site in February. If you have questions, please call Laurie Wolf at 907-723-1206.

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