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Fordham Offers Business Training for Nonprofit Leaders


Fordham has launched a center that offers top-notch executive education for leaders of nonprofit groups.

Lucia Crossley (right), who works for the Impact Community Development Corporation, was one of 30 students to complete the certificate program on April 24.
Photo by Ken Levinson

The Fordham Center for Nonprofit Leaders, which is run by the graduate schools of business and social service, is an intensive and comprehensive program. Faculty members hail from Fordham graduate schools as well as New York-area nonprofit and business organizations.

After finishing the program, participants are matched with some of the most experienced nonprofit leaders from the New York City area for one year. The center’s first cohort received certificates on April 24 in a ceremony at the Lincoln Center campus.

“The public often criticizes charities for lacking business efficiency and not taking on large social-change challenges,” said Elaine Congress, DSW, associate dean for continuing education and extramural programs in the Graduate School of Social Service (GSS). “We created this center to elevate small nonprofits, by far the bulk of the nation’s nearly one million charities.”

Francis Petit, Ph.D., assistant dean and director of executive programs at Fordham Graduate School of Business Administration, agreed.

“A business portfolio of skills is becoming increasingly required by nonprofit executives,” Petit said.

“The vision of the nonprofit world is to advance the public consciousness,” he said. “Unfortunately, the business end is usually what trips these organizations up. This program and the relationship that nonprofit leaders build with mentors will improve their knowledge and professional reputation.”

The center was the brainchild of Allan Luks, who serves as its director. Luks has three decades of experience with nonprofits and is the executive director of Big Brothers and Big Sisters.

“I’ve seen many such organizations fail because they did not have the right training,” Luks said. “I brought this issue to Peter Vaughan (dean of GSS), asking him to help initiate a program that all nonprofits in New York City could afford.”

“I wanted to elevate the reputation of nonprofit agencies in the city by giving them access to graduate-level teaching and mentors to use as resources,” he said.

The first cohort of 30 MBA and MSW graduates met over three Saturdays in April. They received 18 hours of instruction in organizational and staff management, proposal writing, fundraising and board development, among other topics.

Ibet Hernandez, director of social work services at Bronx Lebanon Hospital, enrolled in the program because she focused for many years on perfecting her clinical skills but neglected the business side of social work practice.

“In these tough economic times, it becomes increasingly important to know how to utilize business principles to push social agendas,” Hernandez said.

 Francis Petit, Ph.D., Elaine Congress, DSW, and Alan Luks oversaw the curriculum
for the program.
Photo by Ken Levinson

Another program participant, Margarette Tropnas, recently became the executive director of Dwa Fanm, an organization that empowers Haitian girls with an eye toward decreasing domestic and sexual abuse.

“This program couldn’t have come at a better time,” Tropnas said. “Our agency is small, only 10 staff members, and we are trying to overcome the fundraising problems that are common in today’s recession. I feel armed with more tools after completing this program.”

Lucia Crossley, who works for the Impact Community Development Corporation, said she was honored to have participated in a first-rate program.

“They gave us great information and brought quality people to instruct us,” Crossley said. “To provide us with such great minds with these high-caliber mentors for one year, I’m so proud.”

The mentors, whom participants can call on about anything over the next year, are:

• Plinio Ayala, executive director, Per Scholas;
• Philip Coltoff, past executive director, Children’s Aid Society;
• Kenneth Knuckles, president and CEO, Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone;
• Daniel Kronenfeld, past executive director, Henry Street Settlement; and
• Dolores Swirin, CEO, Girl Scout Council of Greater New York.

The next training program will likely start in the fall and take place over nine evening sessions. For more information, contact Elaine Congress at [email protected] or (212) 636-6667.


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