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Have Questions About The YNPN Leadership Institute?

Updated: Nov 17, 2021

Juliann Krupa, 2021 cohort member and YNPN LI Board Chair

It’s with great excitement that I share that the applications for the 2022 cohort of YNPN Chicago’s Leadership Institute are open! Last week we shared a reflection from one of last year’s cohort members; stay tuned to the blog throughout November for additional posts from other cohort members and mentors.

As a Leadership Institute alumni myself and now as board chair, I’ve gotten the chance to talk with many people about the work of YNPN and what the Leadership Institute program is all about. But I clearly remember the time, not that long ago, when I was trying to decide if the program was right for me and if I should even apply. To that end, I’ve put together the following Q&A about the program, hoping to answer some of the same questions you might have if you are considering applying to be a member of the 2022 cohort. I hope this is a helpful resource, but please also join us on November 16th at 5:30 p.m. for a virtual networking and FAQ session to hear more about the program directly from myself and other former cohort members. Check the YNPN newsletter or events page for more information. Feel free to also reach out to me directly at I’d love to chat!

Applications close on Sunday November 28th, at the end of the holiday weekend. I hope you have much to celebrate and are able to spend time with family and friends this Thanksgiving. I look forward to meeting the 2022 cohort!

Who should apply?

Leadership Institute seems to attract people who have 5-7 years professional experience in the non-profit sector and who have been reflecting for a while on how to move their career forward, how they can improve as a leader, or what their next opportunity might be. But to be successful, all you need is to be open to spending time self-reflecting, willing to share your personal and professional experiences with others, and just generally interested in geeking out about non-profit management.

What benefits will I get out of it? Will it be worth my time?

What participants get out of the program varies depending on individual effort and what they are looking to get out of the program in the first place. For me, I used my year in Leadership Institute to pound the pavement hard. I was looking to expand my network and explore what a new chapter of my career might look like. I met regularly with my assigned personal mentor (a great benefit of the program!) and set up countless informational interviews with other members of my cohort, the guest speakers from the sessions, and other nonprofit leaders who came up in conversation. I also leaned on my fellow cohort members for support and camaraderie as I was making my way through projects at work, keeping an eye open for interesting opportunities, and just generally living my nonprofit life.

Other cohort members say they really enjoyed the reflective component of the program. They put a lot of time into journaling and self-reflection, which allowed them to clarify what their strengths and goals were and how they could build plans to achieve those goals. Others still valued the casual and risk-free atmosphere of the cohort; a place where we could be honest with each other about tough situations at home or at work and get feedback from people who understood the challenges of nonprofits, but who were outside the particular situation. Every leader is different and I think everyone will get something a little different out of the program, based on what their personal journeys or motivations are.

I’m so tired of Zoom meetings. Should I wait until the cohort is in-person again?

I get it! And I struggled with this question when I was applying in 2021. We made the decision to keep the 2022 program virtual due to the ongoing pandemic situation, but also because of the increased accessibility virtual programming offers. It allows participants to join from anywhere in Chicagoland and removes barriers such as commuting, parking, child care, etc. Both myself and our 2022 facilitator have extensive experience with digital learning and hope to make the virtual sessions engaging and a place to build community. However, we know that in-person networking still proves invaluable, so we plan to hold two in-person networking events during the year for the cohort to connect. These will be optional events for the cohort and the decision on where and when to hold them will be based on the continually evolving external factors.

How does the mentorship aspect of the program work?

Mentors are often vice president and executive level nonprofit leaders who donate their time to YNPN. Many mentors have returned year after year to the Leadership Institute program and enjoy making connections with emerging leaders and helping them build their networks. Cohort members are matched at the beginning of the program with a specific mentor, based, if possible, on their sector/interests. Mentors and mentees are expected to meet at least once a month, but the length and mode of meeting is up to each individual pair. The expectation is on the mentee to set the meeting times and agendas. Mentors will be invited to the second of the optional in-person networking events.

How can I get my employer on board?

Whereas most leadership programs are focused on traditional management skills that are useful once individuals become part of the leadership team, YNPN’s leadership program focuses on creating awareness around skills that can be used now (at mid-level career) and in the future. Participants are introduced to new tools and ideas that they take back to share with their teams, but discuss and develop leadership attributes such as confidence, empathy, motivation, adaptability, and vision.

That’s great, but let’s talk about money: My organization’s professional development budget isn’t very big/I can’t afford to pay the course fee.

YNPN strives to provide low-cost professional development opportunities without boundaries. Last year, we introduced a sliding tuition scale that is based on an organization's annual operating budget. We hope that this makes the program more accessible to organizations with smaller professional development budgets.

If you will need to pay the course fee yourself and finance is a barrier to participating, please apply anyway and reach out to me at We want to work with you to find a solution that allows your participation through either reduced course fees, monthly payments, etc.

How much of a time commitment is this program?

The cohort meets for 3 hours on the first Friday of the month from January through October. Participants are also expected to meet with their assigned mentor on a monthly basis. Additional time is required outside of monthly sessions in order to complete assignments such as reading articles or keeping a journal. In my experience, including the monthly meeting, I spent approximately 8-10 hours a month on Leadership Institute.

How big is the cohort?

Each year, Leadership Institute accepts 12-15 participants as part of the cohort.

What is the application and selection process?

You can preview the application on the Leadership Institute homepage so that you can prepare your materials before beginning to fill in the online form. Applications are due Sunday, November 28 at 11:59 PM. All applicants are required to submit an application, resume, and letter of reference/support from your employer. There is no interview process; the cohort nominating committee meets in early December and selects the cohort through a blind selection process. All applicants will receive communication about their status before the end of the year.

Still Have Questions?

Please feel free to reach out to me, Juliann Krupa, at I look forward to chatting with you!

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