Developing Tomorrow’s Social Impact Leaders

Author: The Tower Foundation


The Boston-based Institute for Nonprofit Practice (INP) provides established and aspiring social impact leaders with the skills, resources, and networks necessary to enhance their leadership and strengthen their organizations, driven by the belief that a strong, diverse social impact workforce is critical to transforming communities. Social impact leaders are nonprofit, public sector, or social enterprise professionals who work to address major social challenges, like access to educational opportunities or health inequity, to improve the lives of those most affected by them. INP participants develop their ability to align vision, strategy, and culture; build high-performing teams; and make data-informed decisions about key issues in ever-changing environments.

Seventeen years ago, Barry Dym, PhD, an executive coach and psychotherapist who worked closely with Boston-area social impact leaders, recognized major challenges that threatened the sustainability of the nonprofit sector. In contrast with the corporate world, management and leadership training was rare for those who were promoted. Dym realized that within a matter of years, the current generation of nonprofit executives would retire, leaving critical gaps in leadership skills and knowledge as the next generation took their place.

“Barry was determined to make sure that social impact leaders had the necessary skills, robust networks, and were representative of the people they served, so that they were equipped to rise in their leadership and transform communities,” said Yolanda Coentro, president and CEO of INP. “Equity has been at the center of everything we do since the beginning, and that has never wavered.”

With a cohort of 13 Boston-area social impact leaders, Dym founded INP—launching its year-long training program to help community and nonprofit managers and executives realize their full potential. As demand grew outside of Boston, INP sought to bring its program to more social impact leaders in the state. A successful application to fund its Core Program in Essex County, Massachusetts was the start of INP’s nearly 15-year long partnership with the Tower Foundation.

“From the very beginning, INP’s relationship with Tower Foundation has been based on mutual trust,” said Coentro. “They’ve never been afraid of letting us try things—never been afraid of imperfection, because they know that’s the real work. And because of that trust and partnership, we’ve been able to go further together.”

Over the next decade, the Tower Foundation played a central role in INP’s expansion to Massachusetts communities that are part of the Foundation’s footprint. Working closely with a group of funders the Cape Cod and the Islands, the Tower Foundation helped connect social sector organizations in need of leadership training with INP—eventually leading to the establishment of its Core Program on Cape Cod. With sights set on Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket for its next expansion, INP partnered with the Tower Foundation to both fund and network with other grantmaking foundations to sustain the program.

“The Tower Foundation has always been one of the first partners we go to with new ideas, from strategy to planning to expansion,” said Coentro. “As we looked to move into Western New York, the Tower Foundation was the clear partner choice. None of the relationships we have there today would be possible without the Tower Foundation.”

95 Western New York social impact leaders reached since 2022

INP brought its Core Program to New York’s Erie and Chautauqua counties in 2022, with a cohort of 32 leaders. One year later, INP welcomed its first Western New York RISE cohort, a program for early career leaders that combines training, mentorship, experiential learning, and community connection to equip and retain social impact talent. With growing demand across the country, INP hopes to continue expanding to reach more social impact leaders and organizations with its nationally recognized programming.


“When I moved here, I was left without a community. In this RISE cohort, I found my home.” – RISE Fellow Graduate, WNY 2023 Cohort