It Can Be Lonely At the Top: The Plight of the Nonprofit Executive

Chief executives of nonprofit organizations are an unusually committed and idealistic bunch truly believing in the power to transform lives and change the world. But, times are tough. The sector is under intense pressure to innovate, scale up operations, and demonstrate impact often with reduced resources. Although energized by their jobs, leaders can also feel lonely at the top which is why Millennia’s Executive Learning Circle model is a much coveted opportunity because it provides space to learn from and reflect with professional peers. In the past year, The Advocate Bethany Community Health Fund and The Brinson Foundation have sponsored Learning Circles for their grantees. Millennia consultant Wendy Siegel has provided the consultation and facilitation that ensures necessary structure to this six-month process. 

Learning Circles are small, highly focused groups of professionals who meet regularly to help each other identify and find solutions to real-time management, operational, policy and governance issues. For those that participate, it is a chance to step back from the day-to-day routine and stresses at the office and reflect on the big picture.

Bryce Bowman, former Executive Director Citizen Schools Illinois had this to say about the process. 
“A powerful experience with like-minded leaders who value the mindset of service.”  

But circles aren’t just about vision and strategy, members also get down and dirty as executives help each other figure out how to resolve knotty organizational problems. 

Maria Kim, President and CEO of The Cara Program put it this way,

“ The coaching and facilitation from Millennia Consulting helped our group of emerging and established leaders—who rarely get the time for authentic and safe peer mentorship—to be able to join together, support each other, and most importantly engage in the art and science of solution creation. Hats off to Millennia for putting the “learning” back into “learning circle”—we are truly grateful.”  

For more information contact

Strengthening Public Schools in the Southern Cook Suburbs

Millennia Consultants Tom Lenz and Brenda Bannor have worked with the Southland Education and Health Initiative (SEHI) over the last year in a variety of capacities.  SEHI is a collaborative effort of the American Academy of Pediatrics – Illinois Chapter, Consortium for Educational Change, Cook County Health and Hospitals System, Governors State University, the Illinois Education Association, and school districts in Calumet Park (132), Dolton-Riverdale (148) and Ford Heights (169).  Its primary goals are to increase family and community wellness and access to preventative care as well as to mitigate the impact of childhood trauma and build resiliency in children and communities.

Tom Lenz was brought on a year ago to structure a planning and learning process for teachers, administrators, union officials, and health care professionals.  Over the first half of 2015 over 70 people participated in monthly seminars to learn about Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), behavioral health, family engagement and other topics. 

When the access to primary care emerged as an issue, Lenz recruited his Millennia colleague Brenda Bannor, an expert in school-based health care solutions.  Brenda undertook a study of health care needs in the three suburban districts.  SEHI members also visited a health clinic and mobile medical van in Aurora to get a first-hand idea of what school based health looks like in practice. 

Based on Brenda’s work, schools in the Southland are now receiving free dental and asthma care through Mobile Care Chicago and other projects are under development.  Meanwhile, Tom Lenz is assisting the leaders of the collaborative as they develop a long-range plan to continue and expand their work.  A short video describing the origins and aims of the Southland effort can be viewed at: .

LGBT Community Fund at the Chicago Community Trust awards $282,500 to 14 community organizations with the assistance of Millennia

The Chicago Community Trust began The LGBT Community Fund in 2010 with a $500,000 matching challenge grant. The Steering Committee of the Fund has overseen a fundraising campaign that has met its $1 million required to match the CCT gift. Additionally, The Elizabeth Morse Charitable Trust issued a $150,000 matching challenge to encourage contributions. The $500,000 gift from the Trust will remain as a permanent endowment to the LGBT Community Fund.

Millennia’s Marcia Lipetz has been working with the LGBT Community Fund for the past year. Prior to engaging Millennia, the Fund had conducted a community needs assessment and set grantmaking priorities. The Fund established plans to award grants in 3 funding cycles, the first of which focus on community impact. IMPACT Grants focused on smaller organizations with organizational and/or project capacity building needs. With Marcia’s experience in philanthropy and in the LGBT community, the Fund created a process for requesting letters of inquiry and full proposals, conducting site visits, and ultimately awarding grants to 14 organizations for a total of $282, 500. 

The following organization receive grants ranging from $10,000 to $25,000 at a breakfast held at Chicago Community Tryst on Oct. 1: About Face Theatre, Adler University’s LGBT Mental Health and Inclusion Center, Affinity Community Services, Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, Association of Latinos/Motivating Action (ALMA), Broadway United Methodist Church (Youth Lounge Program), Chicago Filmmakers, Chicago Gay Black Men’s Caucus, Leather Archives and Museum, Inc., Project Fierce Chicago, RAD remedy, Thousand Waves Martial Arts and Self-Defense Center, Transformative Justice Project of Illinois, and Youth Empowerment Performance Project. All are organizations serving Chicagoland’s LGBT community and represent a great diversity of programs and services being provided and communities served.

Marcia will continue to work with the LGBT Community Fund as it moves into its second funding cycle which will focus on larger collaborative grants that seek to make lasting change in the community. For more information contact