Recap of Housing Action Illinois Full Day Grant Writing Workshop

I thank Housing Action Illinois for the opportunity to develop and facilitate a full-day grant writing workshop for housing organizations in Chicago and Springfield. I thank Noah Temaner Jenkins for partnering as a co-facilitator.

Using a combination of lecture, case studies and classroom exercises, we took the participants through the entire grant cycle, from concept through monitoring and evaluation.

We had an expert panel, consisting of Ray Willis, the Director of Community Planning and Development for U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development‘s Chicago Office; William W Towns, Executive Director of Benefit ChicagoHeather Parish, Program Director with the Pierce Family Foundation and Allison Clark, Associate Director of Impact Investing for the MacArthur Foundation. They shared insights from the perspectives of grant makers and investors. Feedback from participants indicate that the panel was the highlight of the event. We cannot thank them enough for taking the time from their busy schedules to participate.

Feedback from the participants was very positive, and we are still collecting data to assess the level of learning that took place. Preliminary results of the pre- and post- tests to date indicate that some participants have gained as many as 45 points on a 100-point scale.

Click here to see all my photos from the writing workshop. We will have another workshop in Springfield on March 28, 2018.

Register here

Pics from UIC Full Day Grant Writing Workshop

Noah Temaner Jenkins and I facilitated a full day grant writing workshop for the University of Illinois at Chicago Certificate in Nonprofit Management Program yesterday. Jalisa Hinkle, Manager at the Bethany Advocate Fund and Tom Fuechtmann, Senior Program Officer for the Community Memorial Foundation, were our expert panelists. Using a combination of case studies, lectures and class exercises, we took our participants through the entire process of formulating a proposal, and had them do mock presentations to funders at the end. Thanks,@Kate Pravera, for showing us the way. See more pictures here.  The next UIC grant writing workshop will be Wednesday, June 13, 2018.

Nonprofit Utopia Post Cards

I have ordered post cards to let people know about Nonprofit Utopia. This is not a Save the Date card, but it puts people on notice that we will launch in June. If you know of people to whom I should send a card, let me know. You can e-mail me at In the meantime, sign up for the mailing list at

Coming Soon to a Computer Near You: Nonprofit Utopia

Valerie F. Leonard, a local expert in community and organizational development, will be launching the Nonprofit Utopia community in June of this year.  Nonprofit Utopia is a community of emerging nonprofit leaders, designed to provide a safe environment in which members can innovate, speak candidly about the issues and concerns they face on a daily basis, and share ideas and resources.

“The curated experience is member-driven, and provides unmatched opportunities to bond around special interests and geography. Our members are able to establish deeper relationships and experience a higher level of engagement than they would be able to find on other social media”, Leonard said.  Members can share lessons learned with their peers and industry experts.

“ I see this as a natural progression of all the work I have been doing in community and organizational development over the years”, Leonard said. “Before I started my consulting practice, I was the founding executive director of the North Lawndale Small Grants Human Development Corporation.  We managed small grant pools and targeted block activities to develop grassroots leadership.  That experience gave me the insights to play an integral role in the development of the infrastructure for North Lawndale’s first comprehensive community planning process since 1958.” Leonard will apply community building skills from the “real world” to creating the ideal online community for nonprofit leaders.

Leonard is uniquely qualified to lead such an effort.  She is an adjunct instructor for the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Certificate in Nonprofit Management program, where she teaches operations management, program design and evaluation and co-facilitates grant writing workshops. She is also the host of the Nonprofit “U” podcast, which is downloaded in 62 countries and ranked among Player FM’s top 36 nonprofit podcasts of 2018. “These experiences will come in handy as I develop content for the community”, Leonard said.  The Nonprofit Utopia community will provide members access to live and recorded training events and peer learning.

Nonprofit Utopia will officially launch this June, and Leonard will be making announcements from time to time to keep the community informed.  She has also created a Nonprofit Utopia Facebook page as a “community before the community”. If you are interested in keeping abreast of the latest developments, be sure to sign up for the mailing list at

Playing to Win at Woodfield Mall

I thank Paula Brkich, Community Development Specialist at Microsoft, for inviting me to do a workshop on starting and managing a nonprofit business in Illinois at their Microsoft Store in Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg, Illinois. With a theme, Playing to Win, the workshop was one of a series of workshops Microsoft is sponsoring as part of their Entrepreneur month.

We discussed a number of issues, such as determining whether there’s a need for your organization; developing program concepts; starting and managing the organization and maintaining regulatory compliance.

I was happy to see my old friend Elura Bryant who braved the elements to participate. We also had a couple people from the Austin community, as well as people from Schaumburg and neighboring communities.

We had a very engaged group that has indicated a desire to stay in touch. One of the participants will also participate in the Housing Action Illinois grant writing workshop tomorrow.

I Had a Great Time on the Ben Joravsky Show!

I was deeply honored to have been invited to be a guest on the Ben Joravasky show yesterday. Ben and I had a chance to catch up, and talk about North Lawndale politics and economic development. Take a listen.

Take 10 Minutes to Complete This Survey

Help Me Create the Ideal Online Community for Nonprofit Professionals

I am considering starting an online community in which nonprofit stakeholders can share their challenges and triumphs in a safe environment.  I want to develop this community with you in mind from the very foundation.  I ask that you take 10 minutes to complete an online survey.  Your answers will be used to help create an experience that will add value and promote shared learning experiences among community members.
For the purposes of this survey, I am using the Wikipedia definition of “online community”, as follows:
An online community (also called an internet community) is a virtual community whose members interact with each other primarily via the Internet. For many, online communities may feel like home, consisting of a “family of invisible friends”.

Please note that there is an option to provide your contact information. If you elect that option, your contact information will not be revealed or shared.

I ask that you complete this survey by December 29th, and share it with as many of your colleagues in the nonprofit arena as possible. Your cooperation, as always, is most appreciated.


Valerie F. Leonard
Expert, Community and Organizational Development

Create your own user feedback survey

Include Homeless Men and Women in Your Year-End  Giving

I would like to share two wonderful causes with you. The first is the Door of Hope Rescue Mission, located in Chicago’s Washington Park neighborhood.  The second is Daughter of Destiny Outreach, NFP, located in Chicago’s North Lawndale neighborhood.    Door of Hope Recue Mission started off as a spinoff to the Pacific Garden Mission, and provides transitional housing and ministry to men.  Daughter of Destiny Outreach provides services to women in transition, including women who are in need of housing, counseling for behavioral health, and/or domestic violence issues.  The executive directors of each organization has come to you in his/her own way.  It is my sincerest hope that you can provide a donation of any amount before the year end.

 Door of Hope Appeal

“The Lord has put on my heart to make myself available for whatever you need me to do.” February 2005

Door of Hope Rescue Mission has been serving the homeless population on the South side since November 1954. Harry Thomas, Jr. was Chairman and the Rev. Coco Jackson directed the mission for a combined 75 years. There have been other saints who have involved themselves for 40 and 50 plus years. the likes of Earnea Bosley, Helen Yarborough, Clarence Rodgers, Deacon Daniels, Sam Bird, Rev. Ronald Sheffield, Corrine Mills, Rev. Anita Jeffries, Teresa Tillman-Terry to name a few. Some of them still participate as best they can. Some have passed on. Our service is eternal.

Many men have passed through our door, looking for refuge and needing Jesus. This is why we are a Rescue Mission. The focus has never been limited or even rooted in the temporal, but in the eternal. For what would it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul?

We have served hundreds of thousands of meals, slept as many and spread the gospel to the Washington Park community at our current location since 1975. We have tarried. We have struggled as much with our clients then, as we do now. Many lives have transformed as a result. Many also have gone the way of their minds. But we applied all of our resources to assure our partners that the care of the lost and the found is our mission. And it is the current mandate to do our best to leave no man behind. Rescue, even.

Finish reading and find the donation link here.

Daughter of Destiny Appeal

Transform Lives, One Daughter at a Time.

Dear Friend,

We write to ask you to support our organization this year with a donation to our annual giving Tuesday campaign. Each year Daughter of Destiny Outreach INC assist individuals in our community and without a donation from individuals like you this would not be possible. Donations help sustain our organization and benefit the community which we serve.

Daughter of Destiny Outreach INC is a 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide supportive service to homeless women faced with the issues of substance abuse, domestic violence, and/or mental illness.

Your contribution to us will help expand our programs and services such as recovery coaching, case-management, support groups, workshops, job readiness, housing/referral, GED/adult literacy, and so much more.

Please consider sponsoring Daughter of Destiny Outreach INC. As a donor you will help provide North Lawndale, East Garfield, and the Austin community minorities, that struggle with gainful employment, housing opportunity, and education be integrated back into society. Our moto is Transforming Lives One Daughter @ A Time.

We the Board of Directors want to thank you in advance.
Click on service page to

Christmas Food for Thought

As we enter the Christmas season, I have a lot for which to be thankful. I also have a lot of food for thought.

I’m learning not to mistake busyness for accomplishment or impact. If, at the end of the day the work I do does not effect positive change to the people I care about, including family, friends, community, church and clients, it’s all for naught.

Serving in a soup kitchen on Thanksgiving and Christmas to get a sense for how people less fortunate than I am does not cut it, if I do nothing to help the people being served improve their lot in life beyond filling their stomachs 4 hours out of the year.

Giving out book bags at the beginning of the school year is wonderful, but, if I am not engaged in tutoring, mentoring or changing school policies to increase funding, resources and school performance, what have I accomplished?

If I’m helping to coordinate children and youth programs at church, but not showing them how to develop their personal relationship with Jesus, or engage the community beyond my church’s side street, have I made a difference?

Holding resource fairs, job fairs, community festivals are wonderful things. If at the end of the day my community leads the city in unemployment, incidences of disease and lack of cultural resources, my efforts are in vain.

If I host organizational development trainings, facilitate strategic plans and help raise funds, and my clients’ capacity to sustain themselves after I’m done with them has not improved as a direct result of my help, I have failed.

If I’m trying to save the world, and can’t save myself, my family or friends, my priorities are misplaced. This is even more evident when the very people for whom I fought the hardest look the other way when I need them most.

If I’m trying to convince the world how good I am because I’m involved in this, that, or the other activity, and I walk right past the needs of people under my nose, I am nothing.

I don’t profess to be perfect, or have arrived. I still have a lot of reflection to do and sorting out the good, the bad and the ugly lessons learned. I will say that I am wiser, and am less consumed with busyness and learning to be more focused so I can make a real impact.

I thank God for the opportunities I’ve had in this life, and intend to make this next chapter one of the most meaningful ever.  I thank you for being a part of my life.  May  God continue to bless you and yours this season, and beyond.

Merry Christmas.


Valerie F. Leonard
Expert, Community and Organizational Development