Staff Advancement Grant Opens Doors for Nonprofit Employees

More than twenty years ago, Mike and Elaine Crough identified a common challenge among social service employees – that a large number of those working below the executive level lacked opportunities for further training and advancement.

“With a little financial help, these hard working individuals could expand their horizons and future compensation while adding even greater value to the organizations that employed them,” said Mike.

Mike and Elaine Crough at their home in 2007.

To address this, the Croughs teamed up with the Community Foundation in 2006 and established the Staff Advancement Fund to provide professional development opportunities for staff working at nonprofit agencies in Central New York at levels below senior management.

Thanks to a recent grant from the fund, Tealye Pinet, career services coordinator at On Point for College, was able to attend training through the New York Association of Training & Employment Professionals (NYATEP). She credits the training with helping her be better in her current role, which involves preparing On Point’s students with job training, internships and alternatives to a traditional education.

Since 1999, On Point has made higher education more accessible for low-income and non-traditional students by offering programs that help them overcome barriers to the training, college education and careers that build successful lives. By taking students on college tours, helping them fill out their applications, providing rides to and from school and helping them find internships that provide workplace experience, On Point is the robust support system that many students always needed but never had.

At the training, Tealye was able to gather information about what similar organizations in New York State are doing and how she can better serve her students in Syracuse. NYATEP also helped her feel more comfortable speaking with professionals in her field.

“I’m a believer in peer exchange,” said Mike Crough, who is a retired attorney. “When presented with an issue, I very often will say, ‘Well, what do other people do?’ Why re-invent the wheel?”

Now, Tealye is more comfortable in her new role. “It’s easier working with young people or working with people when you know you’re helping,” she said. “I come from a psychology background, so counseling and advising is a little bit easier for me. But to put myself out there, introduce myself and talk about the program…it was challenging but a great learning experience.”

Tealye’s Staff Advancement grant fully covered her workshop expenses. Over the years, more than 766 grants have been awarded toward these types of opportunities for nonprofit professionals.

“We’re grateful,” she said. “We don’t have money to pay for stuff like this. All of our funding really goes toward helping our students with college application fees, classes, housing deposits, books and transportation, which are all very important to our mission.”

Tealye can now understand the importance of investing in staff advancement as well. She sees the relevance of networking and learning new ideas for how her organization can grow and improve their programming.

“I think that’s really important,” she said. “You can’t just keep going on the same course, right? We have to try to see what else is going on to continuously improve.”

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