Since being honored as a Top 10 CNN Hero in 2016, Sheldon Smith says his nonprofit has grown more than he could ever have imagined.
Through his Dovetail Project, Smith helps young fathers in Chicago become positive role models and responsible parents. The group has doubled the number of fathers in the program, been recognized by the Obama Foundation and is working to expand to another city.
A year ago, building an organization of this magnitude would not have been possible, Smith said. But he and his group were able to make significant changes last year thanks to a special training program created by the Annenberg Foundation, a leading supporter of nonprofits worldwide.
For the last five years, the top 10 CNN Heroes, along with key members from their organizations, have attended the three-day training program in Los Angeles — known as Alchemy — for free. The program is designed to help nonprofits build a strong, sustainable foundation for long-term success.
“The training is so real and at a high level,” Smith said. “I thought they were going to put on a typical workshop where everything is at a base level. That’s not what this is — this is about growing, expanding, and taking you to the next level.”
“They are genuinely excited and moved by the training, and they really do want to use it to make their organizations better, because they are working from the heart,” said Marsha Bonner, Director of Programs, Community Grantmaking and Special Initiatives at the Annenberg Foundation. “But they need more than heart; they need tools to move forward, and that’s what Alchemy provides.”
“We learned so much from each other’s experiences and sharing what we’ve gone through as founders,” Franklin said. “Being around people who understand what you are going through — the hardships as well as the opportunities — that’s invaluable.”
“We brought a lot of the teaching back into our organization. A lot of things have made this whole process not only easier, but more effective and beneficial for our participants,” Ludden said. “We expanded into 15 cities across the US, and we provided programming to hundreds and thousands of people who we hadn’t before reached. And that’s just the beginning.”
“I am so fired up about going back to Annenberg to meet these heroes,” Smith said. “When you are excited about these cool things happening to you, you can miss important things that you should be asking and talking about. I want to give them as much information about my experience so they can make the best of these amazing opportunities.”