Shell Helps Build Leadership Capacity

December 8, 2009

Nonprofit CEOs often don’t have the resources for professional development as do their corporate counterparts. And attracting young leaders to serve in these positions is getting harder. In a recent survey of more than 1,000 young professionals working at nonprofits, 45 percent said they had no interest in serving as a CEO in their organization.

Shell partnered with the United Way of Greater Houston last year to help provide professional and leadership development opportunities for Houston-area nonprofit CEOs and to encourage younger professionals to develop top leadership skills.

The innovative yearlong Shell-United Way Leadership and Capacity Development series is a multi-faceted program designed to build organizational capacity by enhancing leadership skills and providing professional development and networking opportunities for emerging nonprofit leaders. The program’s components include:

Fundamentals of Management, a two-day boot camp for new nonprofit CEOs designed to provide an overview of basic management concepts and responsibilities of the job.

Conversation on Leadership, a series of one-on-one discussions between a for-profit CEO and a nonprofit CEO in which they share their insights in an informal setting. The first conversation between former Shell President John Hofmeister and Angela Blanchard, CEO of Neighborhood Centers Inc., drew 300 attendees. The second conversation was between Lynn Liberato, partner of Haynes and Boone law firm, and Clark Baker, CEO of the YMCA of Greater Houston. The fall program featured Dorothy Ables, chief administrative officer for Spectra Energy, and Judson Robinson III, CEO of the Houston Area Urban League.

Coaching for nonprofit leaders. Ten nonprofit CEOs in their roles for less than five years were selected to work with a credentialed business coach for six months.

A mentoring program in which 10 seasoned nonprofit CEOs were recruited to mentor new nonprofit CEOs.

Learning Circles, in which peer groups of emerging nonprofit leaders met monthly to develop individual leadership plans, brainstorm, problem-solve and share.

Ronnie Hagerty, assistant vice president of community relations with the United Way of Greater Houston, commended Shell for recognizing the growing need for leadership development and capacity building in the nonprofit sector. “Shell is visionary in recognizing this need and helping us create a complex program with many moving parts. It has been very successful,” Hagerty noted.Hagerty and her team researched the need and found typical leadership capacity-building programs focused on management skills. “Our program focuses on leadership continuity by developing the next generation of nonprofit leaders. We want to build organizational capacity to help sustain the ability of nonprofits to fulfil their missions.”

Mark Alexander had never received any formal leadership training on the role of a nonprofit CEO when he became executive director of the Bay Area Rehabilitation Center two years ago. Through the Shell-sponsored mentoring program, he met with Avondale House CEO Barbara Boyett over the course of four months. “In a nonprofit organization, it’s difficult to find the training resources for senior-level positions. Meeting with Barbara provided a sounding board for my ideas and helped support and validate that I was on the right track.”

Ana Schick, executive director, Interface-Samaritan Counseling Center, had been in her position for less than a year when she attended the two-day Fundamentals of Management program. “The programs the United Way offers, thanks to donors like Shell, are perfect for someone like me who is new to the job and needs to be current on best practices. The topics we covered were critical areas of a nonprofit operation and gave me tools for things I might need to do, validation for what I was already doing and ideas for improvement. I also benefited from the opportunity to network with other executive directors.”

Heather Patrick, director of operations for the Houston affiliate of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure®, credits being part of a United Way Learning Circle for helping her create a personal leadership development plan. “Meeting with 10 other nonprofit professionals on a monthly basis helped me focus on my strengths and what I need to improve and encouraged me to set goals for improving my leadership skills. As a result, I’ve enrolled in a year-long leadership program for nonprofits at Rice University.”