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How North Georgia Community Foundation is supporting nonprofit leaders with new GROW program
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Michelle Prater (standing left), president and CEO of the North Georgia Community Foundation, and Margaux Dolenc, director of grants and community partnerships, unveil the foundation's new Growing Roots of Wisdom program, or G.R.O.W., to several dozen local nonprofit leaders on Thursday, Nov. 1. The G.R.O.W. program offers seminars, learning sessions and a luncheon series to educate, train and support civic and nonprofit leaders. - photo by Joshua Silavent

Seminars, learning sessions and a luncheon series are part of a new effort by the North Georgia Community Foundation in Gainesville to educate, mentor and prepare civic and nonprofit leaders for success.

The Growing Roots of Wisdom program, or GROW, was unveiled on Thursday, Nov. 1 to several dozen attendees, most of whom are already leading local nonprofits or are working toward becoming executive level leaders.

According to Michelle Prater, Community Foundation president and CEO, GROW is meant to open new opportunities through educational classes, professional development sessions and networking to better support nonprofits.

The Community Foundation already provides grants to nonprofits, office and meeting space, and manages endowment funds for growing agencies, for example.

The learning sessions include workshops on ethical decision making and how to get the most out of collaborations, for example. And the luncheon series features presentations on how to manage fundraising campaigns, writing press releases and managing grant budgets, among other things.

GROW also includes two robust seminars: Lead Forward, an intensive 12-month executive coaching program; and You Lead, a six-month program that develops emerging leaders.

Prater said the Lead Forward program, for example, was piloted and that she personally learned a lot about how to better manage the Community Foundation because of it.

“It’s hard,” she added. “I’ve had a lot of growth.”

The program is more than just teaching time management, for example, but analyzes and digs deep to understand an executive’s methods, personality and areas for improvement while highlighting positive qualities.

Prater said she has learned how to step back and let her staff do their work.

“To do that, I can’t be in their weeds,” she said.

Steven Mickens, CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Lanier, said he had previously completed an executive development program at Harvard University. But as part of the pilot version of Lead Forward, he found this program beneficial for several reasons.

“Being in this leadership program was probably the best because it was more intimate and we had an opportunity to network with each other,” Mickens said.

Mickens said he also learned about better communication with staff, talent development and setting attainable but challenging goals.

“It’s really about personal development,” he added. “The accountability starts with us and ends with us.”

Jessica Butler, executive director of Gateway Domestic Violence Center in Gainesville, said she almost backed out of participating in the pilot version of the Lead Forward program.

But after seeing it through, “I’m so glad I did,” she said.

Butler said she feels like she is working more productively and efficiently based on the “eye-opening” evaluations she received, which helped her better understand some of the minor but significant structural changes needed in her organization.  

“This isn’t about right and wrong,” she said, but rather bringing out the best in each leader’s individual qualities. “I really appreciated that philosophy.”

Growing Roots of Wisdom program

To learn more about GROW, visit, or contact Margaux Dolenc, director of grants and community partnerships, at 770-535-7880 or by email at

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