Effective leadership is at the core of any successful organization. We believe that investing in leadership pays significant dividends for our nonprofit community, which is why we have created programs to develop future leaders.
As part of our philanthropic support efforts, we provide programs and work directly with executive directors, development officers and trustees to help nonprofits build leadership talent and organizational structure to improve effectiveness.
The Oishei Leaders program gives local nonprofit leaders the opportunity to connect, restore, and recharge in an informal setting, helping them become even more engaged, proactive, and effective.
Each year we invite a new group of Oishei Leaders to participate (our entire group numbers approximately 125). We look for emerging leaders who have a demonstrated passion for their work and who represent a variety of nonprofit organizations to encourage cross-sector discussion and collaboration.
Oishei Leaders are invited to gather together throughout the year, including an annual overnight retreat that allows time for listening, talking, and thinking about issues in a deeper, more meaningful way.
Perhaps the most unique part of the program is that Oishei Leader retreats don’t have an agenda or expected outcomes. Without any pressure to achieve a specific task, attendees are free to:
"Oishei Leaders is an oasis in our work lives. Many of us in the nonprofit sector are so busy doing our day-to-day jobs that to have an opportunity to step aside in a different environment, with different colleagues to talk about what we're doing and how we can help each other, is a gift."
Laurie Dean Torrell
Executive Director, Just Buffalo Literary Center
In 2019, The John R. Oishei Foundation announced the inaugural cohort of its Oishei Fellowship for Leaders of Color that includes 24 nonprofit leaders from the Buffalo-Niagara region. Since that time, two additional cohorts have been chosen with the expectation that a new group will be added annually. Those chosen as Fellows attend the Rockwood Leadership Institute’s Art of Leadership program, an intensive five-day retreat at no cost to the participants.
The program was developed in response to a recognition that the Buffalo Niagara region could benefit tremendously by having more people of color in positions of leadership to offer their perspective, life experience, and expertise. It was announced after a series of conversations with local nonprofit leaders of color facilitated by the Foundation, designed to provide a space for conversation specifically for and about people of color and the issues they face.
In recognition of the considerable effort in developing and launching the Fellowship program, the Foundation decided to honor Karen upon her retirement by naming the program The Karen Lee Spaulding Oishei Fellowship for Leaders of Color in her honor.
The Art of Leadership teaches critical personal and organizational leadership skills necessary for successful and sustainable leadership including powerful visioning, listening, speaking, presentation, coaching, collaboration, and feedback skills. The Fellows are also part of the 7000+ national and international member Rockwood Community of Practice which provides post-training learning opportunities through alumni gatherings and social media tools.
Each cohort represents a broad cross-section of self-identified nonprofit professionals of color that represent a diversity of gender, age, spiritual practice, types of organization, and professional experience. The rigorous application and vetting process, managed by Rockwood Leadership Institute on behalf of the Foundation, typically attract more than can be invited, however, those who are not chosen are encouraged to apply in subsequent years.
The Oishei Fellowship for Leaders of Color is part of the Oishei Foundation’s commitment to racial equity and is strategically aligned with the Foundation’s focus on providing resources and support to local nonprofits beyond grantmaking in the areas of leadership development and network building.
As part of our ongoing commitment to strengthening the education continuum, The John R. Oishei Foundation works with our community partners to fund life-changing scholarship programs.
As a means to develop young leaders, we have awarded more than $10 million to 300 students over the 20 years that we have offered Oishei Scholarships in partnership with the Education Collaborative of WNY (EdCO). Designed to make a positive difference in the perception, attitudes, and lives of students, their families, and the people at the academic institutions the students attend, these full-tuition scholarships are awarded to talented, dedicated students of color who have demonstrated financial need, enabling them to attend one of fourteen private high schools.
Oishei Leaders is a leadership development and relationship building initiative created by The John R. Oishei Foundation. It is a uniquely unstructured effort that brings local nonprofit leaders together for the purposes of building synergies, exchanging best practices, and generating new ideas for improving our community.