Emerging Community Leaders

2020 ECL Graduates pose for group photo


Emerging Community Leaders (ECL) is a personal development program designed for young professionals to learn how they can impact our community through nonprofit volunteerism. 

We're looking for people from all backgrounds and workplaces who are passionate about improving Champaign County.

Over the past 16 years, 600 people have graduated from ECL!

The 2020 ECL Program was offered free of charge thanks to our sponsors: Barham Benefit Group and U of I Community Credit Union.



About the Emerging Community Leaders Program

ECL’s structured like a class – but with no grades or tests

In the spring, you’ll join 50 other young professionals (age 21-40ish) for our four educational seminars:

  • Nonprofits 101
  • Board Membership Basics
  • Our Community’s Challenges - The Poverty Simulation
  • The Volunteer’s Role in Fundraising

Over the summer, you will put your new knowledge to work by participating in a team project that addresses a community challenge identified by United Way.

We will also plan social and volunteerism events throughout the year. And at the conclusion of our program, we'll celebrate your accomplishments with a Graduation event.


ECL graduates have the skillset necessary to become an effective nonprofit volunteer, committee member or board member. Plus, you’ll have made new friends with your fellow ECL members.

For more details, download our Learning Outcomes


Our program will run from March through October. We have one two-hour event a month, and you should plan to spend additional time on your Team Project. We’re looking for commitment, so we do have minimum attendance requirements. We plan optional volunteer and social events too. Check out the 2021 calendar and attendance requirements - available in January.


Due to uncertanties with COVID-19, we haven't finalized our timeline for 2021. We will let Interest List members know more information by mid-January 2021.

For more information, please join our Interest List.

Frequently Asked Questions

21-40ish. The average participant age is 32. Hey, Millenials! 👋

Free - it just costs your time.

We have one 2 hour event a month from March through October. You should plan to spend about 3 hours a month from May-August working on your Team Project. There are also fun extra events planned.

If you join ECL, we expect you to participate fully throughout the program, and we do have minimum attendance requirements. Our 2021 calendar will be available in January - sign up for the Interest List for a notification. 

Yes - and no.

We put together a great group of people each year - but we hope networking is not the sole reason you're joining. The focus of our program is on learning how to become a great volunteer. Networking’s a big plus, but it’s not the main focus of our program. 

Our seminars do begin at 4 pm or 4:30 pm. There isn't one best time for everyone, but over the past 16 years we've found the late afternoon slot allows us to get the best community speakers - and get you back home before dinner and other evening commitments.

If you need to convince your supervisor to allow you leave early to participate, we have letters of endorsement for the program from several top local CEOs - just ask! 

As you'll learn in ECL, volunteersim is a highly personal endeavor. 

Our program will teach you how to identify the right volunteer opportunity for you. Additionally, our team is always happy to talk with you about local options and help you continue to build your personal volunteerism plan. Additionally, we will share Board openings that are provided to us with you.

Maybe - connect with us before applying and let’s talk it through. 

YES, if you want to become more comfortable with your role. If you’ve been on boards for a long time, you may find our seminar content a bit basic for your existing knowledgebase. 

If you're new to the nonprofit world, yes!

For people with several years of experience in the nonprofit field, you may find the seminars a bit basic for your existing knowledgebase. Our program is definitely geared towards the nonprofit volunteer rather than staff member.

If you’re thinking about starting your own nonprofit, the Community Foundation’s Community Solutions Incubator is pretty awesome, and may be a better fit for you. 


But we hope by the end of the program, you’ll be more than willing to support United Way’s work!