Headshot of Katie TaylorBy Katie Taylor, director of development, Northwestern Settlement

Attending the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities’ Executive Leadership Institute was a milestone in my career and professional development. I was honored to participate in a program that brought together other leaders from across the country from my sector to learn that we all face similar challenges. I spent the week of the institute at the University of Michigan's School of Social Work and Ross School of Business with thought partners who immediately became a great professional network. Having built many friendships within my cohort of students, I am excited that we will reunite this year.

My experiences at ELI provided foundational knowledge of the skills and traits a great leader needs and exhibits. At moments during the week, I felt I had been pushed to my limit. However, by hearing speakers discuss their challenges and generating ideas with my peers, I had the breakthrough that we are the leaders that need to build the pathway to success in our sector. Leadership is a critical factor in achieving our goals for our communities, our lives, and our organizations. Participating in ELI ultimately left me feeling energized and thinking beyond the bottom line. I earned an understanding of the delicate balance of leading from both the balcony and the floor—the floor has valuable data and input, but one has to manage the greater picture from the balcony.

As a part of ELI, each student completes an individual project between the first and second institutes. I was immediately inspired, and with the help of my fellow cohort members and the CEO of my organization, I felt I had the support to begin my own journey. I have been collecting stories of the people who have been involved with Northwestern Settlement in a variety of ways. These stories will eventually be used to show in a quantitative and qualitative way how our mission of disrupting generational poverty goes beyond a tagline, and that we have already been accomplishing this goal for 126 years. I also expect to see a return on investment, based on a variety of data points, showing that the Settlement has reliably been an economic powerhouse for Chicago—not only through the services that we provide, but by setting our families up for success and creating participatory citizens.

Thank you to the Alliance for such an incredible experience, one that has transformed my thinking and has built a confidence in me that I did not have before. I am ready to help further the mission of not only the Settlement, but also the nonprofit sector in general.

About the Executive Leadership Institute

ELI is the intensive executive leadership certification program offered through a partnership between the Alliance and University of Michigan School of Social Work and Ross School of Business. The curriculum, presented by faculty from the nonprofit and for-profit sectors, equips senior-level managers and executives with the knowledge and skills to oversee day-to-day operations, and also prepare for the future and greater systems change. ELI features 64 hours of content delivered over two years during two weeklong concentrated sessions. The second year of the program culminates in the presentation of projects completed between the first and second years.

Learn more about ELI, view the 2018 curriculum and faculty, and register online.

About the Author

Katie Taylor joined Northwestern Settlement in 2010 as an intern in the office of external affairs and has grown her career, moving up to her current role as director of development. In this role, she oversees fundraising and external communications for the $15 million organization. Taylor studied finance and honors marketing with a minor in business administration at DePaul University and proceeded to develop her career in the nonprofit sector.

She immigrated to Chicago from St. Petersburg, Russia, with her mother and father when she was six years old, and her work is inspired by her personal experiences of immigrating and disrupting her family’s generational poverty. Taylor is a member of Chicago Women in Philanthropy and volunteers as a translator at local community centers and food pantries.