Emerging Community Leaders

The 2019 ECL Class application period is now closed.

Interested in joining ECL in 2020? Click here to join our Interest List!


Emerging Community Leaders is a personal development program for young professionals who have a desire to impact their community through nonprofit voluntarism.

Our annual program is structured like a class and limited to 50 of our community's brightest young professionals. We're looking for people from all backgrounds and workplaces who are passionate about improving Champaign County.

Over the past 14 years, nearly 550 people have graduated from ECL. Our graduates have achieved great things:

  • Born Learning Trails installed in Champaign, Savoy and Rantoul through ECL Team Projects
  • 580 children's books donated to the Mother Goose on the Loose program
  • $504,000 donated to United Way by ECL graduates since 2005
  • 1,200 hours volunteered annually by ECL participants
  • 75% of ECL graduates are currently serving on a nonprofit Board, Committee or Special Event team

The ECL program laid the ground work for my community involvement. It helped me see needs in our community I didn’t know existed, and inspired me to offer up as much of my time and talent as I could spare to help others. Being around so many other like-minded people was not only energizing, but motivating. Through the ECL program I met Kelly O’Neill- she and I later went on to co-found Girls Go For It, a nonprofit after school program that empowers young women and helps them develop their leadership and professional potential.” - Cynthia Bruno, 2013 ECL Graduate


The 2019 ECL Program is offered free of charge thanks to our sponsor, Barham Benefit Group, and the support of the United Way Board of Directors.

About the ECL Program

The core of the program is our four seminars: Nonprofit Basics, How to be a Nonprofit Board Member, Volunteer Fundraising 101, and Our Community's Challenges. We bring in local experts to help you build an understanding of these topics. After attending the seminars, you will:

  • Understand the basics of nonprofit operations

  • Experience our community's challenges through our interactive, award-winning poverty simulation

  • Be equipped with the knowledge and tools to be a great nonprofit Board member or high-level volunteer

  • Have confidence to help the causes you care about as a volunteer fundraiser

Attendance at the Advancement Seminars is required to complete the program.

From happy hours to icebreakers and more, we weave networking into all of our events.

In 2019, our ECL Team Projects will focus on improving Kindergarten readiness in our community. The project is your opportunity to put the skills you learned at our seminars to work. 

Your team of 8-10 people will have six months to wrap yourselves around your project, working together to create positive change and lasting impact. You’re not alone in this - United Way and our committee of ECL alumni will guide you through the project. You can expect to spend about 3 hours each month on your team project.

Get the behind-the-scenes tour! Four local nonprofit organizations will open their doors and show you how they are impacting our community. This tour will show you a side of your community rarely seen by others. 

Roll up your sleeves and get involved! Each year we facilitate at least 5 events where you can volunteer alongside fellow ECL members. We provide a variety of chances to give back: our signature Illinois Marathon hydration station, collection drives, working a gala, and more. We will show you a variety of ways that you can give back!

At the conclusion of the program, your Team Project group will present your work to your fellow class members at the Capstone Event. Finally, we’ll celebrate your accomplishments at the Graduation Happy Hour.

Mission of the ECL Program:

Connect with other young professionals who want to make a difference in Champaign County

Serve in group volunteer projects and team projects

Lead the way by educating yourself on community issues and non-profit operations


For more information, please contact Mary or Salvo