LEAD offers lessons for tri-county area nonprofits

Professional development institute hosts information session Aug. 6.

LEAD (Leadership Education and Development) Institute is a year-long professional development program designed for nonprofits serving the diverse communities of San Benito, Monterey and Santa Cruz Counties. As part of the Community Foundation for Monterey County in coordination with the Community Foundation of Santa Cruz County and the Community Foundation for San Benito County (CFSBC), the program prepares successful nonprofit directors or managers to take on expanded leadership responsibilities.

LEADers come away with an understanding of management and evaluation, strategic planning, fund development, human resources management, public communications, and more.

I had the opportunity to be part of the 2019 cohort, and it’s been a rewarding experience. Not only did I get to make connections with people working in various nonprofits from across the Central Coast, but I also gained practical skills I can use to help move BenitoLink forward. 

While it is a significant time commitment—there’s an eight-hour session once a month and homework assignments throughout the week—LEAD has given me the confidence to continue with my personal and professional growth. 

I’ve been lucky to share this experience with fellow San Benito County residents Salina Chacon, grants and projects manager for CFSBC, and Mindy Sotelo, executive manager for the San Benito County Farm Bureau.

“Being able to meet and network with peer nonprofit leaders in other organizations has been invaluable,” Chacon said. “LEAD has been a great experience so far. They bring together a variety of people with different backgrounds and provide a space to share ideas that could be implemented in our own organizations.

CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) of San Benito County Executive Director and former LEAD participant Esther Curtice said, “The LEAD program was an educational and inspiring experience for me. The curriculum covers an extensive amount of material invaluable for learning how to manage and lead a nonprofit agency successfully.”

She added, “After completing the 12-month program I was able to check off many of the boxes, make strong connections with other LEAD participants and alumni, and apply my knowledge in building a strong foundation for the agency I work for.”

The LEAD Institute will host an information session on Tuesday, Aug. 6 from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Community Foundation office, located at 829 San Benito St. in Hollister. For more information, click on the PDF at the bottom of this article or visit

The deadline to apply for the 2020 LEAD program is Sept. 13. Tuition rates vary by the size of the organization, but substantial partial scholarships are available and applications submitted early are eligible for a 10% discount. The early bird deadline is August 30. 


Current LEAD participants include:


San Benito County

Salina Chacon, Grants and Projects Manager, Community Foundation for San Benito County 

Laura Romero, Social Media and Marketing Coordinator, BenitoLink

Mindy Sotelo, Executive Manager, San Benito County Farm Bureau

Monterey County

Richard Cheatham, Director of Workforce Development Services, Goodwill Central Coast

Teressa Jimenez, Director of Development, CASA

Brandi Lamb, Executive Director, Osio Theater

Clare Margason, Community Impact Director, United Way Monterey County

May Nguyen, Central Coast Program Director, Environmental Justice Coalition for Water 

Jennifer Ramirez, Executive Director, Partnership for Children

Jody Rogers, Operations Coordinator, Alliance on Aging

Ceci Romero, Deputy Director, Rancho Cielo

Lenina Sanchez, Communications Coordinator, Community Human Services

Santa Cruz County

Maribel Alvarez, Spanish Coordinator and Mental Health Specialist, Community Connection 

Services Iliana Cuadros, Health Records and Referrals Manager, Salud Para La Gente

Alexandra Dami, Director of External Programs, Jacob’s Heart Children’s Cancer Support 

Darren Gertler, Workshop Coordinator, Watsonville Science Workshop 

Ivan Meza, Avenues Program Coordinator, Community Connection

Terri Steinmann, Director of Development, Santa Cruz Performing Arts


Laura Romero

Laura Romero has been a reporter and handled marketing/social media for BenitoLink. She has covered education and city government. Formerly, she worked as an assistant account executive at Pembroke PR in San Francisco, where she assisted with press outreach, event coordination, and social media planning. With her PR skills, she has helped to implement social media strategies and develop online giving campaigns for BenitoLink. Laura continues to contribute to BenitoLink on a freelance basis.