In response to COVID-19, the Glasscock School has moved the majority of our upcoming offerings online. Learn more

Leadership in Action

This 10-month certificate program, designed for first-time executive directors, allows you to use the work of your own organization to accelerate your learning and build practices that will help improve your programs, strengthen your board and increase your organization's financial sustainability immediately.

Leadership in Action Certificate

Nonprofit professionals in executive leadership roles rarely have the time for theory-based approaches to continuing education. Instead, they value learning opportunities that both grow them professionally and are immediately applicable to the organizations they lead. This challenge can be particularly great for new executive directors, who have the passion and vision to lead an organization, yet have not had the opportunity to gain experience in every aspect of managing one.

This certificate program invites you to bring your organization’s unique challenges and opportunities to class. Working with expert practitioners, and using real-life examples from your day-to-day work, explore the principles of effective nonprofit management while creating tools and resources that will improve your programs, strengthen your board and increase your financial sustainability right away.

If you are in your first role as an executive director or chief executive officer, you will find that this certificate program offers immediate benefits, not only to your organization but also to your individual growth as a leader. By earning this certificate, you will demonstrate your expertise in all aspects of nonprofit management and will develop a portfolio of outcomes-based projects that exhibit your ability to lead nonprofit organizations effectively. Additionally, connect with a network of peers who serve in similar roles and bring unique perspectives, experiences and guidance during the program and long after. The next cohort will take place spring 2021. Application deadline is Nov. 15, 2020.


This program is designed for first-time executive directors and chief executive officers who are leading small to mid-size organizations and are responsible for most or all aspects of their organizations' executive work - from fundraising to financial management and operations.

Senior level staff at an organization of any size may participate if they have been nominated by their supervisors in recognition of their potential as future organizational leaders.

Note: This program is workshop-based, and all participants are expected to bring concrete examples, current information and relevant documents from their organizations in order to engage fully with the instruction. The program is designed to protect the confidentiality of these documents between the participant and the instructors.

Total program pricing: $9,950 Fee includes the cost of books, case studies, coaching and program-day meals

Scholarship Options

Scholarships may be available to individuals currently employed by a nonprofit organization located in the greater Houston area.

Please complete the appropriate section of the Leadership In Action application if you would like to be considered for financial assistance. Scholarship decisions will be made by the admission committee and awarded recipients will be notified at the same time as their admissions decision.

Alternative Payment Options

Payment plan options are available by request for those who do not qualify for the scholarship option and need additional assistance. Payment plans may also be requested to pay the remaining balance of the program fees after scholarship funds have been awarded. Payment plans will not be granted after the start of the program. Contact Leslie Wang, associate director, for the required forms needed to request this option.

Refund Policy

Find our refund policy here.

For information about tuition and scholarship availability, please email Leslie Wang, associate director of the Center for Philanthropy & Nonprofit Leadership, at


Along with the application, you are also required to submit the following:

  • Program application form
  • Resume or curriculum vitae
  • Personal statement
  • Letter of recommendation from your board chair or direct supervisor
  • Letter of recommendation from a colleague, funder, board member or professional peer

The next cohort will take place spring 2021. Application deadline is  Oct. 25, 2020.


Attendance Policy  

Because the program days are workshop-based and designed to create a meaningful network among participants, full attendance on program days and participation in one-on-one coaching are absolutely critical to the successful completion of the certificate program. Both participants and direct supervisors are provided the list of scheduled class days during the application process and must agree that participation in class days will be given top priority. In the case of emergencies or conflicts that are known prior to the start of the program (no more than one conflicting class day may be accommodated prior to the start of the program), the participant must schedule a make-up session with the principal instructor in order to receive instruction and guidance on the assignments from that program day. If the participant must miss more than one day, the principal instructor reserves the right to determine whether the participant may continue in the program, but the participant will be charged for any additional make-up sessions at the rate of $150 per hour.

For more information and access to the application, please email



This program meets one Monday per month, with two additional coaching sessions (one pre-program and one post-program) with the principal instructor. Program days include components of direct instruction and guided workshops for direct application. Because the program days are “hands-on,” you should expect to do a significant amount of work in preparation for class days. The program is composed of six modules, one practicum and customized coaching sessions.

Spring 2021 Cohort

Session 1 | Monday, Jan. 11, 2021
8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.

Session 2 | Monday, Feb. 8, 2021
8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.

Session 2, Part II | Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2021
8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.

Session 3 | Monday, March 8, 2021
8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.

Session 4 | Monday, April 12, 2021
8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.

Session 5 | Monday, May 10, 2021
8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.

Session 6 | Monday, June 14, 2021
8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.

Session 7 | Monday, July 12, 2021
8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.

Session 8 | Monday, Aug. 9, 2021
8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.

Session 9 | Monday, Sept. 13, 2021
8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.

Session 10 | Monday, Oct. 11, 2021
8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.

Managing Yourself and Your Team

Who are you as a leader? How will you manage and lead your staff?

  • Assessing individual and team strengths
  • Setting and upholding expectations
  • Dealing with staffing and management challenges
  • Engaging resources around management

Managing Your Board

How do you determine the strengths and challenges of a board?

  • Assessing engagement and the stages of board development
  • Setting expectations for communication and work-sharing
  • Understanding legal and ethical guidelines related to governance
  • Recruiting new members and planning for transitions

Managing Your Mission

How do you determine the effectiveness of an organization’s programs? How can you evaluate the impact?

  • Assessing programs, considering total cost and mission alignment
  • Communicating mission impact with stakeholders
  • Refining and improving programs

Managing Your Resources

How do you assess the financial health of an organization? How do you fundraise effectively?

  • Reviewing nonprofit financials and creating relevant financial reports
  • Understanding how to categorize revenues and expenses accurately
  • Exploring options for revenue generation
  • Creating effective fundraising plans

Managing Your Operations

How do you assess the operational health of an organization? How do you know if you are using resources wisely?

  • Assessing vendors and partners to determine the value of contracts
  • Assessing and refining the role of volunteers within your organization
  • Using Managerial Accounting to determine the Return-on-Investment of programs, special events and initiatives

Managing Your Future

How do you plan for your organization’s future? What role will your board and your funders have in the planning and implementation process?

  • Creating the conditions for effective strategic planning
  • Incorporating risk analysis and contingencies
  • Preparing for your successor

Board Development Practicum

Each nonprofit organization is different and so are their boards of directors. Throughout the program, you will develop and implement an individualized governance plan for your nonprofit organization. Components of the plan could include elements such as creating or updating board materials, establishing committees or creating a board fundraising strategy.

Customized Coaching

Throughout the program, you will receive customized coaching and feedback from the Leadership in Action instructors and the staff at the Center for Philanthropy & Nonprofit Leadership. This includes one hour each of pre- and post-program coaching, which will be scheduled with the principal instructor.


Principal Instructor

Leslie Wang, MBA, is the associate director of the Center for Philanthropy & Nonprofit Leadership. Ms. Wang came to Houston in 2000 as a Teach for America corps member and taught fifth grade at Oates Elementary School. She later attended business school at The University of Texas at Austin, where she earned an MBA focused on nonprofit management. After graduate school, she served as a program officer at Houston Endowment, a private philanthropy in the greater Houston area. In that position, she had the privilege of learning about nonprofit organizations in Houston and analyzing the unique strengths that they bring to tackling complex social problems. In January 2016, Ms.Wang launched Honu Advisors, a small consulting practice focused on strengthening the social sector through board development, succession planning and governance reviews.

Use the form below to connect with our lead instructor and Associate Director of the Center for Philanthropy & Nonprofit Leadership Leslie Wang to discuss if this program is the right fit for you.