Investing in Future Leaders

Our online program helps you develop your nonprofit’s leadership talent from within

As a nonprofit leader, you know that your people are your most important asset

Your people spend every day dedicating their lives to having impact on your clients and your community. And as a leader, it’s your job to make sure that your future leaders are equipped for the challenges ahead and that they represent the communities with which you work. Developing these future leaders is not easy—it takes time, focus, and commitment from your entire senior leadership team. It also requires alignment on what great leadership looks like for your organization.

To guide you in this process, Bridgespan has developed "Investing in Future Leaders," a step-by-step leadership development program to help you create an inclusive, customized approach to talent development for your organization. Informed by Bridgespan’s 20 years of experience working with nonprofit leaders, and guided by expert coaches, the program helps you identify emerging leaders and cultivate leadership from within.

Learn more in our explainer video

When is Our Leadership Development Program Right for You?

Investing in Future Leaders is best suited for organizations that are facing any of the following situations:

  • Have recently completed a strategic planning process and want to make sure they have the talent to deliver on that strategy,
  • Are preparing to experience growth or expansion,
  • Have leadership team members who are looking to build their talent development skills, or
  • Want to ensure an inclusive and equitable approach to talent development.

How Will Your Nonprofit and Your Leadership Team Benefit?

Investing in Future Leaders guides your executive team in designing a leadership development strategy that includes:

  • A set of organizational competencies that define what great leadership looks like at your organization,
  • Professional development plans for your staff that you can use immediately,
  • New ways to understand and mitigate bias when assessing staff, and
  • An action plan to implement talent development across the organization.

What Our Alumni Have to Say About "Investing in Future Leaders"


Fresh Lifelines for Youth (FLY)

"The program really pushed us to think critically about not only what our current emerging leaders need in order to grow as professionals, but also about the qualities we need in our future leaders for the organization to realize its vision for growth."—Ali Knight, Chief Operating Officer, Fresh Lifelines for Youth

Christa Gannon

The founder and CEO of Fresh Lifelines for Youth describes her team's experience with Investing in Future Leaders.

Asian and Pacific Islander American Health Forum

Kathy Co Chin, the president and CEO of the Asian and Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIAHF), and Edward Tepporn, APIAHF's executive vice president, describe their organization's experience with Investing in Future Leaders.

How Investing in Future Leaders Works

Investing in Future Leaders is an online, team-based program specifically designed for nonprofit leadership teams of three to six participants.

  • It is self-paced to meet your team’s needs and hosted on an interactive digital platform.
  • The program is structured around five steps, each of which combines online lessons, self-study, and team workshops facilitated by a virtual coach that ultimately lead to a customized leadership development approach for your organization.
  • On average, teams take 12 to 18 weeks to complete the program (roughly 20–25 hours per participant). It is self-paced to meet your team’s needs. Download a sample program calendar.
  • Your team is in the driver’s seat, but expert Bridgespan coaches provide support for your Project Lead via email, weekly check-ins, and one-on-one coaching at various points throughout the program.

Program Elements—Step by Step

  • Step 1: Reflecting on Future Leadership Needs

    • Online individual work: As individuals, you will reflect on your organization’s strengths and weaknesses related to talent development. You will also consider your organization’s strategic priorities and how talent will need to change over time.
    • Live team workshop: As a leadership team, you will reflect on your organization’s current approach to talent development and align on how leadership in your organization will need to evolve to achieve your strategic goals. Finally, you will discuss how to communicate about this program with others in your organization.
  • Step 2: Identifying Core and Leadership Competencies

    • Online individual work: You will learn about different core and leadership competencies (skills and mindsets), and nominate the competencies you think should be on your team’s starter list.
    • Live team workshop: As a team, you will select the core and leadership competencies that will be at the heart of your organization’s development process. As you do this, you’ll refer back to what you discovered in step 1 (i.e., what leadership will need to look like to help your organization achieve its strategic goals).
    To learn more about Bridgespan's thinking around competencies, read our article, "A Framework for Great Nonprofit Leadership."
  • Step 3: Identifying Development Priorities for Direct Reports

    • Online individual work: You will learn how to use competencies to assess your direct reports, while actively mitigating against bias. Based on this assessment, you will identify two or three development priorities for your direct report(s).
    • Live team workshop:  As a team, you will compare development priorities to identify themes and patterns. You’ll also discuss how you assessed your direct reports to ensure everyone is using the competencies in the same way.
  • Step 4: Crafting Development Activities for Direct Reports

    • Online individual work: You will learn about the 70/20/10 development principle and review examples of development plans. As individuals, you will create development activities for your direct report(s).
    • Live team workshop: As a team, you will share development activities to identify themes and patterns and improve everyone’s draft plans. You’ll also identify potential areas for investing in the development of all of your staff.
    To learn more about Bridgespan’s approach to professional development planning, check out our article, “How to Build Competency-Based Professional Development Plans.”  
  • Step 5: Co-creating Development Plans with Direct Reports

    • Online individual work: After learning best practices on development plan conversations, you will have an initial conversation with your direct reports to introduce them to this new approach to development planning. You will also discuss how you hope to continue these development conversations moving forward (e.g., frequency and cadence of conversations).
    • Live team workshop: During this last session, each leadership team member will provide debriefs of their initial conversations with their direct reports. This process will help your team surface potential challenges that might arise when rolling out the development approach to the broader organization. You will also create a plan for rolling out this process across your full organization over the next few months. Aligning on the cadence of critical activities (e.g., frequency of refining development plans with direct reports, or how often you will revisit organizational investments) will help ensure that the new talent development process is standard across the organization.
View Full Curriculum

Expectations of Leadership Team Members Participating in the Program

whiteboard at a leadership team meetingThe program is designed for senior nonprofit leadership teams (called the executive team in some organizations) of three to six members. This is typically the ED/CEO and their direct reports, but your team may also include other individuals whose roles can provide unique insight to conversations about talent and talent development. We are happy to work with you to identify the right people if you are not sure who should participate.

  • Typically, team members will spend about 10–15 hours over 12–18 weeks individually doing self-study and pre-work. Download sample self-study and pre-work.
  • Senior leadership teams will come together as a group every few weeks for about 2 hours to discuss key issues (6 meetings, for a total of ~12 hours). Download sample group exercise.
  • One team member will be designated as the Project Lead. This role is critical to the team’s success, and the Project Lead gets a number of additional supports and resources from Bridgespan. The Project Lead should plan to commit an additional 12–15 hours over the course of the program. Download project lead role overview.

Nonprofit Organizations That Have Participated in the Investing in Future Leaders Program

North York Community House (Toronto)
Elizabeth Fry Society of Greater Vancouver
Fresh Lifelines for Youth
Hivos People Unlimited
Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta
Trees Atlanta
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Chicago
Girls Inc. of Long Island
Children's Institute, Inc.
New York Community House
New Vista
Prevent Blindness Texas

Investing in Future Leaders Coaches

Preeta Nayak Leadership CoachPreeta Nayak is a partner in Bridgespan's San Francisco office, leads Bridgespan's programs for nonprofit leadership teams. Preeta has worked with hundreds of nonprofit executives to develop customized approaches to team and organizational growth. She coauthored the book, Nonprofit Leadership Development: What's Your "Plan A" for Growing Future Leaders?, to share best practices on talent and leadership development. Every day, Preeta is impressed by the ingenuity and commitment of the nonprofit leaders she supports, and she loves helping them create work environments where they and their successors can grow and thrive.


Barb Christiansen Leadership CoachBarbara Christiansen has worked with many nonprofits to strengthen their approach to talent and leadership development, primarily through Bridgespan's Leading for Impact Program in Atlanta and Washington, DC. Additional experience in nonprofit strategy and management has given her an understanding of the challenges facing many nonprofits as they seek to grow their impact while retaining and developing a strong team. Barbara has seen the positive changes that come when organizations commit to staff development and she is excited to continue this work with the Investing in Future Leaders cohorts!

Important Information

Due to a generous funder subsidy, we can offer special pricing:

  • Price: $7,500
  • Limited time price: $5,500 for leadership teams of 3 to 8 members. For organizations outside of the United States, or for teams with more than 8 members, please email us.

Scholarships: A limited number of scholarships are also available to organizations led by people of color. Learn More>>

Need help funding your participation? Learn more about how to request funding from your donors.

Application Process, Program Dates, and Deadlines

If your team is interested in participating in our upcoming cohort, please take a few moments to complete the form below requesting a call with a member of our Leadership Accelerator team. Once we receive your form, we will review it and be in touch within seven days to schedule a call with a member of your team. The final step in the application process is to complete a brief enrollment form and submit payment. We are currently enrolling organizations for our September 2020 cohort. Please make sure to submit your interest form by July 31, or sooner, to be considered for enrollment.

Request a Consultation with the Leadership Accelerator Team

Still Have Questions? Read our list of Frequently Asked Questions