Bernadette with her new Duke certificate

In June, I attended the Duke University Nonprofit Management Certification Intensive Track program with Triangle Community Foundation’s support.

It was a professional development opportunity that I had been pining after for some time and I’m very thankful that my supervisor encouraged me, and advocated for me, to take this big next step in my career. I have long admired the academics at Duke (as well as their amazing basketball team*), so being able to take part in this prestigious program was a big deal to me. I knew going into it that I would get so much from the experience, but it turned out to be so much more than I could have hoped for.

Here are the top 8 gifts that I received from the 8-day program:

1. Being in “school” again — It was truly a gift to learn in a “classroom” setting again. I have always loved school and I have missed it! Self-proclaimed nerd here! I enjoy having a schedule, a set goal, learning new things, asking questions, and waxing theoretical. The Duke program hosted many prestigious lecturers, but I also learned a lot from my peers in the room.

2. Networking — There were nonprofit professionals from all over the country in the Duke program! Some had even gone to Duke undergrad many years ago and had lived corporate or academic lives before finding the nonprofit sector. Some were a part of a board and wanted to become a better board member for their organization. Some were local, and the Foundation has even granted to them before!

3. Confidence — My professional and personal confidence grew up fast in that eight-day period. I was in a setting that fostered my previous knowledge and encouraged my questions, whether general or specific. My professional confidence grew because I was representing the community foundation model in a room of smaller nonprofits and I was able to help bridge that gap between the community foundation and the nonprofits around it. Although many of these professionals were not local to RTP, I encouraged them to work with their local community foundations back home.

4. Knowledge — Over the eight days, we covered: Nonprofit Boards, Nonprofit Planning and Evaluation, Grant Writing and Compliance, Social Enterprise, Sustainable Strategic Planning, Employment Law, Financial Management, and Human Resources. In all of these areas I learned a lot, but I think the most interesting topics to me were Employment Law and Financial Management. Employment Law gave me insight into IRS regulations and how they are changing in today’s society. The Financial Management course gave me a lot more expertise in reading financial documents and understanding the complexities of how nonprofits’ file their form 990.

5. Strategy — During each of the courses, the lector would have us break out in small groups or individually to put into practice what we had just learned for our specific organization. This gave us the chance to strategize about how the techniques and/or tools would work for our nonprofit. I sharpened my skills of strategy as well as learned a few tricks from my fellow nonprofit professionals.

6. Being an official Duke grad — This is a purely personal gift to me! I have been a Duke fan since I was 8 years old and now I can officially say I am a Duke grad! I have an official transcript and diploma, it’s beautiful. The campus is simply gorgeous, and the academics continue to surpass excellence! I am so grateful to have been a part of the Duke community, even if it was brief.

7. Wisdom — With all the knowledge I gained over that week, now that I have settled back into work I have been lucky to receive the gift of wisdom. The wisdom to discern what and when to use the knowledge I earned in the Nonprofit Management program. Everything I learned at Duke was extremely useful to me personally and professionally, but not all of it is applicable for my current role or the Foundation and realizing that helps me to continue learning as I grow.

8. Appreciation — Always the best gift to receive is appreciation. I appreciate the Foundation for supporting me in this program. I appreciate the amazing opportunity to attend the nonprofit management program at Duke. I appreciate the role that a community foundation plays in the nonprofit sector. I appreciate meeting so many incredible people and hearing their stories. I appreciate all of the fantastic instructors and their expertise. Lastly, tongue in cheek if you will, I appreciate my 7:30–4 pm regular and flexible work schedule because driving into Durham every day from Raleigh during rush hour was awful and I don’t miss it.

Contributing writer, Bernadette Gonzales, is the Donor Development Associate at Triangle Community Foundation.

*This statement is the opinion of the contributing writer. Triangle Community Foundation does not play favorites when it comes to our local college sports.