Leadership Center for Excellence announced Thursday that it is eliminating its paid membership program, becoming the region's only nonprofit leadership organization to do so.

Going forward, all graduates of the Center's programs will have the same status and benefits without paying additional dues, according to a news release.

LCE's Board of Regents decided to align the organization with its renewed commitment to inclusive leadership.

"Our Board launched the pilot cohort of the DMV Diversity and Inclusion Institute this summer," explained Mike Richardson, chair of LCE's Board of Regents and senior vice president and Commercial Banking Officer at Chain Bridge Bank. "This move prompted us to look internally to ensure we are practicing what we teach. Charging dues for membership felt less inclusive than recognizing everyone equally who graduates from one of our leadership programs. While it is always hard for a nonprofit to step away from any revenue source, the Board wanted to signal we are serious about this direction."

The Center's leadership programs include Leadership Arlington, Ignite Young Professionals, Leadership Arlington Youth, and the DMV Diversity and Inclusion Institute, as well as other offerings including Volunteer Arlington and multiple leadership and volunteer-related events.

Karen Coltrane, LCE's president and CEO, noted that the change allows resources to shift toward seeking more scholarship support. "After twenty-one successful years providing cross-sector leadership development, we decided that the best way to increase our impact would be to increase the number of scholarships available for our programs. Removing as many barriers as possible will help bring new voices to the table. We believe doing that - more than anything else - will accelerate our work to expand our community's overall leadership capacity."

LCE offered significantly more scholarship support for its redesigned year-long Leadership Arlington Youth Program that started last summer, making financial assistance available to 43% of the cohort.

"This changed the entire program," said Lisa Fikes, executive director of Volunteer Arlington, who works closely with the rising high school juniors and seniors currently participating. "High school students who have experienced financial and other challenges bring an important perspective to their emerging leadership. The program not only benefits them, but their presence benefits everyone in the cohort." The Leadership Arlington Youth Program includes a one-week summer immersion followed by activities with mentors who are graduates of Leadership Arlington.

"Many of the people we encounter who are on the leading edge of community change are in small businesses and nonprofits," observed Liz Nohra, LCE's chief of External Relations. "If we can connect more of them to our network of leaders and the latest in professional development content, we can push that leading-edge even further."

"I applaud LCE's direction," said Christian Dorsey, chair of the Arlington County Board, vice-chair of the Regional Council of Governments and former member of LCE's Board of Regents. "As a graduate of LCE's Leadership Arlington program myself, I am proud the Center's board wants to stay equally connected with everyone who experiences its programs without regard to any membership status. For those of us working to build more inclusive communities throughout the region, LCE Board's decision inspires us all to take action where possible to make leadership itself more accessible."

"It is scary to change our business model," admitted Coltrane. "But we trust that our graduates and members of the community will help support our efforts to expand the traditional pool of leaders who can experience quality leadership development."

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