ASU Lodestar Center


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Developing the future of the nonprofit workforce

LeeAndra Matthews stands in front of a building and smiles. They are wearing a green shirt and golden hoop earrings.

LeeAndra Matthews will complete her Certified Nonprofit Professional certification over the summer with an internship, the final component of ASU's Nonprofit Leadership Alliance (NLA) program. It was made possible by the Career Development Award she received from the national NLA organization. After graduating later this year, she hopes to take her nonprofit skills back home to California and serve her community by helping formerly incarcerated people get back on their feet.

How the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance at ASU jumpstarts nonprofit careers and community impact

by Troy Hill, ASU Lodestar Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Innovation

February 4, 2021

The Nonprofit Leadership Alliance program has been operating at Arizona State University for over 40 years. As a leading campus affiliate of this national program, in that time it has helped to prepare hundreds of students from any major for immediate success upon entering the nonprofit world after graduation.

ASU senior LeeAndra Matthews has been involved with the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance Student Association since the first semester she transferred here from a college in California.

Along with fellow NLA student Meredith Clements, Matthews was recently awarded a 2021 Career Development Award from the national Nonprofit Leadership Alliance. The award pays for some of her living expenses while she completes an internship this summer, the final component of the program.

“In my last semester I took a leap and I applied for the internship scholarship, just because I know I have financial needs and I don't really know what my outcome may be for my internship, whether it'll be paid or not,” she said. “I was really blessed to be awarded that scholarship.”

Matthews has completed all of her requirements for her Certified Nonprofit Professional certification except for the internship, which she has plans to complete this summer after she graduates from ASU. During her time with NLA, Matthews has been a part of countless workshops and seminars that have grown her as a future nonprofit professional.

A community, she said, “is really what I needed when I transferred here. I was really seeking a community that I felt comfortable with and identified with and I was really blessed to join this program.”

“I've learned amazing things as far as like networking… and even when we went to our Alliance Management Institute, the AMI campaign, was honestly one of my greatest accomplishments and memories from my experience with the NLA.”

The ongoing AMI fundraising campaign provides NLA students with hands-on experience as they raise money to attend a national conference, pitching donors directly on the investment in their futures. It can be nerve-wracking at first, but pushes students to grow outside of their comfort zone and gives them practical tools to fundraise for nonprofits.

The campaign is just another way that the NLA helps to prepare students for success in the nonprofit world as soon as they graduate. The campaign has raised up to $30,000 in some years - all raised by students.

“I cry every time I talk about it, but honestly I don't know where my educational journey would be if I wasn't involved.”

Matthews has also taken an interest in the personal finance classes offered by the program, and she said they have helped her a lot.

“The knowledge I've gained from this program is amazing… I can honestly say the greatest takeaway I have from this program is the hands-on experiences, like going to a nonprofit and actually participating in either volunteering or a program.”

After graduating, she plans to return to California and pursue her passion in the nonprofit sector: helping formerly incarcerated people get back on their feet.

Grace Bishara smiles while holding a microphone and making a fist with their opposite hand. Surrounding her are 2 people who are clapping. In the background is a person with crossed arms looking into the distance.

Grace Bishara is the corporate engagement and volunteerism manager for United Food Bank. Since graduating from ASU in 2016 and earning her Certified Nonprofit Professional credential, she's been able to effectively serve her organizations and her community. Here, she is speaking to a group at an Arizona Cardinals Gatorade Huddle for 100 event. She made the connection to the Cardinals when she was in the NLASA at ASU.

NLASA alumna Grace Bishara was able to find a job a week before she even graduated from ASU and the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance back in 2016. The connections she made through her internship got her that job right after graduation.

“[The program] makes you connected to the outside world, and the nonprofit life is all about who you know. It's about connections, it's about relationship-building,” Bishara said. “That was my favorite part of it, building those relationships in the community and feeling connected.”

Now Bishara is the corporate engagement and volunteerism manager at United Food Bank, where she has used her connections made in the NLA to put on programs with the Arizona Cardinals football team and other organizations.

She also said she liked the program because it brought in real professionals to give talks and share real-world experiences.

“I liked… a lot of the little mixers that they put together, as well as teaching us how to fundraise for ourselves to send us to a conference. It taught how you have to call people and follow up with them and build relationships, and then having to ask in person for money. It breaks the ice for when you're out in the real world and you're going to have to do that anyway.”

Bishara said that just being in the program made her stand out and be more recognizable.

“When I was at Habitat for Humanity, there were two other people that were in that program when they went to school,” she said. “It's a really good connection, a good way to break the ice with people and say, ‘Oh I did that too,’ and it builds that connection right away.”

Carlitos Hernandez crosses his arms and leans against a large wall with the phrase "Let's be better humans" written on the wall.

Carlitos Hernandez says the NLA program gave him a network of nonprofit professionals right out of college that he never would have had otherwise.

Carlitos Hernandez, an NLASA and CNP alumnus who graduated in 2012 and currently an academic advisor at ASU, said he really enjoyed his time in the NLASA and felt like the professors were really passionate about what they were doing.

“One thing that really stood out for me is that I felt like the college as a whole was the right fit for me because it was really focused on how can we make a difference,” Hernandez said. “NLA is in the business of helping people make a difference.”

He said NLA also helped him to understand the inner workings of nonprofits.

“It was great to be able to learn just the different aspects of a nonprofit organization, what it entails and what you should be thinking about,” he said. “Having had experience working in the nonprofit sector, it helped me connect the dots and understand why organizations make the decisions that they do.”