UNITED WAY of Central Indiana developed leadership training programs in 1986 to enhance volunteers’ ability to serve the community. The United Way created its first leadership training program, the Ardath Burkhart Series, in memory of the late ARDATH Y. BURKHART, an Indianapolis community volunteer and philanthropist. The program provided education and experience in nonprofit board leadership. Approximately 20 individuals graduated from the series annually until 2014 when the series graduated its final class of 19.

Participants in United Way of Central Indiana’s Leadership United program complete a service project at Edna Martin Christian Center, September 2022 Credit: United Way of Central Indiana View Source

In 1989, the Leadership Training Development Series for Diversity was established to train minorities with the potential to assume leadership roles in their work, organizations, and communities. Through 1992, 51 individuals graduated from the program. Its funding came initially from the Kellogg Foundation. Small matching grants from INDIANAPOLIS FOUNDATION and matching grants, staff, and in-kind support from United Way funded the diversity series. Over time, more series were added. The Executive Women’s Leadership Program, begun in 1990, trained women to be leaders in philanthropy, in United Way, within their businesses, and in other community organizations. It served an estimated 25 persons a year through 2013 when the last class of 22 graduated.

In 2006, the Generation Now program began for young professionals, aged 35 and under. It served approximately 20 persons a year through 2013 when the last class of 19 graduated. In 2013, United Way announced a new title for leadership training programs, Leadership United. It combined the four existing programs, Ardath Burkhart Leadership Series, Executive Women’s Leadership Series, Diversity Leadership Series, and Generation Now Series into one comprehensive “Leadership United” program. The program was redesigned with the same purpose in mind: to generate community leadership and board development. The first combined Leadership United class graduated in 2015 with 50 individuals. The program graduated over 250 individuals from 2015–2022. From 1986 to 2022, leadership training at United Way of Central Indiana graduated over 1,700 people.

Leadership United participants work in a classroom setting at United Way of Central Indiana’s Indianapolis office, September 2022 Credit: United Way of Central Indiana View Source

United Way continues to evolve its leadership training programs to meet community needs. Upon graduation, all program alumni are expected and encouraged to continue to serve the United Way of Central Indiana and the community through volunteer and philanthropic activity and are provided with the connections and skills to do so.

Revised April 2023

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