“We Executive Directors often don’t have enough resources to do the work that we do, so this investment from ESC and all the donors and funders who make EDLI possible is so important for nonprofit leaders. Great things aren’t accomplished on our own. We need a village to do that, and EDLI was definitely a critical part of my village.”
When Fatima Djelmane Rodriguez, Executive Director of Camp Ronald McDonald for Good Times, first applied to participate in ESC’s 2018 Executive Directors Leadership Institute (EDLI), she never expected that one of the challenges she would face during the year-long program was the threat of a serious fire. In July 2018, the organization’s extensive campgrounds — where children affected by cancer and their families receive cost-free camping experiences — had to be evacuated for a week as a safety precaution due to the Idyllwild brush fire. Thankfully the campgrounds escaped damage. And during that stressful time, Fatima was grateful for the support of her dedicated executive leadership coach, ESC consultant Janet Schulman, and her fellow EDLI cohort members.
Months earlier, as a first-time Executive Director, Fatima had enrolled in EDLI to build her network and strengthen her skills in her new role. After four years as Director of Development at Camp Ronald McDonald, she had agreed to serve as Interim Executive Director in addition to her development role, then took the plunge and applied for and was appointed to the position of Executive Director in October 2017. Fatima grappled with new responsibilities and the role’s potential impact on her young family, while also aiming to prove herself as a capable leader to a Board of Directors that was itself undergoing change.
EDLI turned out to be the right professional development opportunity at the right time. Fatima immersed herself in EDLI’s rigorous program of training workshops, and invested deeply in her coaching relationship with Janet. The two developed an immediate kinship; Fatima was able to draw similarities between her first year experience and Janet’s decades of experiences as a nonprofit director. Together, they navigated and addressed each unique challenge of Fatima’s first year as Executive Director, from managing organizational politics to cultivating new business relationships, to that threatening Idyllwild fire. More than anything, Fatima felt she had a trusted advisor in Janet, who practices ESC’s coaching-based approach, in which clients are empowered to discover their own solutions to challenges: “Talking it out with Janet helped me come to my own conclusions and be confident in my leadership decisions.”
Fatima particularly valued the opportunity to join a cohort of peers like her, who understood the day-to-day challenges of being an Executive Director, and how isolating that could sometimes feel: “My EDLI peers were really honest and willing to share opinions and give advice without being judgmental of one another.” One especially empowering moment was when the cohort helped Fatima with a salary negotiation role play, where Fatima advocated for herself and the vision she had for Camp Ronald McDonald. It was a transformative experience to practice that conversation with her peers, and Fatima successfully negotiated her salary with the CEO of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Southern California, later that year.
After graduating from EDLI, Fatima feels extraordinary gratitude for her peers, her coach and those who support ESC’s programs like EDLI: “We Executive Directors often don’t have enough resources to do the work that we do, so this investment from ESC and all the donors and funders who make EDLI possible is so important for nonprofit leaders. Great things aren’t accomplished on our own. We need a village to do that, and EDLI was definitely a critical part of my village.”
EDLI is made possible by the generous support of the Wells Fargo Foundation and the Resnick Foundation.