Emerging Community Leaders

2019 ECL Graduates pose for group photo


Emerging Community Leaders (ECL) is a FREE 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 18 years, 780 people have graduated from ECL!

Work on Campus?

We are pleased to offer ECL @ Illinois - follow this link to learn more!


About the Emerging Community Leaders Program

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

In the spring, you’ll join a cohort of other young professionals (age 21-40ish) for our five educational seminars:

  • Finding Your Why
  • Nonprofit Basics
  • How to be an effective Board/Committee member
  • Fundraising for Impact
  • Accountability and Leadership in the Community

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 volunteer events throughout the year. At the conclusion of our program, we'll celebrate your accomplishments with a Graduation event.


ECL graduates have the skill set necessary to become effective nonprofit volunteers, committee or board members, and leaders for promoting the work of nonprofits in the community. Plus, you’ll have made new friends with your fellow ECL members.

View our Learning Outcomes.


Our program runs April through October. There are five seminars throughout the late spring and summer, and you should plan to spend additional time on your Team Project. There are no scheduled seminars in July to account for summer planning and extra focus on the team project. Commitment is key, so there are minimum attendance requirements. We plan optional volunteer and social events too. 

2024 Program Calendars

Emerging Community Leaders

ECL @ Illinois


The 2025 ECL Program application will be available in early 2025. Please join our interest list below for more information.

If you have specific program questions, feel free to contact Anne Clark Skuse.

Frequently Asked Questions - Emerging Community Leaders

For UIUC employees, you are eligible to choose between our traditional Emerging Community Leaders program and ECL @ Illinois. Both programs offer the same core ECL content. Regardless of which program you choose, you will have access to the same shared social events and community volunteerism events.

  • ECL @ Illinois is a convenient program open only to UIUC employees and supported by United Way and the Office of the Chancellor. Events are held over the noon hour on campus, and you will meet people from many sections/units. It is great for campus networking. The program is limited to those in specific employment categories. There is no suggested participant age range. At this time, employees working in an extra help or academic hourly capacity are not eligible to participate in ECL @ Illinois - we encourage you to explore the traditional ECL program!
  • Some UIUC employees choose to participate in our traditional Emerging Community Leaders program. The events are held in the late afternoon in various Champaign-Urbana locations. You may need a vehicle. One of the benefits is that you will meet people from a variety of companies in C-U. Unlike the campus program, our traditional ECL program does have a suggested participant age range of 21 - 40.

Due to room capacity limits, we do not have the ability to "switch" you between the two once the program begins. You also cannot "mix-and-match" sessions between the two programs.

21-40ish. The average participant age is 32. 

The minimum age to join ECL is 21.

ECL @ Illinois does not have a suggested participant age range.

Free - it just costs your time.

We have one 2 hour event a month from April through October. You should plan to spend about 3 hours a month from June to September 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. If you ever have any issues or questions, we want you to reach out to the ECL program staff. We can usually find a mutually agreeable solution!

The core focus of our program is on learning how to become a great volunteer.

We do love networking and include it as part of every event. We guarantee you'll meet new people.


We hold our core ECL program events from 4:30pm - 6:00pm.

There isn't one best time for everyone, but over the past 18 years, we've found the late afternoon slot allows us to get the best community speakers - and get you back home for dinner or other evening commitments.

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

ECL @ Illinois events are held over the noon hour on campus.

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

Our program will teach you how to identify the right volunteer opportunity for you and introduce you to the local nonprofit community. Our team is 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.

We do have minimum attendance requirements. If you'll be away from the C-U area or on leave for more than four consecutive weeks during the program, or if you will miss more than two Seminar events, connect with us before applying and let’s talk it through. 
In 2020, we learned that ECL works best in person. Therefore we do not offer a virtual ECL experience.

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!

Join the 2025 ECL Interest List

Which ECL program are you interested in joining?
How did you hear about Emerging Community Leaders? Choose all that apply.