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ASU Lodestar Center Blog

Evolution of Today’s Nonprofit Professional

Whether you were born into it, fell into it or discovered it along your life’s journey, today’s nonprofit professionals follow an evolutionary path much like that of our species.  Crawling, walking, running and potentially walking on water.  The exact time and place of those changes are never easy to spot, do not take a linear path or they can happen right before your eyes.  The Arizona State University’s Certified Nonprofit Professional credential through the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance (formerly American Humanics) is responsible for students who graduate, not crawling but running to their internships and first professional positions in local and national organizations.

Since 1980, the ASU program has provided both academic courses and hands-on experiences for those who aspire to careers in the nonprofit sector.  Graduates spend five semesters learning, growing and practicing alongside faculty, alumni, staff, nonprofit leaders and community partners, enabling them to become more confident and stand a bit taller before they enter the profession.

One of the most significant advances occurs during the Annual Alliance Management / Leadership Institute Campaign, affectionately known as AMI.  If studies are correct and people fear snakes, public speaking and asking for money more than anything else, this campaign has all but the snakes!  Students build off the work of alumni going back to the 1980’s raiseing funds to attend the national conference in January each year.  Depending on the number of students and the location of the city selected, students have raised as little as $12,000 or as much as $40,000 in three months time.  Some small nonprofits would feel grateful to accomplish this in such a short time.

The significance of the class is not the funds raised but the lessons learned in a safe environment, with support of faculty, alumni and staff as well as personal support from friends, family and agency partners.

That first introductory call is a huge leap of faith into their chosen profession followed by the nerve wracking face to face asks with new or long time donors.  Preparing, researching and negotiating a time between classes, available transportation, work and volunteer obligations to appear confident and make that ask to support their career path.  I know I was scared to death even with the outlines, practice and support from classmates and instructors.  This leap out of the safe trees you must do on your own.

As an alum of the program, my first call was an enormous relief when the alum was interested, happy to hear from me and even inspiring.  Who knew?  The next calls and face to face meetings got easier and although still stressful become something to look forward to.  The opportunity to meet these individuals became my focus and the funds came in to mark my success.  My confidence increased, I walked a bit taller and still to this day, I thank this program for providing me that opportunity. 

The evolution of a nonprofit professional begins with support from others, mentors, advisors, doers that can be emulated until you can stand erect on your two feet, reach for the fruit in the trees and yes, eventually walk on water as many of our leaders do on a regular basis.  Our current students have all taken their first steps by making the calls, meeting face-to-face, forging new networks, making new friends, and most importantly learning the lessons they need for the future.

This year, students are close to the end of the semester and have raised 66% of their goal.  They are now making a push to reach their goal so they can look forward to the AMI experience.


Want  to help this year's NMI students get to Chicago? 

Click here to make a donation to the 2014 AMI Campaign.


I am looking forward to working with a nonprofit that is having a real issue that needs to be solved. The experiences I've gained through this program will assist me in creating a strategy that could help them.
- Brenda Renou

I am looking forward to learning from the collective experiences of leaders in the nonprofit sector. I want to learn from their failures as well as their success stories. In addition, I am eager to network with nonprofit professionals throughout the country and especially the Midwest.
- Michele Johnson

What I am most excited about in AMI is the fact to expand my knowledge of the different experiences people have and the different aspects of the nonprofit sector. I'm excited to dive deeper into my opportunities.
- Ramiah Jackson

I am most excited to connect with likeminded students who are working to make change in the world. I love to learn about other peoples' passions and how I can come alongside them in their good work.
- Jasmine Clarke-Telfer

Making new friends for my professional career as well as acquiring new experiences from the new networks that I will be developing.
- Mohamed Abdullahi

Looking forward to master level workshops that tackle weak points in my core competencies. I hope to gain powerful, meaningful connections that will extend past the conference. 

- Michael Homan

I am looking forward to the on-site visit for our case studies. This is an opportunity to put nonprofit theory to practical use and help a local nonprofit!
- Ceyshe Napa

This will be my first year going and I'm really excited to be a part of this amazing group. I am looking forward to learning from the workshops and getting to know all of the high-impact leaders that support the Alliance Management Institute each year!
- Steve Blakeslee


As you picture in your mind the old scientific evolutionary chart of the hairy ape on all fours, (no reference to real students intended) the advances to stand upright, to walk and then to run, think about your personal journey to become a professional, to help your community and change the world for the better.  We all stand on the advances of other before us.  We are always evolving; changing and I for one can’t wait to see what these current students do for the world….walk on water perhaps.

A third generation native of Arizona, Lyn is currently Sr. Program Coordinator for the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance (formerly American Humanics) at Arizona State University (ASU.) Lyn spent 10 years as Director of Project LEARN for Valley of the Sun United Way and Communities in Schools facilitating relationships with schools, business, government and nonprofits to better serve students living in poverty. As Director of Chapter Resources for the American Red Cross, Grand Canyon Chapter she supervised offices in five counties throughout Arizona. She is a trained facilitator, court mediator and certified to provide “Framework for Understanding Poverty” through AHA Process. She has a BA in Organizational Communication and is a Certified Nonprofit Professional (CNP.)


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