In times of rapid change and increasing challenges, nonprofits need leaders with the ability to adapt to and take advantage of changing circumstances. This program is designed to support outstanding nonprofit leaders as they seek to strengthen their organizations by creating a network of empowered, innovative, and resilient leaders, capable of navigating change with the skills and tools necessary to move their organizations toward greater impact.

Leadership Advanced

Frequently Asked Questions

The design of Leadership Advanced is based on several nonprofit learning communities supported by the Hawaii Community Foundation and the Impact Foundation in North Dakota.
As the City of Milwaukee comes together to address some of our more recalcitrant problems, more and more people are turning to the nonprofit sector to deliver services. But there remains a fundamental gap between the impact desired from the sector and the impact delivered. While there are many reasons for this gap, we believe that one of the primary causes is a leadership deficit within the sector.

While there are many resources for leadership, there are no comprehensive leadership and management resources in Wisconsin targeted at nonprofit professionals. Nonprofits offer a different type of leadership challenge where different skills are needed than the for-profit sector to bring people together and manage a dual-bottom line of mission impact and financial viability.  Individual trainings and lectures may be helpful, but the cohort based approach builds a peer network and allows participants to explore in-depth their leadership style and become equipped with the latest management tools to accomplish their goals.

One of the distinguishing factors of this design and what has proven to contribute to the lasting impact of the program is the establishment of a peer network that lives beyond the program. The participants build mutual trust and have a long-lasting resource in their colleagues. In previous programs, alumni continue to remain in contact many years after program completion. This network building strengthens the sustainability of the sector.
We have experience with learning communities that are role specific (only executives or only emerging leaders). Given the current disruption that is taking place in the nonprofit sector with many legacy leaders departing, there is a greater urgency to build shared leadership in organizations so that executive transition is managed with greater success. In the initial cohort three transitions occurred. Two senior managers were promoted to lead their organizations and one Executive Director transferred to a new organization. This offered a rich action-learning environment for the participants, in addition to providing support to navigate the changes.
Foundation staff have regularly participated in the learning communities. It is an opportunity to increase personal understanding of nonprofit management and the challenges that exist for organizations in achieving impact. In addition, it provides an opportunity for nonprofits to better understand the perspective that funders have when considering grantmaking strategies. We have found this to be a valuable experience to dispel misconceptions and assumptions of the relationships between funders and nonprofit organizations.
In a recent blog post in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Ira Hirschfield, President of the Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Fund presents the case that investing in leadership accelerates philanthropic impact. Hirschfield states, “foundations ask a great deal of the organizations we support.. we hope grantees will deliver transformational results for the people and places they serve. It’s striking how seldom we back that up with funds to help organizations develop and strengthen the ability of their leaders to meet those high expectations. People are not born with everything it takes to manage and motivate a team, build coalitions and lead change – and are certainly not born knowing how to be good board members…. This is what leadership development is about – and to the extent that foundations decide it is important and fund it, then we and our grantees will be better positioned to achieve our goals for impact.”
This program design has been tested over more than ten years. Based on the assessment and refinement of the program, engagement over a period of time allows for meaningful development of relationships and a deepening of the learning. Delivering the program with two facilitators allows participants to experience different facilitation styles as well as modeling of shared leadership. Although Steve and Mary have some overlapping experience, each has distinct areas of expertise. This allows participants to have a dynamic learning experience.
A qualitative evaluation of the Leadership Advanced program was conducted at the end of each session. A mid-point evaluation and final evaluation was conducted. In addition, a series of testimonial interviews were conducted of program participants that personally describe the impact of the program. These videos can be viewed at
The program was supported by six foundations in the Madison and Milwaukee area. Funders supported between one and six participants.
This program includes 9 full days of facilitation in a seminar format of no more than 16 participants by two faculty from nationally known consulting firms. The program cost includes all curriculum materials, several personal assessment tools and meeting room and food expenses.  With the generous underwriting of the Benidt Foundation, the cost of the program for each participant is less than $550 per day.  Comparable national programs such as the Stanford Nonprofit Institute and Harvard Nonprofit Management Institute which are designed in a conference format with more than 100 participants, charge fees ranging from $700-875 per day.

Fellow Testimonials

For more information and testimonial videos on Leadership Advanced, please visit the website

Who are the Facilitators?

Mary Stelletello brings more than 20 years experience in the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors to her coaching and consulting work in the areas of leadership development, training, facilitation, organizational capacity building, governance and strategy development. Mary is a certified professional coach with the Coaches Training Institute and credentialed by the International Coaching Federation. She uses these skills with nonprofit executives, board leaders and management staff to strengthen their abilities and skills to guide organizations to excellence. Mary has supported more than 30 boards in moving toward higher impact. Mary is known for her depth of experience “walking in the shoes” of CEOs and board leaders and working in networks. She brings a dedication to social impact, a can-do attitude and commitment to partnering with clients to deliver high quality, on-time, extraordinary results. Mary facilitates with an inclusive and engaging style. All with an element of fun! Mary holds a MA in Latin American Studies and an MBA in International Management from the University of New Mexico. She received a BA in Political Economics with a minor in Spanish from the University of California, Berkeley. 510-868-1046
Steven D. Zimmerman, CPA, MBA is the Principal of Spectrum Nonprofit Services where he provides training and consulting in the areas of finance and strategy for community-based organizations, foundations and government agencies throughout the country. Steve is co-author of the newly released book, The Sustainability Mindset: Using the Matrix Map to Make Strategic Decisions and Nonprofit Sustainability: Making Strategic Decisions for Financial Viability published by Jossey-Bass with Jeanne Bell of CompassPoint and Jan Masaoka of Blue Avocado. The books highlight Spectrum’s integrated approach to nonprofits which balances mission impact and financial viability. Steve also writes the Finance and Strategy column for Blue Avocado, an online magazine for nonprofits with 60,000 subscribers, and has also written for The Nonprofit Quarterly and Board Source. Prior to starting Spectrum, Steve was a Projects Director with CompassPoint Nonprofit Services, one of the nation’s leading nonprofit consulting, training and research providers. Steve’s extensive nonprofit experience includes serving as a Chief Financial Officer, Development Director and Associate Director at community-based nonprofits where he performed turnarounds resulting in increased financial sustainability and programmatic reach. He is a Certified Public Accountant and earned a BA from Claremont McKenna College and an MBA from Yale University. 414-226-2322
If you are interested in funding a 2020 Leadership Advanced cohort, please contact Tony Shields, President and CEO, Wisconsin Philanthropy Network, at 262.317.6002 or