Q&A: NMI Knowledge Specialist Kate Thoene

Q&A: NMI Knowledge Specialist Kate Thoene

Kate Thoene

by Alexandra Conforti, ASU Lodestar Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Innovation

October 5, 2021

Kate Thoene completed the flagship Nonprofit Management Certificate from the ASU Lodestar Center’s Nonprofit Management Institute (NMI) in 2013, which helped catapult her to a variety of C-suite roles with UMOM New Day Centers, Waste NOT and The Welcome to America Project over the past decade. “The NMI classes were exactly what I needed,” Thoene said. “I received a wide variety of fundamental skills critical to our sector as well as a network of stellar people doing impactful and innovative work in our community.”

This year she is back at ASU, now as a Knowledge Specialist sharing her expertise with members of NMI’s Nonprofit Executive Leadership Certificate program. (Applications for the 2022 cohort are due by February 4!) She is leading Social Entrepreneurship, Innovation and New Business Models.

The ASU Lodestar Center’s Nonprofit Executive Leadership Certificate is designed to meet the professional needs of senior-level managers and emerging executives of nonprofit and public organizations. Designed in a cohort format, participants are able to prioritize skill-building and peer networking with instruction from former CEOs and executive directors of nonprofit organizations with extensive experience from the sector.

In this Q&A, Kate shares with us her nonprofit background experience, how she first got involved in teaching at ASU, and why NMI programs are so valuable to nonprofit professionals.

Tell me about yourself and how long you have been involved with the ASU Lodestar Center.

I grew up here in Phoenix. I attended the ASU Lodestar Center’s Nonprofit Management Certificate program back in 2013, and I just really fell in love with the fact that these classes were so tailored and specific to the nonprofit sector and the information that I gained during that during attending that program I could implement immediately at my job.

Kate ThoeneWhat background do you bring to the ASU Lodestar Center? How did you get into nonprofit work/teaching?

Since 2013, I've participated in a few panel discussions and I also have been a regular guest speaker at the Center’s American Express Leadership Academy. I’ve talked about social enterprises and how nonprofits can generate revenue from social enterprise endeavors. I then taught my first class at ASU this past summer. I have over 20 years in the sector, and the majority of that work has involved social enterprise ventures, whether it is a catering company or a retail space or a cafe. I've worked at several nonprofits of all sizes.

How many participants were in your class? What is taught?

I teach NMI 221 – Social Entrepreneurship, Innovation and New Business Models in the Executive Leadership program. I teach what social enterprise is, the various business models, innovation in business models within the sector, and then we also talk about real-life examples of both for-profit and nonprofit social enterprise ventures, and people that are just doing innovative work all over the world that is benefiting society. And I would say there were about 30-35 people in the class from all over the United States.

What does it mean to have this certificate on a resume?

I think it's a critical element within the sector and if someone has that on their resume as earning their certificate from the Nonprofit Management Institute at ASU, it really adds an element of credibility. Also, the courses included in the program are really essential knowledge for executives. Going through the program itself provides people with a new network within the sector, so that's a really important and an impactful thing when you go through the program. Not only are you getting the knowledge, but you're also getting the network of experts in various fields.

Why do you think NMI programs are so impactful?

It’s truly impactful because the course content is so relevant. ASU is so great to allow the instructional team flexibility to modify and make sure things are current. The students and these executives that are going through the courses can implement the knowledge and the best practices immediately because it's so focused and relevant. It's taught by people who've actually done the work within the sector, so I think that that's really important, too, because then we can bring real-life examples and challenges. I really value that within the classes because you’re learning from people who have implemented the work, and that creates such rich conversations within the classes.

What would you say to future participants of ELC and of your NMI course?

It'll definitely be worth the effort and your time, and I think it's a decision that people would never regret. I talk about the Nonprofit Management Institute to everyone I meet within the sector, especially people that are new to the valley who want to get involved in nonprofit work in our community. It’s a really good place to start. It's critical, and it's offered no matter where you are, you can participate in this and it’s a great opportunity at ASU.

The Nonprofit Executive Leadership Certificate program at the ASU Lodestar Center is now accepting applications for the March-October 2022 class, which will convene virtually and is open to participants from across the country. Applications are due by February 4, 2022.