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Grow as a Nonprofit Leader

Institute for Executive Director Leadership

Strengthen your knowledge, skills and passion to lead your nonprofit organization in this 10-month cohort program. Invest in your career, learn as a group, share best practices and prepare to implement proven change strategies in your nonprofit organization.

Develop your leadership abilities and help your organization reach its full potential in the St. Thomas Institute for Executive Director Leadership program. In this unique 10-month program, you’ll learn with a cohort of two dozen other executive nonprofit directors. This is a safe, supportive community in which to explore your personal, professional and organization goals. Discuss real-world nonprofit issues with colleagues who face similar challenges. Dig into the realities of leading social impact organizations in today’s rapidly changing world, and gain tools to address these challenges. Learn how to build trust, focus and engagement within your nonprofit, to support the launch of transformational initiatives.

This 10-month program begins every March and consists of ten full days of learning and connection. After the one-day orientation in March, the following months include two 2-day learning retreats at a Minnesota resort. You’ll also attend two 2-day learning retreats on the St. Thomas campus and one full day of action learning projects reflection at St. Thomas to close out your leadership journey.

See 2019 Schedule

Have Questions?

If you want to know more about the application process, eligibility or scholarships, please contact me, Devin Smith.


Devin Smith

Program Manager
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Phone Number
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Is This Program Right for you?

The Institute for Executive Director Leadership program is for nonprofit leaders and those pursuing leadership roles in social enterprises. Because participants bring their real-world organizational challenges and opportunities, we are able to explore nonprofit management and leadership practices that they can learn and implement in their organizations.

Ideal candidates for this program are:

  • Ready to explore the personal, professional and organizational challenges and opportunities of leading social enterprises
  • Seeking knowledge and support to help fulfill individual and organizational goals
  • Ready to engage with peers
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Application Process

Learning with the right mix of peers is an important part of this program. There is a brief application process, so we can ensure that you and this program are a great fit. The application deadline for the Spring 2019 cohort is March 1, 2019. You can apply at any time before that date. Applications are reviewed as they are received.

Thanks to a generous grant, partial scholarships of up to $1,000 are available to participants of this program.

We encourage the signature of your organization’s Board Chair as part of the application process.

Man speaking, title card says, "Mo Fahnestock, leader of the Institute for Executive Director Leadership and president of Authentic Leadership Action Inc.."

Executive Education: Institute for Executive Director Leadership (IEDL)

This executive leadership development program helps you recognize and achieve your organization’s full potential through the implementation of cutting edge nonprofit management and effective leadership practices learned in a dynamic, supportive, and relaxed learning environment.


The Institute for Executive Director Leadership program is a 10-month cohort program. The core concepts and tools learned in this program will prepare you to:

  • Assess your organization’s lifecycle, so you can focus development on the strategically vulnerable programs and systems
  • Engage with the authentic leadership action tools created by Dr. Robert Terry
  • Discover, understand, and engage your strengths and those of your leadership team, staff, and board by using Strengths Based Leadership by Tom Rath and Barry Conchie
  • Find new avenues for innovation and growth by learning Blue Ocean Strategy facilitated by Dr. John McVea, University of St. Thomas
  • Learn and practice design thinking and methodologies to develop and enhance new programs and services
  • Explore and practice creating mutually respectful, high performing relationships between the board and executive staff

You will earn 8.6 CEUs and a certificate of completion. At no extra cost, earn up to 0.6 additional CEUs by attending up to two modules of the Mini MBA for Nonprofit Organizations.


“This course refreshed and deepened my drive, passion and commitment to leading my organization. The community formed through the course will be one I tap into and seek support from in the future.”

Jenna Bowman
Executive Director, Rochester Downtown Alliance

"My experience with the Institute for Executive Director Leadership quite literally changed my professional life. The Institute gave me the skills and confidence to address difficult issues and realities pertaining to the leadership within the organization. The faculty provided a tremendous amount of resources needed for executive directors in the nonprofit sector. I especially appreciated the opportunity to network with nonprofit colleagues and discuss issues and concerns with others in similar situations. I would recommend the Institute for executives who strive to become better nonprofit leaders."

Joyce Holl
Executive Director, National Orientation Directors Association

"This program is not just a ‘fix-it’ approach—it’s a framework for thinking and acting. I have gained ideas and support from other directors in the program, and as a result, I have been able to act more decisively and keep the mission of my work in the forefront.”

Wendy Ambrose
Executive Director, Minnesota Family, Career and Community Leaders of America

Take the Next Step

St. Thomas Executive Education programs give you cutting-edge, practical knowledge and real-world skills you can apply at work the very next day. Gain the tools and techniques to be a more effective, strategic leader.
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