NCF Next Generation Leadership Institute

"If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more - you are a leader." - John Quincy Adams


Meet the 2020 NGLI Cohort

Click here to watch a webinar held September 13, where NGLI advisor Ray Ledgerwood provided an overview of the program.

COVID-19 Update:

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the inaugural NGLI program year has made some adjustments to the original session design calendar. Through discussions with the National Conservation Foundation and the members of the 2020 cohort, it was decided that the program will not be meeting in person for the remainder of 2020. Program organizers anticipate that the cohort will be able to resume in-person sessions in February 2021 at the NACD Annual Meeting in New Orleans, La. The cohort will attend the subsequently planned in-person sessions.

As a consequence of this adjustment, applications for the next cohort will be advertised in Spring 2021. Individuals selected to participate in the next program year will convene in February 2022 at the NACD Annual Meeting in Orlando, Fl.

If you are interested in getting information about the announcement of the next cohort, please sign up for updates below.


Grassroots conservation has a long-standing history of success in the United States and will play an important role in the future of natural resource stewardship. Local conservation district leaders are the ideal voices to promote wise practices, and the demand for this approach continues to grow and expand as resource priorities are further realized.

These local leaders are faced with challenges of transitioning their work to meet the shifting needs of local conservation priorities. The ability to champion this forthcoming work will require well-trained and educated individuals who are prepared to lead in the future.

The National Conservation Foundation has developed a comprehensive program that will meet this need. The Next Generation Leadership Institute (NGLI) is ready to take conservation leaders to the next level by training individuals to rise to the challenge of understanding and directing national, collaborative efforts in locally-led conservation.

The goals of NGLI are to equip conservation district leaders:

  • To become national leaders of tomorrow through personal, civic and organizational leadership development in order to meet the future needs of natural resources management.
  • By increasing their capacity to navigate and manage complex current and future conservation challenges at the national level, which impact conservation districts across the United States.

Currently appointed conservation district officials and district officials with current or potential for a statewide leadership position; committed to future conservation district service. Seven participants will be selected for the inaugural year, one from each NACD Region. Members of the cohort must be district officials with elected/appointed status during the entire program period.  

Members of the cohort will be required to provide dedication to the program in both participant and financial commitments.

Participation: Applicants will be expected to fully commit to attendance and participation at all program sessions. A commitment form will need to be signed by the participant, participant’s employer (if applicable) and participant’s spouse (if applicable) as part of acceptance. Standard behavior and performance expectations apply for this professional experience.

Financial: Applicants will pay a $50 application fee to be considered for the program, and if an offer of enrollment is accepted, they will pay a $1,200 tuition. The total value of the program is $10,000 for each individual enrolled. Some scholarship opportunities exist for select individuals, and a payment plan option is available (Contact Sunni Heikes-Knapton for more info). The tuition cost will cover:

  • Airline travel for all sessions (reimbursed)
  • Ground transport in session locations (reimbursed)
  • Meals during travel (reimbursed)
  • Lodging and meals during all sessions
  • All training, instruction and transportation during all sessions
  • Participant materials and supplies

Costs borne by participants: transportation to/from your local airport, parking at your local airport, any personal expenses, including expenses incurred after daily planned session activities are complete.

The application process includes four components:

  • Fully completed online application submitted before deadline.
  • Signed letter of support from state or territory association, saved as PDF and uploaded to online application platform.
  • For alternative options of support, please contact ncfnextgen[at]
  • Signed letter of support from applicant’s conservation district, saved as PDF and uploaded to online application platform.
  • $50 Application Fee – complete payment here

Local and state/territory support for participation is crucial in terms of endorsement of the applicant as well as confirmation of support for their attendance.  The applicant’s district will need to provide a letter of support indicating the endorsement of the applicant’s qualifications and support for their commitment to the time required to participate. The state/territory association will also need to provide a letter of support that should speak to the ability of this individual to help influence large-scale successes for the state and represent the broader conservation priorities of the region.

Letters of support should be on a single page, include signature of representative, and should be scanned and uploaded as a PDF file.

In the case of financial need, NCF encourages discussion with all three of these potential supporters: the local district, state/territory association and NCF.

The inaugural NGLI Program’s strategic structure and approach was developed by an experienced team. The benefits to participants include personal and professional development, which has been structured specifically for conservation district leaders and is unique in the national approach.

Included in the Program Design Highlights:

  • Explore your personal leadership style and conservation ethic.
  • Learn to communicate through conflict arising from conservation challenges and diverse political climates.
  • Understand the value of civic and organizational leadership.
  • Gain practical tools such as needs assessments and strategic planning for both public districts and nonprofit associations.
  • Practice leading districts through change and to accessing new opportunities.
  • Networking with conservation leaders from across the nation.

Thank you to our sponsors of NGLI

Presidents Association

Questions? Please contact ncfnextgen[at]

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