Leadership Institute

The Young Nonprofit Professionals Network of Chicago (YNPN Chicago) presents the Leadership Institute: the area's most affordable, select leadership training program for nonprofit professionals. Over a period of ten months, a cohort of up to 15 promising mid-career nonprofit professionals and managers learn from experienced facilitators, executive mentors, and each other. Through a syllabus rooted in skill building and reflective learning, the YNPN Chicago Leadership Institute develops future leaders for the Chicago nonprofit and public service sectors. 



The daily commotion of putting out fires, keeping on top of communications with stakeholders, and furthering an organization’s mission, make it difficult to find the time to sit down and reflect on yourself and the person you want to be. Am I growing as a leader? Is my job keeping me on the right career path? Do I even know where I want to be in ten years? The Leadership Institute forces you to ask yourself those questions and, more importantly, gives you the space to contemplate your answers.

Brooke Fallon, Assistant Director of Activism at the Institute for Justice
2015 Leadership Institute Participant

Through the Institute, I have connected with an ambitious and talented group of my peers, industry leaders, and a seasoned mentor to help me develop problem-solving and leadership strategies. Together, we're growing and adapting to the ever-changing landscape of nonprofit funding, management, and programming.

Karen Reyes, Executive Director of ArtReach at Lillstreet
2015 Leadership Institute Participant


Begun in 2009 through a partnership between YNPN Chicago and the Executive Service Corps of Chicago (ESC), the Leadership Institute selects a cohort of up to 15 participants through a competitive application process. To date, seven cohorts of over 100 participants have graduated from the Institute. At least six alumni have gone on to become Executive Directors and many more have taken on enhanced leadership roles within their organizations.

2019 Participants and Mentors

Learn about the participants of the 2019 Leadership Institute and their mentors.

Program Model

The Leadership Institute is a 10-month intensive cohort program that runs from January through October. It begins with an orientation and concludes with a final capstone project. Features of the program include:

  • Eight monthly three-hour sessions with guided peer learning and activities that allow participants to apply what they have learned in the session
  • Guest presentations from local nonprofit leaders
  • Monthly one-on-one meetings with a mentor
  • Access to materials that enhance awareness of best practices and current trends in the nonprofit sector

Program Goals

Participants will graduate having skills and awareness that enable them to successfully lead teams, oversee projects, and contribute to overall organizational growth. The curriculum has two distinct focuses:

  1. Self-reflection which enhances one’s ability to understand his or her own strengths and weaknesses, build more effective communication skills, and develop one’s own leadership style.
  2. Skill building as related to nonprofit operations. This includes (but is not limited to) exercises to develop strategic planning skills, budget and finance best practices, and people management skills.

2019 Facilitators

Pon Angara
Principal and Creative Director, Barkada Creative

As partner to nonprofits, Pon is passionate about creating their distinct brand using his depth of real-world experience in communication design, event marketing and storytelling. Part artist and part engineer, Pon fuses seemingly disparate concepts to spark bold, new ideas that can lead to meaningful transformation. He has served as Nonprofit SIG Director for the American Marketing Association, Marketing SIG Chair for the Association Forum and Program Chair for the Chicago Area Chapter of the Grant Professionals Association. Pon's unique approach is driven by his understanding for how principles and methods in science, business and the arts can converge for innovative problem solving. He has a BS Engineering Management, BFA Industrial Design and BFA Communication Design from the University of Illinois at Chicago.


Lauren King
Quality Improvement Manager, Youth Guidance

Lauren King has over 10 years of experience working in the Chicagoland nonprofit sector as a program evaluator and community organizer. She spent 8 years doing behavioral health program evaluation at Children’s Research Triangle where she became the Assistant Research Director. Currently, she serves as the Manager of Quality Improvement at Youth Guidance. Previously, Lauren was an Adjunct Instructor and taught Diversity and Community Engagement to graduate students at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, where she earned her MA in Forensic Psychology. She earned her BA in psychology and criminal justice from Bradley University. She served on the YNPN Chicago Executive Board (2012-2015) and also served on the steering committee for the launch year of the Chicago Chapter of Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy. In addition, she is a co-founding executive board member for All A-Board Alliance, a nonprofit organization aimed at cultivating meaningful civic engagement among young professionals through associate board service. Lauren is also a 2018 Education Pioneers Fellow.

Lauren has been involved with the YNPN Leadership Institute for 5 years. First as a graduate from the 2012 cohort, then as the 2015 Chairperson, and she has been a facilitator since 2017.

Ideal Participants

This program targets mid-level professionals (5-7 years experience) who currently have responsibilities that include managing people and a variety of projects. To be successful, participants should have the support of their current employers, which includes having time off to attend monthly sessions and having the opportunity to apply new skills in the workplace.

The program is open to all Chicago professionals who currently work in the nonprofit/social sector. YNPN Chicago membership is not a requirement to be eligible for Leadership Institute; however, preference will be given to applicants who demonstrate engagement with YNPN Chicago through membership and/or event attendance. 

Participant Expectations

Participants are expected to attend all sessions and actively engage in group conversations, complete course assignments, and meet with their mentors on a monthly basis. Further, all participants are expected to contribute to the capstone project. This will entail working as a group to develop solutions for a local nonprofit organization who is experiencing challenges related to strategic growth and presenting those solutions at the final monthly session.

Program Fee 

The 2019 Leadership Institute costs $375. This money is used to help cover the administrative expenses associated with the Institute.

Meeting Location and Dates 

In 2019, all meetings will be held on Fridays at Forefront (208 S. LaSalle St., Suite 1540) from 9:00 a.m. to noon. Participants are expected to attend all monthly sessions, which begin in January and go through October. 

2019 Leadership Institute sessions will be held on 1/11, 2/15, 3/8, 4/12, 5/31, 6/21, 7/12, 8/9, 9/13, and 10/11.

Application Process

Applications for the 2019 Leadership Institute have closed. Applications for the 2020 Leadership Institute will open in fall 2019.

Applicants are notified in mid-December if they have been selected. Program participants are expected to attend all program sessions beginning in January.

Before Applying

  • Please note: You will only be able to access your online applications one time through SurveyMonkey. The system will also require you to complete most questions before proceeding. We highly recommend that you preview our application and prepare your answers before beginning your submission.
  • Have PDF copies of your resume and letter of reference available. You will be asked to upload both before submitting your application. 

More Questions?

Visit the Leadership Institute FAQ page. Please direct any other questions to leadershipinstitute@ynpnchicago.org.

Our Supporters

YNPN Chicago is thankful for organizations such as Forefront who make this program possible!