By Emily Booker
Catholic Charities is rooted in love, but it can take a lot of business savvy to coordinate nine different programs helping thousands of clients all over the region.
So when Paul Ritter, director of programs for Catholic Charities of East Tennessee, had the opportunity to further develop his leadership and operations skills, he knew it would ultimately benefit the people Catholic Charities strives to help each day.
In May, Mr. Ritter graduated from the Consortium for Social Enterprise Effectiveness (CSEE) program through the Haslam College of Business at the University of Tennessee.
The nonprofit business management program trains program leaders at nonprofits to be stronger leaders and strengthen their organizations.
Lisa Healy, executive director of Catholic Charities, is also a CSEE graduate.
“The most important asset in an organization I lead is my people,” Ms. Healy said. “Anytime I can provide resources or help to grow my staff, I do it. CSEE is an effective resource.”
“We’ve both been through it now with the mindset that if you make the leadership of Catholic Charities better, you make the organization stronger,” Mr. Ritter said. “We try to strive for even more excellent service all the time.”
“CSEE focuses on developing leadership as well as operations skills, both of which are important to the success of an agency in the nonprofit realm,” Ms. Healy said. “We have a very simple mission—to foster human dignity to the most vulnerable of neighbors—but a complicated business. Even before he finished the program, Paul was able to apply these skills to improve Catholic Charities.”
Mr. Ritter has already been implementing what he learned through the program at CCETN.
“If you’re going to have something, you might as well study it and put it into practice,” he said.
“I’ve been working with a group of employees here, a group of leaders from some of our programs in really breaking down the first aspect of these core competencies we studied…. At this point we have a page-and-a-half to two-page document just taking a deep dive into what that means to build trust.”
Another aspect of the CSEE program is meeting with other leaders in the nonprofit sector. Together they can discuss how to best utilize their resources and best help the communities they serve, said Mr. Ritter.
“Being introduced and being able to work with a lot of the other great leaders of nonprofits around the East Tennessee community and building that network for myself and for Catholic Charities and making those connections brings together a lot of community collaboration, really, how we can work together to make our community stronger,” he said.
“I’m excited, you know. I was always excited about the future of Catholic Charities in East Tennessee altogether. But just to see not only how [the CSEE program] made me a better leader in this community, but to be connected to the other leaders and see them grow and gain strength and motivation and what they do day in and day out, it really brings to light that we have a bright future in this region. There are a lot of good people out there doing good work for those in need.”