Follow Aspiring Board Members to Project LEAD

By United Way of King County, on October 25, 2023 | In Events, News, Volunteering

As a person of color, you’ve always imagined serving on an organization’s board of directors and making sure that the voices of those historically silenced are heard in the room where it happens. Then, your opportunity comes: Board membership is extended to you. What do you prioritize when you get there? Do you pick your battles or bring everything to the table? How do you ward off tokenism or perceptions of knowing only about your community?

You need Project LEAD.

Launched by United Way of King County more than 30 years ago, Project LEAD stands for Leadership Effectiveness and Diversity. It is an annual intensive training program to prepare people of color to develop their leadership and management potential. The program readies people for nonprofit boards and gives them the skills and erudition to excel in these important decision-making spaces.

United Way’s Project LEAD will be held in 2024 from February 28 to March 28, with a graduation date yet to be determined. Classes will be led by people who have years of board experience covering various backgrounds and are eager to pass on their knowledge in areas such as:

  • Issues facing nonprofit organizations
  • Board operations and protocol
  • Collaboration and conflict resolution
  • Fiscal management
  • Strategic fundraising with a racial equity lens
  • Creating bold organizational strategies
  • Managing legal risk
  • Equity leadership

United Way is committed to Project LEAD at a time when only 6% of nonprofit board chairs identified as Black, 5% as Latino, and 2% as Asian or Pacific Islander, according to an article in  The Conversation. The lack of representation on boards and board leadership throws challenges at the work that nonprofits do and their influence in the communities they serve. We believe we must change who’s at the table to achieve racial equity in communities of color.

Project LEAD graduation audience

“United Way’s Project LEAD Board training was an important certification that I needed to take as the next step in getting involved with nonprofits that I cared about,” said Project LEAD alum Sunita Shastri.  “As a BIPOC community member, this training also gave me much-needed information to take the journey of becoming a nonprofit co-founder.”

Project LEAD alum Shanell Powell agreed. “Project LEAD was a profound experience for me,” Powell said. “This experience shaped my viewpoint on how Seattle leads in philanthropic efforts from various perspectives.” Powell added that participating in Project LEAD revealed that “I was already a necessary and powerful voice. I gained practical skills that I’ve been able to integrate as I serve on the board of a nonprofit, and I continue to actively engage and support causes that I deeply believe in.”

Interested? Applications for Project LEAD 2024 are open from October 27 to November 30. Join the more than 1,200 Project LEAD graduates who have gone on to ensure that local nonprofit boards are representative of the communities they serve and that all voices have an equal seat at the table. To learn more, send an email to


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