ALIGN prepares emerging community leaders for a sustainable, high-impact career in the mission-driven sector by helping them clarify personal purpose, develop practices to support work/life integration, form a supportive community of practice, and better align their work with their strengths and passions.

“I was impacted in a very big way by ALIGN—gaining incredible clarity about my own strengths, uncovering hidden passions, and building enormous self-confidence. I was then able to see very clearly how I was positively transforming my organization and its future."



Marlboro College’s Advanced Leadership Institute for Growing Nonprofits (ALIGN) is a unique experience designed to help people working for the greater good learn practical strategies they can easily and quickly put into action to succeed in their work, grow as leaders, and thrive in their lives. People working to make a positive difference in the world often feel like they are spread thin, not getting to spend the time on what they most love doing and not necessarily making the impact they know they can. To remain energized and effective on the front lines of positive community transformation, mission-driven leaders need the space, skills, and support to feed their spark.

ALIGN supports leaders in the mission-driven sector by helping them:

  • think BIG,
  • clarify their visions of success for their lives and their work,
  • learn practical tools to get more energized, 
  • make decisions that will enable them to bring their visions to life,
  • form a supportive community of practice, and
  • strengthen the impact of their work in the world.

Our vision is to retain our best and brightest in mission-driven careers and help them perform at their peak by cultivating their practices of sustainable leadership.


ALIGN is offered by Marlboro College in partnership with the Sparks Center of Ithaca, New York, and provides structured and unstructured opportunities for mission-driven leaders to renew their sense of purpose and engagement. The three-month program includes:

  • Three overnight retreats in inspiring natural settings with comfortable B&B style accommodations
  • Creative, bountiful, slow-cooked meals prepared by master chefs devoted to the use of food to facilitate community
  • Facilitated peer support processes within the full cohort and with a partner
  • Skill-building, particularly around time/energy management, goal-setting and prioritization
  • Ample opportunities for reflection, quiet and solo time on the land
  • Both one-on-one and group leadership coaching
  • A facilitated weekly writing forum

The two-day retreats typically begin at 10 am on Day 1 and conclude by 4 pm on Day 2.

In addition to full attendance at the three retreats, we ask participants to commit 2-3 hours a week during the program to maintain a reflective practice, connect with cohort peers, engage in planning/prioritization work, and participate in the weekly writing forum.


ALIGNers learn how to engage and re-engage in meaningful work with purpose and clarity. Former ALIGNers report that they learned tips, tools, and practices for how to live a joyful, balanced life, including the development of practices and habits that make it easier to rekindle their spark when it begins to falter.

  • 100 percent people who complete ALIGN report that the program helped them grow in significant ways that will make them more effective leaders.
  • Alumni cite an increase in their ability to develop practices and habits for sustainable leadership, including developing work/life balance, identifying priorities in life and work, and setting goals.

By helping leaders rediscover their spark, ALIGN also inspires positive organizational development and promotes a healthy, energized organizational culture. 


  • "I now look at all my work as an opportunity to find creativity and joy."
  • "ALIGN really helped me to keep my life going in a direction and manner that helps me thrive, and be my fully ALIGNED self."
  • “I am taking my position to the next level, surrounding myself with passionate individuals that will support me and the organization, and allow me to flourish as a leader and a trailblazer in my line of work."
  • "Not only do I feel better about every aspect of my life, but my numerical measurements show I am spending more time doing what I love."
  • “My action project was [about] figuring out how to get more personally energizing and high priority activities into my work. At the same time, I did so in a way that very much helps my organization. If I am engaged in activities that are important and energize me, my organization is heading in the direction it should be, and pursuing higher-level partnerships and strategies.” 
  • “I made my position work for me. I let go of the parts of my job that were killing me inside, and I have pursued equally important parts of my job that really inspire and energize me.”


ALIGN serves emerging leaders with a genuine spark and an ability to inspire. We seek outstanding changemakers from across the northeast, regardless of title or organizational position, with a particular emphasis on individuals who are at a stage in their life when they are coming into their own as community leaders and are seeking support in that transition. Each year we strive to build a diverse cohort of 8-12 participants, representing a range of ages and a range of mission areas, from urban gardens to rural arts. 


Early Bird applications for our Fall 2017 program are due by noon on August 21, with August 30 as the final deadline. Our application process is designed to ensure a good fit between applicant and program, and to build a strong and diverse cohort. We recommend that prospective applicants begin a brief conversation with an ALIGN team member, then move to the online application. Between 8 and 12 applicants will be accepted each year. 


The Fall 2017 ALIGN program will run September 8 to November 11, with an ongoing discussion forum and three face-to-face retreats. Retreats will take place in beautiful spots around Vermont.

  • August 21: Early Bird Application Deadline
  • August 30: Final Application Deadline
  • Sept. 8-9: Opening Retreat in Warren Falls, Vermont
  • Oct. 5-6: Middle Retreat in Lincoln, Vermont
  • Nov. 10-11: Closing Retreat 


Jeff Bercuvitz, CEO (Creator of Extraordinary Occasions) at the Sparks Center, is the animating force of ALIGN.  He believes “To be an effective leader and spark others, your own spark has to be strong!”Over the past 25 years, Jeff has served as a leadership coach for thousands of change-makers around the globe. Jeff inspires creativity, passion and action by helping people find practical ways to build a joyful, sustainable life that can support them in their work to build a better world.

Kate Jellema, director of Marlboro’s Center for New Leadership, is a behind-the-scenes operator who likes to help create transformative learning experiences. “The best education sets positive change in motion – internally and in the world,” she says.

Emma Frisch, a nationally-known chef and co-creator of Firelight Camps, sees food as a vehicle for kindling human connection and beauty:  “We can spark community by clinking our forks together – pitchforks or cutlery.”


The full fee for participation is $2000, including all accommmodation, meals, materials and leadership coaching. We are committed to building the strongest possible cohort, regardless of the ability to pay. We make several substantial scholarships available each year to allow the participation of exceptional community leaders with a genuine spark and the ability to inspire others. ALIGNers are also encouraged to seek support from their community or organization. In addition, some Vermonters may also be eligible for a VSAC nondegree training grant. To be considered for financial aid, please first complete your application to the program, then complete the request for financial support


In partnership with Marlboro College Graduate & Professional Studies, we are able to offer graduate credit in conjunction with the ALIGN learning experience. Contact Kate Jellema to learn more: 


If you are interested in ALIGN or have questions, please let us know! You can reach us via email or at 802-451-7510. We’d happy to talk with you!