Wally Marks

Wally Marks Leadership Institute for Change

Named in memory of longtime Liberty Hill donor-activist and Board member Wally Marks, the Wally Marks Leadership Institute for Change is the value-added complement for organizations to a grant from Liberty Hill. The Leadership Institute's workshops, technical training and coaching are designed to strengthen organizational infrastructure and the leadership base of grantee partners. Liberty Hill has found that training tailored to the campaigns and memberships of grassroots organizations increases the effectiveness and impact of financial support. A guiding principle is that the program embraces a wide range of cultural competencies: The Institute provides support tailored for different organizations at different stages of development working on different issues and with different constituencies.

Launched in 2010, the Leadership Institute provides classroom meetings, individual coaching and consulting with seasoned veterans, as well as peer learning, and other opportunities for Liberty Hill grantees to enhance their individual skills and build alliances. Through a combination of customized retreat-style training, one-on-one coaching and multi-group peer strategy sessions, the Leadership Institute moves beyond “incubating” organizations to accelerating their growth through an “organizational immersion” approach.

Khmer Girls In ActionWhat do these grassroots leaders learn through the Wally Marks Leadership Institute that they can't learn elsewhere? It's all about the specific needs of social justice organizing: how to strengthen membership bases, inspire grassroots fundraising, help your members tell their stories, recruit visionary board members, and in other ways build the infrastructure and strategic discipline. Why? Because lasting change takes time to achieve and effective community organizations are in it for the long haul!

Since its beginning, the Leadership Institute has helped leaders make transformational discoveries that resulted in dramatic improvements for their organizations. One participating organization tripled its membership base. Another raised 10 times more at an annual fundraiser than the year before. Another weathered the departure of a fundraising executive director by reinventing itself as a sustainable enterprise powered by member fundraising. 

In 2013 Liberty Hill launched the Commissions Training Program within the Leadership Institute to train individual leaders throughout Los Angeles. Qualified leaders are trained for democratic participation in the more than 250 boards and commissions in the City and County of Los Angeles that oversee key city and county agencies on policies and programs that impact the quality of life for residents and equity throughout the region.

Photo: Wally Marks Leadership Institute coach Damon Azali-Rojas (right) at a session with Khmer Girls in Action members.