Project LEAD-ing the Way for Real Change
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United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County

Project LEAD-ing the Way for Real Change

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July 1, 2015

by Tamara Watkins, Project LEAD class of 2015

We hear a lot of talk about diversity: That it’s critical, it matters and that we need to change the face of leadership – including on nonprofit boards. Unfortunately, that’s often where the conversation stops. Thankfully, United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County is going above and beyond talking and taking action to create real change in our community.

With sponsorship from Michael Best & Friedrich, United Way launched Project LEAD (Leadership Effectiveness and Diversity) this past spring. The program is designed to prepare community members from underrepresented groups to become leaders on nonprofit boards and committees. Participants are matched with program advisors and must complete a six-week training program. Upon completion, they are connected with nonprofit agencies with the goal of placement on a nonprofit board within six months. 

I’m proud to be a member of this inaugural class.

Every week, I join 20 other professionals to learn about what non-profit leadership means in our community, and how to serve as a great board member. These sessions equip me with the knowledge and tools I need to effect real change. Through this class, United Way is helping tap our city’s most dedicated, passionate and trusted community leaders to invest in our collective future.

From the head of the country’s largest non-profit youth organization to an executive director of a local women’s shelter, we get to hear from speakers with real insight into the next generation. Each member of the class is matched with an advisor from the United Way Leadership Society – to help marry each member’s passion to real-life opportunities – which furthers knowledge sharing.

Class topics include board basics, advocacy and learning, governance and training, finance and resource development (one of my personal favorites). All of this ensures a solid footing for board participation.

As a former resident of the 53206 neighborhood, I grew up in one of the poorest and most troubled areas in the City of Milwaukee. I witnessed the effects of poverty, violence and drugs on our community first hand. Now as an adult I understand how much United Way truly does make a difference. Non-profit boards can achieve greater program effectiveness by diversifying their board leadership. Doing this will reflect the real world - and the real people - who need these vital services. It only makes sense to have leaders from the community help decide how to best serve the community.

United Way is not just talking the talk when it comes to promoting diversity - they’re walking the walk. They have taken time to make a true investment in the future of our community through Project LEAD. This program is a gift that will keep on giving – not just today, but for generations of non-profits to come. I’m excited to be part of real change.

Project LEAD is now accepting applications for the 2016 class of participants and advisors.

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