2019 Nonprofit Essentials Conference

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Speaker Biographies

Kari Aanestad

Kari Aanestad is the director of advancement at the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits. In this role, Kari secures and stewards grant and individual donor support for MCN. She also supports the development of other fundraising professionals throughout Minnesota through various channels including in-person and online trainings, the Minnesota Grants Alert, and the Minnesota Grants Directory. Kari holds a bachelor of arts in English and political science from Augsburg College and a master of divinity from Luther Seminary. Most recently she served as grant writer and outcomes manager for St. David’s Center. Kari brings a holistic wealth of experience to her role including international travel to over 20 countries, hospital chaplaincy in England, and teaching and tutoring positions ranging from elementary to post-graduate levels in writing and compassionate communication.

Joel Barker

Joel Barker is chief strategy officer at Washburn Center for Children where he oversees development, marketing, and strategic initiatives. Washburn serves children with mental health conditions. Joel is also the co-founder of Brave North Technology, a Minnesota-based technology firm that has worked with over 200 nonprofits to develop technology systems that support their missions. Joel has over 10 years of nonprofit experience, including serving as a vice president/chief development officer for Fraser, a $72 million dollar health care organization, and as a nonprofit consultant where he provided strategic counsel to over 50 nonprofits throughout the Midwest. Joel serves on the board for Missions Inc. and grant review board for Shavlik Family Foundation, and is a frequent speaker at nonprofit events and conferences.

Jake Blumberg

Jake Blumberg is the executive director of GiveMN. Jake believes that a successful strategy, campaign, and message can expand the impact of the nonprofits doing incredible work in our communities. Jake has a background that spans leadership roles in nonprofits, politics and higher education. As the senior director of development and community engagement at Open Arms of Minnesota, Jake launched giving campaigns that raised hundreds of thousands of dollars. As co-finance director of Minnesotans United, he helped lead a multimillion dollar campaign to win the freedom to marry for same sex couples in Minnesota. And in Washington D.C., Jake concurrently attained a master’s degree in political management from The George Washington University while working as a speech writer and associate director of development for The George Washington University Law School.

Steve Boland

Steve Boland is a nonprofit veteran with over 25 years of experience helping charities grow with new ideas in fundraising and communications. Steve has presented over 100 learning sessions on topics such as crowdfunding, engaging corporate philanthropy, and social communications strategy for nonprofits. A graduate of the University of Minnesota, Steve holds a master of nonprofit management from Hamline University, is an alumnus of the Shannon Leadership Institute, and serves on the board of directors for Outfront Minnesota. Steve is the managing partner of Next in Nonprofits, a consulting firm based in St. Paul, is an adjunct instructor of Development and Fundraising for Hamline University, and is the host of the Next in Nonprofits podcast.

Amy Brugh

Amy Brugh is a nonprofit consultant specializing in planning, facilitation, and project management, and is the principal consultant for Amy Brugh Consulting. Previously she was the director of external relations at the Minnesota AIDS Project (now JustUs Health), where she advanced the fundraising, communications, public policy, and volunteer programs. She has served on the board of directors of Our Streets Minneapolis, Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, and Nonprofit Insurance Advisors. She holds a master’s degree in community health education from the University of Minnesota School of Public Health.

Jesse Chang

Jesse Chang is the VISTA program coordinator at the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits. In this role, he bridges the national AmeriCorps VISTA program with local, culturally-based nonprofits to help empower marginalized communities and individuals in the Twin Cities break the cycle of poverty. Additionally, Jesse supports the professional and personal growth of VISTA members as they develop the foundational skills to become champions of equitable social change. Jesse holds a bachelor of arts in geography from Colgate University and served as a VISTA member with affordable housing nonprofits in Chicago and Columbus before coming to MCN.

Michelle Chang

Michelle Chang is the policy and equity coordinator at MCN. Her primary focus is building power around Census 2020 in partnership with MCN's many nonprofit members. She also works internally to ensure that policies and procedures center around ending disparities in power, money, access, and more. Prior to her current position at MCN, Michelle served as MCN's AmeriCorps VISTA, spent a year working as a foreign English teacher in Yunnan, China, while receiving her masters of international studies in international development with Concordia University - Irvine. She has her B.A. in Asian studies from the College of Saint Benedict.

Marie Ellis

Marie Ellis serves the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits as public policy director. In this role, Marie advances the mission and work of MCN and Minnesota’s nonprofit sector through developing MCN’s policy priorities, advocating on those issues at the state, local, and national levels, and assisting members in advocating on behalf of their organizations. Marie has been working in public policy since her first job, lobbying in Washington, D.C. with Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service. Since then she has worked at the Minnesota Senate as leadership assistant, Catholic Charities as public policy manager, and the Saint Paul Area Chamber of Commerce as director of public policy and legal counsel. Marie has a B.A. in religion from Concordia College and a law degree from the University of Saint Thomas School of Law. 

Carianne Geerts

Carianne Geerts is a manager in CLA’s nonprofit industry group. She currently works with nonprofit organizations providing numerous services, including audits, compliance audits under Governmental Accounting Standards, and OMB Uniform Guidance, as well as agreed-upon procedures. Tax services include preparation and filing of Forms 990, 990-T, and various state annual filings. Carianne has eight years of experience serving associations, social service organizations, colleges and universities, and other nonprofit organizations of a range of sizes. She has a Bachelor of Science in accounting and a Bachelor of Science in financial services & corporate finance, both from Northwest Missouri State University. Carianne is a certified public accountant and a member of the Minnesota Society of Certified Public Accountants, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, and Minnesota International NGO Network.  

Sarah Jackson

Sarah B. Jackson is a loan officer & financial specialist at Propel Nonprofits. Sarah has been working with or for nonprofit organizations in Minnesota for more than a decade in various roles including as executive director of the Minnesota News Council and program director for the Minnesota Newspaper Association. Knowledge of nonprofit finance once eluded me, but now she loves helping nonprofit leaders decipher and understand the often exclusionary language of finance. As a lender, trainer and partner, Sarah works closely with nonprofits in the upper Midwest supporting their important mission-driven work. She earned degrees in journalism and philosophy from the University of Minnesota.

Stephanie Jacobs

Stephanie Jacobs is founder of Trailblazer Leadership, a coaching and consulting organization working with leaders and organizations that are interested in a new way of being. She is also director of the Public and Nonprofit Leadership Center (PNLC) at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, where her work centers around leadership development. Prior to joining the PNLC, Stephanie was program director at the Nonprofits Assistance Fund. Previously, she was director of member services at the Minnesota Council on Foundations and consulting associate with Fieldstone Alliance. Stephanie is a graduate of St. Olaf College and holds a master's degree in public policy from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. She is a certified professional coach and serves on the boards of Twin Cities Catalyst Music and the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota.

Becky Johnson

Becky Johnson, finance manager with WomenVenture, has worked in nonprofit finance for 13 years. She started as an auditor, working primarily with nonprofit clients. In 2009 she moved over to the nonprofit sector, joining the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits. Becky was at the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits for eight years, first as the accountant, then as finance manager. She recently joined the team at WomenVenture, a nonprofit organization that helps women create and grow profitable and sustainable businesses. Becky also serves as a board member of Nonprofit Financial Group and a finance committee member of VEAP.


Kris Kewitsch is the executive director of Charities Review Council, helping to ensure the Council delivers on its mission to be an independent resource so people are empowered to make informed and thoughtful giving decisions so they can be more effective in helping charities advance their important work. Prior to joining the Council, Kris worked in corporate philanthropy with Target Corporation, U.S. Bank, and Piper Jaffray, directing resources—both human and financial—to nonprofits across the country. Kris attended Gustavus Adolphus College, receiving a B.A. in sociology and anthropology. She has served on numerous boards, including the Corporate Volunteerism Council, National Council on Workplace Volunteerism, and the Volunteer Resource Center (now HandsOn Twin Cities). Kris was named to Twin Cities Business List of 100 to Know in 2017.

Zeeda Magnuson

Zeeda Magnuson serves as a consultant for HandsOn Twin Cities (HOTC) following 17+ years on staff as a trainer, consultant and associate director. As a consultant, she leads organizations through the Service Enterprise Initiative and conducts workshops for corporate and nonprofit audiences in volunteer management. Zeeda has taught classes for the University of St. Thomas and Hamline University. She offers consultation services including Changing the Paradigm program assessments, and disseminates resource material to organizations interested in building the capacity of their volunteer programs. Her background includes owning a consulting business, and 12 years experience as a director of the Business Economics Education Foundation (now Best Prep), a nonprofit that serves K-12 students and teachers. Zeeda is a recipient of the Minnesota Association of Volunteer Administrators’ Excellence in Leadership Award.

Kelly Rietow

Kelly Rietow of Roo Solutions helps leaders and organizations create simple and sustainable solutions to people and process challenges. She excels in aligning human resource and performance management systems with organizational strategies. With broad-based expertise in human resources, organizational development, facilitation, and leadership, Kelly helps leaders and organizations be accountable and effective. Kelly has a particular passion for optimizing the performance of nonprofits and organizations experiencing growing pains. A two-time recipient of the Employers Association Best Practices Award, Kelly earned her M.B.A. from the University of St. Thomas and the professional in human resources certification through the Society for Human Resource Management.

Brian Roemen

Brian Roemen has 19 years of technical support experience and 13 years of IT consultation experience. Over the past eight years, as co-founder and the lead technician for Brave North Technology, he has worked in a broad range of environments: nonprofit, for-profit, educational, and residential. His expertise is in network administration, computer setup and repair, cloud computing, IT security, and a wide range of hardware and software support for both Mac and PC. With several years of undergraduate teaching in his background, he’s especially passionate about educating people to feel more comfortable with technology and make that technology feel more accessible.

Jesse Ross

Jesse Ross’ heart is centered on community development and building authentic relationships, with 12 years of experience in nonprofit and community-based organizations throughout Minneapolis. Jesse works on both program development and direct community engagement, with the goal of empowering people to effectively impact their own communities. Jesse previously served as area director for Minneapolis Young Life and TreeHouse, where his areas of focus included policy and program development, organizational leadership, diversity and culture, youth and family development, fundraising, outreach, and other initiatives. Currently, he works at The Minneapolis Foundation serving multiple roles in the Community Impact Department, and is also a Roy Wilkins Public Policy Fellow Alumni and a current Ron McKinley philanthropy fellow. He authored the upcoming book Fathers Matter: Leadership Lessons I’ve learned from My Father.

Andrea Sanow

Andrea Sanow is the development coordinator at the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, where she develops, implements and evaluates brand and communications strategies to increase the visibility and credibility of the GrantAdvisor website service. She also produces marketing materials, develops presentations for conferences, and manages electronic and print communications efforts related to GrantAdvisor.Andrea holds a bachelor of arts in English and master of fine arts in nonfiction writing from Augsburg University. She most recently served the nonprofit sector as program assistant at ArtsMidwest. Her previous nonprofit work includes serving organizations working with housing and higher education, respectively. From 2012-2013, she served as a member of the Lutheran Volunteer Corps in San Francisco.

Nonoko Sato

Nonoko Sato is the associate director at the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits. In her role, Nonoko partners closely with MCN’s executive director to chart MCN’s strategic response to organizational and sector challenges. She also plays a role in shaping and implementing the organization’s strategy, including oversight of member services and programs, operations and financial management, as well as leading the annual planning and budgeting process and guiding new strategic initiatives. She serves as the chair of trustees for BenefitsMN, an association health plan that combines the insurance purchasing power of nonprofits across Minnesota. Prior to joining MCN, Nonoko served for nine years as executive director of SMART, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that provides low-income students access to exceptional education and college success. Originally from Chicago, Nonoko graduated from Carleton College.

Rebecca Slaby

Rebecca Slaby leads AMAZEworks in working with schools, communities, and organizations to create equity and belonging for children and adults. She gives workshops on anti-bias education with a focus on cultural responsiveness, bias, identity and stereotype threat, and intercultural communication and conflict, and authored the AMAZEworks middle school curriculum. With a M.Ed. from DePaul University, Rebecca has 15 years of experience teaching middle school humanities and social studies and was the diversity coordinator for Friends School of Minnesota, working on issues of diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice. She has been a racial justice facilitator for the YWCA Minneapolis since 2015. Rebecca has presented at the Overcoming Racism, Minnesota Education Association, NAEYC, MnAEYC, and SPPS Equity Summit conferences and has taught a course on equity-based pedagogy at the University of Minnesota.  


Arlene Vernon is a human resource strategist with over 30 years of experience as a consultant and trusted resource for a diverse group of small and medium-sized organizations. She’s seen first-hand what leaders face every day, and her results-oriented consulting and training successfully fills that gap. Having worked with over 500 for-profit and nonprofit organizations since starting her firm HRx in 1992, she partners with leaders to develop and implement do-able strategies to address the short-term challenges and long-term success of your organization. With an M.B.A. and a master of education in counseling, Arlene is both a studied and practiced authority in human resources and human relations. She offers practical, real solutions through her consulting, advising, and training.

Reid Zimmerman

Reid A. Zimmerman is a 35+ year veteran leader of Minnesota's nonprofit sector. Now semi-retired, he has been an executive director, board member, and senior development officer for a number of organizations. Reid served as professor at Hamline, St. Thomas, University of Wisconsin – Superior, and Capella Universities in their Nonprofit and Public Administration programs. He still consults and teaches with nonprofit organizations across the region. He volunteered as member of the MCN Principles and Practices for Nonprofit Excellence committee and the board of evaluators with the Performance Improvement Network. Reid holds a doctorate in organizational development, is credentialed as a certified fund raising executive, and is the author of The Seven Deadly Sayings of Nonprofit Leaders…And How to Avoid Them, (2014) published by Charity Channel Press.

Amanda Ziebell Mawanda

Amanda Ziebell Mawanda is a strategic services consultant at Propel Nonprofits. Amanda has a background in organizational leadership and development, including change management, strategic planning, and board development. She was formerly responsible for providing strategic network development in the areas education equity and faith-based action at the Minnesota Education Equity Partnership and the Episcopal Church in Minnesota, respectively. She has over a decade of experience working in the nonprofit sector as a consultant and is focused on building common vision, igniting creativity, and unleashing energy for positive change. Amanda holds a B.A. in political science and a M.A. in organizational leadership.

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