“These courses have been a phenomenal experience and an incredible gift for both me and our YMCA and will help us dream bigger for our future and the people we serve.”

Kelly, United States

For more than 30 years, Kelly O’Lague Dulka has worked tirelessly to improve outcomes for children and families as a social worker, therapist and nonprofit sector leader. Inspired by the YMCA’s (Young Men’s Christian Association) civic-centered approach to strengthening communities, Kelly joined the national nonprofit a decade ago with plans to help the organization grow in California’s San Francisco Bay Area. While impassioned to serve and support local residents, she found the organization could only do so much due to limited funding and challenges delivering services to a large, diverse community. It’s not uncommon for area families to spend hours on public transit just to access health, nutrition, and social resources they need to keep their families healthy, according to Kelly. “Our needs here go far beyond what the YMCA has capacity to address,” said Kelly, who serves as vice president and regional executive director of the YMCA of the East Bay. “We realized we had to start being more strategic in our approach if we really want to meet more of this need moving forward.” In search of opportunities to help her team scale their reach, Kelly rallied her staff to enroll in Philanthropy University alongside her. With Kelly at the helm, her four-person team completed all seven courses this past December, learning how to assess the organization’s strengths and weaknesses, improve their fundraising strategy and build engagement with their board and volunteers. Inspired by the experience, Kelly and her staff are now pursuing new strategies to expand mental health services for area children, increase donations (both monetary and goods), and build community awareness of and access to the YMCA’s programs. They may even start connecting to other YMCAs internationally to share knowledge and advice. On a personal level, the courses came at an invaluable moment in Kelly’s life: a battle with cancer. The program gave her something positive and future oriented to look forward to, she says, when her own next steps were uncertain. Now in recovery, Kelly continues to focus on the future. “These courses have been a phenomenal experience and an incredible gift for both me and our YMCA and will help us dream bigger for our future and the people we serve,” Kelly said.