Learning in Action: NonProfit Strategic Planning

Our Learning in Action series highlights stories of students outside the classroom, implementing their skills in a real-life environment. Heather Vanderslice, a student in our online MPA program, shared her story with The Leaders’ Lounge.

VandersliceIn addition to her full-time work for the Virginia Farm Bureau, Heather currently serves as a strategic planning consultant for the Center to End Adolescent Substance Abuse (CEASE). She’s been able to put her classroom learning into action since she met CEASE founder Jeannie Armstrong. While networking with Jeannie, Heather made some suggestions as the two talked about CEASE, and Jeannie was impressed!

“When I mentioned I had some classroom experience with strategic planning through Villanova, Jeannie was thrilled. We’ve been working together ever since. The members of the board have impressive work experience, and many have advanced degrees, but what I’ve learned through my Villanova classes has allowed me to make real contributions despite my limited knowledge of substance abuse cycles.”

Heather feels a connection to the CEASE mission, which has inspired her work with the organization. She’s had the opportunity to help CEASE in a variety of ways:

“My main areas of focus thus far have been building the board, increasing awareness and goal setting, but we are moving into fundraising and creating action plans for the coming year. Per the last board meeting, we are starting a crowd funding campaign for the end of the year. We would love to have more website traffic so people better understand how the organization helps at-risk children.”

A highlight of her experience with CEASE is the opportunity to collaborate. Balancing short and long-term goals has been one of the prominent challenges.

“So far the best part of my work is being able to use the diverse talents of the board to create workable strategies. In my opinion, this collaboration shows that the organization can achieve greatness with the right plans in place and the dedication to follow them. The most challenging part of my work is helping board members tackle immediate challenges like resource acquisition while keeping in mind the long term goals of the organization.”

Working with CEASE has offered Heather a unique opportunity to put her classroom learning into practice.

“I believe I have used knowledge or skills from every class I’ve taken in some capacity. In fact, being in this position has helped me realize that to be an effective public administrator, you cannot only be good in one area. Instead, you must be well-versed in finance, management, strategic planning, theory, analysis, and leadership. Nonprofit challenges require comprehensive solutions.”

Have an example of learning in action that you’d like to share with The Leaders’ Lounge? Email Shanna Lodge to have your story included in this series.

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