Our Stories

LIFTing higher: Community partnership creates new opportunities for local leaders

President and CEO. Leadership development coach and consultant. Myers-Brigg Type Indicator (MBTI), GiANT Worldwide, and 6 Types of Working Geniuses certified. Gwinnett Chamber Small Business of the Year finalist. Moxie award Greater Good recipient.

These just begin to scratch the surface of the impact and accomplishments of Linnea Miller.

We’re proud to have had Linnea in our corner as a speaker and partner for years. From leading tracks at our Nonprofit and Leadership Academy to 1-on-1 coaching members of our own team, Linnea and the Community Foundation have a strong history together.

Always able to see the potential in the world around her – maybe especially when others don’t see it – is what springboards Linnea into everything she does. It’s also what led her to a unique experiment earlier this year.

“In 2023, I was invited to speak about effective communication and leadership at the Nonprofit and Leadership Academy, but I wanted to see if I could help the attendees past the one-day conference, so I tried an experiment,” Linnea said.

“I offered an opportunity for up to 10 leaders to join me for two months in a leadership coaching group. I offered this for free, with the commitment that they would 1. fully participate and engage in the group, 2. do a post group interview so that I could learn from them what was valuable (or not) and whether it met a need for them and their leadership.  

“The feedback was beyond positive, and the group strongly communicated that they would really value an opportunity to continue to be supported through a program like this. They also shared that (for most of them), the biggest hurdle was budget to be in an ongoing group.” 

Unable to continue this service for free but wanting to meet the need she’d identified, Linnea struck up a conversation with one of our favorite Gwinnett area leaders, our very own President and CEO DePriest.

“I had a conversation with DePriest about this feedback, as several of the beta participants were also Community Foundation fundholders, and inquired whether the Community Foundation might be interested in supporting its fundholders through scholarships that would make leadership development more accessible,” Linnea said. 

That’s how LIFT began.

The LIFT program incorporates executive leadership coaching groups, inclusive leadership training and lunch-n-learn events. Its hybrid online and in-person format also makes it easily scalable as the Community Foundation’s geography and client base continues to grow. 

“LIFT is grounded in a belief that if we invest in leaders, they will run more effective and sustainable organizations. They will be able to achieve greater impact in their missions, which will make them more attractive for donors to invest in.”

As a cheerleader for nonprofit, for-profit and government organizations, that’s exactly what Linnea wants for each participant.

Linnea has already been encouraged by LIFT’s results.

“It’s so exciting to hear testimonies from the participants in the LIFT coaching group as we meet twice a month,” she said. “We talk about how each leader is engaging with the tools that we’re learning and how they’re applying them to both their personal leadership and in the management and leadership of their teams and boards. 

“These leaders are becoming more intentional in their communication. They’re gaining clarity in decision-making and building bridges with those around them. 

“We’re only a few months into our one-year journey, but it’s already been so encouraging to watch the growth, support and allyship that they offer to one another, as well!”

Carol Love, Executive Director of Family Promise of Gwinnett County, jumped at the opportunity to join Linnea’s beta group, and after it ended, LIFT. 

“The thing that really transformed my life was the Peace Index that she has us do to see how your life is balanced,” Carol said. “I realized that in one area of my life, taking care of my health, was a 54 out of 100. I think a lot of us in the nonprofit world feel like we have to be on doing something all the time and that things might fall apart if we’re not there or present. But I made a lot of physical health changes, like working on my diet, and when I prioritized that, other things worked out.”

As a busy nonprofit leader, Carol has also identified areas in the management of her team that have changed things for the better.

“This program is about empowering us so we learn how to do something, but we also have to teach the people on our teams to come up and do the same thing. And my organization is growing – we’ve moved from a staff of one to now three full-time and two part-time,” she said. “This program really helped me, as someone who struggles to delegate, to be intentional to do what will benefit the organization.

“My favorite thing I’ve learned so far was the Support Challenge Matrix. It talks about your culture and the type of culture that you want to build, and you wanna be a liberator, giving enough support and enough challenge to your staff.

“That’s also what we do for people throughout our organization. We are completely about empowering our parents, empowering our families – giving them the opportunity to move forward in life and hopefully liberate them out of the situation that they’re in.”

Her advice for those considering joining LIFT?

“It’s a safe space. You have to trust the people that you’re in there with; you’re going to get the best out of it if you are transparent and open and honest,” she said. 

“My first surprise was, ‘Oh my goodness, this person struggles with the same things as me!’ When you get to be around a group of people who are fighting the same fight in different organizations, struggling in the same ways, you learn that we all have good days, and we all have bad days. Learning from their leadership experiences too, and people being able to ask questions, I think this is a lot about having a community of people that can help support you in your journey.

“I’m so grateful to the Community Foundation for offering the scholarship for us to be able to participate in this. Linnea believes in leaders and knows what we need, and I think organizations need to know that pouring into your staff…they are your best asset. 

“The Community Foundation knows that investing in a leader is investing in the community because that leader will grow other people and help bring the community together.”