Stronger Nonprofits Initiative

IFF’s Stronger Nonprofits Initiative (SNI) aims to reduce structural barriers that nonprofit leaders of color face in accessing valuable tools and resources related to financial management and real estate planning. Our 14-month curriculum includes four day-long training sessions focused on team-based nonprofit financial management, combined with peer learning, one-on-one financial coaching, customized real estate consulting, and special networking opportunities.

This program is offered through the Midwest, with cohorts based in Chicago, Detroit, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, St. Louis, and a TBD city in Ohio (see below for schedule). Each cohort is comprised of 2-4 leaders from each of 10 nonprofit organizations that attend all the workshops together and engage in peer learning.


CHRISTA HAMILTON, Centers for New Horizons: “Before, we were coming up with the budget within the finance department and then funneling it down to the program level. After working with our FMA coach, we start at the program level and feed that up into the budget. We sit with the program directors and hammer out the changing needs of the organization — for example, maybe we’re serving a new population and need an additional employment specialist. The team loves it.”


DARA MUNSON, Chicago Child Care Society: “SNI reminded me and our leadership team of a few best practices that should continue over time — for example, ensuring the budget process is inclusive and begins with an overall strategy, versus simply being the function of budgeting among quite a few strategies for ensuring longer-term fiscal health.”


MARK SANDERS, North Lawndale Employment Network: “We decided improving our inter-organizational communications around finance would help us maintain the momentum we’d already built around our goals.Now we’re thinking ahead better. Rather than waiting for our finance director to say, ‘All right, it’s budget season,’ our program directors started thinking about opportunities in January or February.”


Why is financial management important for nonprofits?

Carving out the time to step back and strategize is a significant challenge for busy nonprofit leaders besieged with daily demands and unforeseen crises. And if they do find the time, there’s the issue of access — in particular for leaders of color serving communities of color. Implementing a strategy effectively often takes resources that may not be readily available: funding, expertise, and a deep network. That’s why SNI is so important. After completing the program, our hope is that nonprofits will have:

  • Increased financial capacity in the form of staff knowledge and skills, as well as systems and processes
  • Stronger budgeting practices that are inclusive, transparent, team-based, and multi-year
  • Financial resilience, which demands both access to capital to help manage change, as well as the ability to focus long-term while continually addressing current needs.

Chicago – 2017

Chicago – 2018

Detroit – 2019

Applying to SNI


To be eligible for this program, your organization must have:

  • 501(c)(3) tax exempt status
  • Headquarters in the city where the training is taking place
  • 2-4 staff/Board members ready and willing to actively participate in a 14-month program, including:
    • Full-time, paid CEO/Executive Director who is a person of color 
    • At least 1 other member of the leadership team who is a person of color

Application Process

The next application window will be for a cohort in Milwaukee, where we will host a web-based informational session on April 6 to provide an overview of the SNI program and answer questions about the application process. RSVP to the April 6 SNI-Milwaukee Informational Session.

Specific application instructions will be released on April 1, 2020, and due by April 27, 2020. Check back here for a link. The application typically includes:

  • Brief questionnaire
  • Organizational chart
  • Board of Directors list
  • Most recently completed audit or financial review
  • Current year budget, including the most recent actuals and projections through the end of the year

Previous & Upcoming Cohorts

We plan to offer city-based cohorts on the following rolling schedule: 

  • Chicago – October 2017 (completed)
  • Chicago – August 2018 (completed)
  • Detroit – October 2019 (underway)
  • Milwaukee – Spring 2020 TBA
  • Detroit – Fall 2020
  • Indianapolis – TBD 2021
  • St. Louis – TBD 2021
  • TBD City in Ohio – TBA