The first course of the MetroWest Nonprofit Network’s Certificate in Nonprofit Management for Practitioners launched in 2021.The program has just completed recruiting for the 2022-2023 program.
2021 Graduates from the program received a certificate from MWNN and Framingham State University. The cost of the program for 2021 was $1,750, with partial and full scholarships available. The tuition for the 2022-23 program will be $1,800.00. The program was held virtually on Zoom for 12 half-day sessions.
Nancy Gaulin, chair of the MWNN Board, a clinical psychologist, and mentor in the certificate program, said the initial course was created in “collaboration” with FSU. Those who graduate with a certificate from the program can choose to purchase three graduate-level credits from FSU, according to MWNN’s website. Gaulin said these credits can be applied to a graduate program, if that program chooses to accept them.
“FSU has offered to allow us to use their infrastructure, whether it be for generating the certificates, whether it be for applying to the program, whether it be offering the graduate credits,” Gaulin added. “We’ve been really nicely aligned and it feels like a really good relationship.”
Gaulin said there were 12 main topics the program aims to cover, with “subject matter experts” as the instructors. She added these instructors were “really focusing on trying to give the students a basic understanding of the topic that they are presenting on.”
Another component to the course was the panels held, she said. This allowed the students to hear about and ask questions of how the panel participants have been able to apply a given topic to their nonprofits. Gaulin said what made the MWNN’s program “unique” compared to other graduate certificate programs covering this subject matter is the network formed between students, mentors, and instructors.
“They become a resource to that student, so that if they are starting their own nonprofit or they’re working at an existing nonprofit, they know they can tap into that person who taught them – whatever the subject is,” she added.
As a mentor for the program, Gaulin said she had an “incredibly rewarding experience” and was grateful for the relationships she was able to form with the students taking the course, adding she, too, is open to being a resource for those who have graduated.
Jan Stewart, instructor for the certificate program and a career coach, said she had formerly been in charge of a nonprofit and saw the importance of learning the skills that the program was offering, so she decided to join as an instructor. “My topic was defining your strengths as a leader, as an executive director,” Stewart said. “I emphasize that there are many different ways to lead and we talked about the different styles and then we talked a little bit about the confidence factor of doing it because sometimes it can be pretty overwhelming.”
Stewart added she appreciated the ability to learn from the students themselves. She was able to understand what their experiences were and what challenges they faced at their nonprofits.
Jannelle Codianni, graduate of the certificate program and executive director of ATAC Downtown Arts and Music, said she decided to join the course for a variety of reasons, including her relationship with the MWNN, the chance to network, and because her background is in art rather than nonprofit management.
“I’m personally often finding myself wondering what I don’t know – is there information that I don’t know – because some of these things I’ve taught myself or I’ve learned from other people who have taught themselves that I’m like, ‘Am I making more work that I could potentially do faster or better if I had a different kind of background?’” Codiani said.
She said one of the most valuable lessons she learned through the program was how to broaden the way she thought about fundraising and development for her nonprofit. Codiani added the program helped her understand how to better organize the resources she already has in a way that will reach an even better outcome. She said another valuable lesson she learned was that she knows what she is doing.
Codiani said she knows herself and others struggle with impostor syndrome and doubting their own abilities when it comes to running a nonprofit. “It is always helpful to be in an environment that reassures you, ‘You know what you’re doing. It’s OK to continue to learn. There’s more to know,’” she added.
Christian Espana, graduate of the certificate program and food pantry coordinator for A Place to Turn, said he joined the program because he “had become so invested and in love with the field of nonprofit work. “I knew I had to come up with a way on how to advance my knowledge and excel my experience with nonprofit work,” Espana said. “I know that I was already doing work at A Place to Turn, but prior to A Place a Turn, I was a CNA, a nursing assistant, so I had no experience – no knowledge at all. So I knew that this opportunity was a godsend.”
He said though the course took place on Zoom, that was helpful for him, adding the classes would use breakout rooms composed of different students each time so the students could get to know more of their classmates. Espana said the most valuable lesson was the “presentation on DEI [Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion] work and cultural competency and doing engagement conversations with clients. I think that’s definitely the most important because clients are our forefront.”
He added he is already using the skills he learned in A Place to Turn to make the experience more comfortable for his clients. He emphasized the importances of building trust and relationships with clients, adding he is trilingual and is learning more languages, including ASL and Haitian Creole to be more accessible for the clients in the area.
Tina Powderly, graduate of the certificate program and executive director of the Franklin Food Pantry, said, “In terms of the logistics of the program, I would say that they worked really, really hard to make it feasible. “I looked at many programs and there’s a lot of certificate programs out there, but I’m not sure that they’re always feasible for folks working, especially in small nonprofits, which I felt was what this certificate program was really targeted toward,” Powderly added.
She said one of the valuable lessons she learned in the program was to make sure she was taking the time to support her staff. Powderly added she appreciated the ability to network within the program and “all of the discussions with real people who were facing these issues in real time.
“We did a lot of brainstorming about real life issues with the participants in my small group and you almost felt like you had a consulting group every Friday to help you navigate the challenge that might be on your plate that particular week,” she said.
Powderly said after completing the program, she not only can see the immediate benefits, but also the “long term investment” she has made by taking part.
Cathleen Dinsmore, a graduate of the certificate program and founder and facilitator of the Hopkinton Freedom Team, said though she wished she could have taken the course sooner because of all she learned throughout the classes, she was reassured she was taking it at the right time by the impact it was already having on her organization.
“After MLK Day, usually the Youth Commission in Hopkinton organizes an MLK Giving Back Day,” Dinsmore said. “This year the Youth Commission was in flux. They weren’t going to be able to do it. So the Freedom Team was just going to put together this little virtual event with the local cable station and, of course, it turned out to be bigger and greater than we thought it would be.” As a result, Dinsmore said her organization was able to get the funding they needed to start the process of achieving 501(c)(3) status.
“All of the materials from the course were hugely helpful to me because I could refer back to them and I could ask questions of my classmates,” she said. Dinsmore said she is appreciative of all the opportunities to connect with other nonprofits who were more than willing to help one another. “It really opened my eyes to this whole network that I had no idea existed,” Dinsmore added.
Written by Leighah Beausoleil, MWNN Framingham State University Newman Fellow and Board Member