Nonprofit leaders become Duke-Durham Unity Fellows

This is Duke University. The Helius Foundation provides entrepreneurial
training so that we can create financial self-sustainability for necessity-driven entrepreneurs. ReCity is building a community of innovators
to disrupt poverty in Durham. StepUp Durham provides job training and support
to individuals, especially those that have challenges to employment, to secure stable
employment. DurhamCares equips people with the tools and
relationships they need to care for their neighbors in holistic ways. I’m with Housing for New Hope, and we are
all about ending and preventing homelessness for people who are chronically homeless with
a disability and/or families living in a shelter. Partners for Youth Opportunity supports Durham
youth to make sure that they reach their educational and vocational goals. The Unity Fellows is an opportunity for nonprofit
leaders to focus on their own leadership as well as the organizational stability of the
nonprofits that they run. So with this first cohort, we were able to
find seven nonprofits that all operated at ReCity, and we’ve worked together for the
last eight months now. When you work particularly in a small nonprofit,
you feel like you’re in survival mode. You can’t look forward because you’re constantly
looking up. You’re trying to hold your head above the
water. And with the Unity Fellows, I kind of imagine
that we’ve been able to throw a noodle to folks, so they can prop themselves up, they’re
still kicking and working, but they can now look forward. I really think that any nonprofit leader would
get something out of this opportunity. A lot of times, executive directors can find
themselves in isolation. And, yes, you get a lot of skills from the
experience, but the relationships that you build and what you learn from other leaders
is invaluable. Being a new executive director, not being
sure if this is a role that I am confident in, just having other executive directors
around me, all of them pretty new, sharing some of their challenges and successes, it
was really affirming. For me to also be able to give some information
about the way that we’re doing things and have people think, ‘Oh, that’s a great idea! Maybe I’ll try it,’ so just having those thought
partners has been huge. Not a lot of people have that level of support,
so I’m very grateful.

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About the Author: Oren Garnes

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