GRACE was recently one of the recipients of the Bank of America Neighborhood Builders® Leadership Program, which has been recognized as the nation’s largest philanthropic investment in nonprofit leadership development.

Neighborhood Builders® was launched over 10 years ago. As part of the award, high-performing nonprofits were hand-selected from a pool of applicants to receive leadership development and $200,000 in flexible funding.

This is a part of Bank of America’s efforts to build thriving communities by working with its leaders. They believe that big businesses have an obligation to impact the community in positive ways.

Earlier this year, GRACE Executive Director Shonda Schaefer flew to California to attend the executive level conference while our Director of Programs, Stacy Pacholick, traveled to St. Louis to join other emerging leaders. The conferences teach community leaders to better prepare for the future by providing the tools and resources they need to develop stronger strategic plans, chart a succession plan, navigate through tough economic times, and enhance funding opportunities.

The week after our Gala, Shonda and Stacy hopped on a plane once more to a comprehensive leadership building conference with 120 others in North Carolina where Bank of America is headquartered. They had a chance to develop peer relationships and share topics (like new laws in fair wages, new technologies and issues concerning diversity) with members of 60 nonprofits from around the country. They learned that personal stories, when delivered effectively, works better at getting attention than numbers and figures do.

Along with gaining new information, they built new peer relationships that can mean promising new business partnerships. Stacy said, “We continue to stay in touch with the groups we met at the conferences”, and added that the wealth of information and the quality of the conference itself made it one of the best she had attended. As hard as they worked, the refreshed looks on Shonda and Stacy’s faces upon their return spoke volumes about their ambition. “We’re inspired and motivated to put what we’ve learned to use next year for GRACE”, said Shonda.

Often times, there is a misperception that nonprofits are not businesses. Nonprofits are equally as responsible for maintaining their costs as any other type of business. “People see GRACE clients walking in to collect donated clothing and canned foods, but they don’t see the light bills being paid” said Shonda. “The awarded grant for operating expenses and leadership building programs will allow GRACE and others like us to accomplish our goals more efficiently and effectively.”

The Neighborhood Builders® Leadership Program has impacted 10,000 nonprofits and nearly 2,000 community leaders nationwide. The program persisted even in times of economic instability in the banking industry. Our hats are off to Bank of America for their pioneering endeavors!