Shirley Sneve, Vision Maker Media 

Shirley Sneve

Shirley Sneve is Executive Director of Vision Maker Media and a member of the inaugural Chief Executive Program cohort of 2011. Based in Lincoln, Nebraska, Vision Maker Media empowers and engages Native People to tell stories.

Shirley came to the Chief Executive Program recognizing the value of arts management training in a business setting, even for organizations focusing on social impact. “It’s never going to be easy to raise money,” she says. “With the position nonprofits are in today, we need to be entrepreneurial.” For Shirley, the program’s case studies were an eye-opening experience and transformed the way she handled paperwork like her Form 990. “People are looking harder and harder before they want to fund you,” she explains. “In the end, you still need to show return on investment.” Shirley credits those business-minded conversations with giving her the courage to rebrand her organization and pivot to deliver more value for her community. “The Chief Executive Program gave me the tools to be more deliberate and thoughtful about the process,” she says. “I really understood what I was getting into and how to get it done.”

Even after the program’s conclusion, Shirley has continued to call on the robust network she met. “There were three other public broadcasting people in the program who I’d seen at conferences, but never really had much of a relationship with,” she says. “Getting to meet leaders from my industry and having access to them when I have a question has had a huge impact on my work.” The mix of leaders under one roof also fosters cross-industry connections and helps give participants a clearer sense of their place in the ecosystem. “One of my best friends from the program is a woman who runs an aquarium in North Carolina,” Shirley adds. “We’ve learned so much from each other.”

Shirley likes to catch up with members of her cohort when travel brings her into town and says it’s been interesting to see how careers have changed. “A lot of them have moved on to the next level of running a major nonprofit,” she says. “I think that’s thanks to the experience they gained in the program.”