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.

Current Participants and Mentors

Learn about the 2018 Leadership Institute participants and mentors.

Applications for the 2019 Leadership Institute will open in fall.

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.


KingLauren King has worked in the nonprofit sector for over eight years and is currently the Research Administrator at Children’s Research Triangle. Previously she 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. Lauren served on the YNPN Chicago Executive Board for three years and was a graduate of the 2012 Class of the YNPN Chicago Leadership Institute. She was also the Co-Founder for the Children’s Research Triangle Associate Board, served on the steering committee for the launch year of the Chicago Chapter of Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy and is a co-founding executive board member for All A-Board Alliance.

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 2018 Leadership Institute costs $350. This money is used to help cover the administrative expenses associated with the Institute.

Meeting Locations 

In 2018, 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. 

Application Details

Applications for the 2018 Leadership Institute are now closed. Applications for 2019 will open in the fall.
All applicants are required to submit an application, resume, and letter of reference/support.

More Questions?

Please send any questions to leadershipinstitute@ynpnchicago.org.

Our Supporters

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