Park bench in Alamosa, Colorado.

Sabbatical Program Allows Nonprofit Leaders to Rejuvenate and Staff to Build Capacity


A while back, a staff member at the Foundation asked me about the possibility of participating in a sabbatical program. I was immediately intrigued. The very idea of someone having the opportunity to step away from daily professional responsibilities in exchange for rejuvenation felt spot on… for the nonprofit sector (not necessarily for someone employed by our Foundation).

Nonprofit leaders work tirelessly in support of their organization’s mission. Long days in the office or out in community and nights spent “burning the midnight oil” signal their undeniable commitment to their organization, its staff and the people they serve. Yet far too many nonprofit leaders go without the time they need – and deserve – to reflect, rest, rejuvenate and return to the office with fresh ideas that advance the important work they do.

The idea stuck. And I’m pleased to share that our new Nonprofit Sabbatical Program is off the ground and officially open for grant applications through March 31, 2020.

Grant recipients will receive charitable funding for:

  • A three-to-four month sabbatical for the nonprofit executive to step away from their professional duties and take time to refresh. We have no say in how the sabbatical is spent, and encourage folks to really step away and enjoy themselves. After all, the key to a sabbatical is that the person taking it ideally returns to their job refreshed and inspired for the next phase of work.
  • Support for the entire grantee organization by ensuring a portion of the grant is dedicated to rewarding interim leaders who can step forward and strengthen the leadership bench during the sabbatical, along with organizational capacity building for staff.
  • And, an exciting twist: Our sabbatical includes a one-month executive-in-residence at the Foundation in Denver. This portion of the sabbatical is included in the three-to-four month time frame (not in addition to it). I’ll be working exclusively with the executive to scope out how their time will be spent during this period. The idea is that there is a real opportunity for co-learning during this time. The executive might shadow me and other executives or even hit the road with our program staff. In return, we’ll be looking for feedback and insights about how we’re engaging with the nonprofit sector.

Another unique feature of this program is that we have built a technical assistance (TA) team with expertise in nonprofit operations, finance and leadership who are available to support applicants and eventual grantees. Our TA team is comprised of Brian Kellaway from the Nonprofit Finance Fund and Carolyn Love from Kebaya Consulting. And they are ready, willing and able to start discussing whether this is a good opportunity for your organization to consider.

Excited yet? We know we are. We plan to award two sabbatical grants in 2020, with the intention of expanding over time. Specific eligibility criteria must be met by both applicants and the organizations they serve. These criteria are outlined in detail on our website, along with a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) resource. I also encourage you to watch a webinar we recently recorded about the program.

Having the opportunity to offer this program is a real privilege. We hope it truly promotes the health and well-being of nonprofit leaders, as well as the capacity of their organizations to carry out their missions and bring health in reach for those they exist to serve.

If you have questions about the program, please contact Brian Kellaway, Nonprofit Finance Fund associate director, at 617- 204-9772 ext. 303.


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