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Leadership and Collaboration: Nonprofit Boot Camp

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You could feel the electricity in the air at the second annual nonprofit boot camp, which brought together thousands of nonprofit movers and shakers to share and explore new solutions to big problems. Held at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, boot camp was created by the Craigslist Foundation, a publicly supported, non-endowed (501)c3 operating foundation.

Boot camp was created to educate, empower, and connect nonprofit leaders and social entrepreneurs. Produced in partnership with more than one hundred organizations and sponsors, including DivineCaroline, boot camp’s goal was to be a true community effort. The day entailed keynote addresses, lectures, workshops, and one-on-one coaching sessions by industry leaders. The organizations that attended have missions as diverse as climate change, homelessness and poverty, education, youth care, the elderly, as well as human rights and the arts.

The Craigslist Foundation’s nonprofit boot camp began with a keynote address by Darian Rodriguez Heyman, Executive Director of the Craigslist Foundation. He appealed to the audience to “pick big problems to bring to your life.” For those starting nonprofits and even well established nonprofits, this means figuring out who’s out there and collaborating as much as possible. In his words we must “seek first to collaborate and only then to lead.” This requires doing your homework, seeking out partners, and collaborating daily. Heyman also challenged the audience to get outside their comfort zone; to get outside of their own cause for a day—and to support at least two other people while at boot camp. For those just starting a nonprofit in particular, his advice was to avoid “mission creep” at all costs. That is, if you try to do too much, you can’t do anything well. He also encouraged the audience to seek out two programs to focus on—and do them well.

He then introduced Nancy Leublin, CEO of Do Something and the original founder of Dress for Success. In her comical speech, “10 Things I Hate About Nonprofits,” she joked about the phrase she often hears from venture philanthropists and others, namely, “be more like a for-profit!” It was a sentiment that was funny but controversial for many, as I later learned throughout the day. Leublin encourages nonprofits to have a sense of humor. As the audience roared, it was clear she was getting everyone in the mood to not only think big, but to have fun doing it, too.

As people milled about and found their way to workshops, I was struck at the sheer energy and excitement in the air. The spirit of collaboration was evident by the thousands of people buzzing about and gulping down large cups of coffee while giving away their cards. As I went to throw out my first cup of coffee, I quickly realized it was (gulp!) recyclable. Eco-stations lined the main foyer and volunteers quickly pointed me toward recycling and composting stations, as well as refillable water bottles. This was truly a green event.

Related Story: Craigslist Foundation Nonprofit Bootcamp Overview


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