Amazing Local Leaders and the Awesome Wally Marks Leadership Institute

jan 15 2013
left to right: Eric Ares, Kerri Gallagher, Paulina Gonzalez

Byline: Barbara Osborn

Liberty Hill hosted a lunch for supporters to meet three amazing young leaders who have benefited from our Wally Marks Leadership Institute training.  Participants receive 60 hours of training plus an equivalent amount of coaching. In all, Liberty Hill participants received 2,282 hour of training and coaching! That makes a big difference in what participants are able to  accomplish, as these excerpts from their remarks demonstrate! 

Paulina Gonzalez, Executive Director, Strategic Actions for a Just Economy

Most recent victory: Persuading USC to invest $20 million in the affordable Housing Trust as part of its MasterPlan.

Wally Marks Leadership Institute Track: Board Development

“I’m a relatively new executive director. When I started it was the middle of the worst economic crisis we’d ever seen. It was a difficult time. I thought what did I get myself into? We decide that we needed to be able to survive these ups and downs of the economy and diversify our fundraising.

We set a goal of raising $20,000-$30,000 just by the board. That was a lofty goal because last year the board only raised $2,000!  At The Wally Marks Leadership Institute, we learned about cultivating relationships and how to make an ask. We set out goals and we were able to implement a give/get policy, board commitment forms and we were able to recruit new board members. We had coaching. The board raised $12,000 this year and we asked the board to open up their networks and they did, as a result, it resulted in two new grants at $40,000. That was because of the skills we learned.”

Eric Ares, Communications/Organizing staff, L.A. Community Action Network

Most recent victory: Persuading AEG to invest $20 million in the affordable Housing Trust as part of its renovation of the downtown NFL stadium.

Wally Marks Leadership Institute Track: Communications

“I was hired to be half organizer half communications. I have zero communications training. LACAN said ‘Go.’ And I said, ‘Where?’

We had just initiated a campaign around the AEG stadium. We were scared. Our base are extremely low income and homeless people. How could we do this? Government officials and AEG, a billion dollar company, were for the stadium.

The WMLI helped us challenge the narrative. The Wally Marks Leadership Institute helped me think more strategically -  how we could train speakers and use Twitter, our website, our newspaper to make our campaigns more effective.

We learned message discipline: We went to the City Council and said: We love football. We aren’t against the stadium.

We saw AEG use Twitter as a way to spread their word and build support. With very little effort, me and community residents could use their media to tell our story. You could see over the months the narrative change. From ‘Let’s build a stadium’ to ‘Will the stadium benefit everyone?’ “

Kerri Gallagher, Executive Director, Housing Long Beach

Wally Marks Leadership Institute Track: Board Development.  

“When I came on as Executive Director, we had just had a major defeat. We felt lost. We were trying to figure out how to move forward. We’re fighting for affordable housing in a city that doesn’t even have rent control.

We were in the board development track of the Wally Marks Leadership Institute.  I’d worked with boards before and now I look at all the other boards I worked on and know they were all dysfunctional.  My board has such potential but I have to build and cultivate and prepare them to do it.

By participating in the Wally Marks Leadership Institute, we were able to achieve three goals:

  1. We did a strategic plan. We now have a clear purpose and identity for the organization.
  2. We developed a give and get policy that was developed by our low income resident board members!  They were the ones who said our board needs to fundraise and to make Housing Long Beach more sustainable.
  3. We doubled our board in size.”

Liberty Hill’s Wally Marks Leadership Institute is the value-added complement to a grant from Liberty Hill and is designed to strengthen organizational infrastructure and the leadership base of grantees. It is named for donor-activist Wally Marks. The next tracks in develpoment, community organizing and communications take place in March.

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