Emerging Leaders Gather in Denver

By Jay Thomas

As Executive Director Chris Stream welcomed 70 nonprofit managers to Denver for the SourceAmerica Heartland Emerging Leaders Conference, he noted that leaders at many nonprofits are nearing retirement, and "we want to do something for future leaders in our nonprofit community."

Stream continued, "Some nonprofits haven't thought about succession planning, career ladders to grow or sustain leadership. The point of the next two days is to focus on growing you as leaders in your organization."

Nearly two full days of sessions on improving mid-level manager skills in leadership and operations followed a welcome reception the evening of Oct. 15.

"I'm glad SourceAmerica is focusing on developing younger people in organizations," said Vickey Graning, director of AbilityOne custodial and grounds operations for nonprofit Skils’kin. “We’re looking at new ideas around recruiting those who are truly looking for a way to use their skills and knowledge to help others. Many, new to the work force, as well as those who have years of experience are making purpose a top reason for accepting new positions."

Peter Reilly of the Georgetown University Center for Public and Nonprofit Leadership began the leadership track with a two-part session on improving negotiation skills, while SourceAmerica's Thomas Hartigan and Tamara Balenger led sessions on operations support and federal regulations compliance.

Following lunch, Ted Powell of Stop at Nothing led sessions on team trust, cohesion and productivity, and Fil Tellez, SourceAmerica director of contract policy, discussed critical factors in contract administration with a group of 20 attendees.

"The (small) size of this conference encouraged attendees to be collaborative with one another,” said Carla Gocool, senior team manager in SourceAmerica’s North Central Regional Office. “The nonprofit agency speakers worked well, which was an NCSE recommendation."

On Tuesday, Angie Kahiapo, with nonprofit Global Connections to Employment led a session on implementing a just culture. On Wednesday, Tom Minich, vice president of logistics for nonprofit Peckham, led a session on how to improve veteran hiring rates, while Dennis Funk, training and development administrator for nonprofit Skookum led a full day of sessions on situational leadership, conflict resolution and de-escalation.

Of Funk's sessions, Santiago Miranda said "Having someone from another nonprofit speak means a lot to me because I know they've dealt with the same issues I have."

Miranda, a senior project manager with nonprofit Beacon Group explained, "I got lots of insights I can take back to my team and make them stronger. The conflict resolution sessions gave us tools to better work with our staff when they're working with employees with disabilities."

SourceAmerica Board Chair Norm Lorentz flew directly from the U.S. AbilityOne Commission meeting on Tuesday in Arlington, Virginia to attend the conference. On Wednesday morning, Lorentz attended Minich's veterans hiring session, where he asked attendees to stay in contact with the SourceAmerica Board, noting how important it is for the Board to have continued visibility into veterans' issues. Lorentz also indicated that the Board is interested in diving deeper into what nonprofits are doing to support veterans, and hopefully having a panel session for substantive discussion at an upcoming Board meeting.

Over lunch, Lorentz updated conference attendees on SourceAmerica's updated vision and mission statement, CEO search, and support to the nonprofit agency community. Lorentz reiterated that the Board is squarely focused on supporting the creation of jobs for people with disabilities, both civilian and military.