A New Chapter for MCN: A Leadership Update

Nonoko SatoThe Minnesota Council of Nonprofits (MCN) is pleased to share that the Board of Directors has unanimously voted to appoint Nonoko Sato as executive director effective August 1, 2021. Nonoko steps into this leadership role after serving as MCN’s associate director since January 2018, succeeding current and founding executive director Jon Pratt, who announced his forthcoming retirement in December 2020.

For our members who have met Nonoko, you’ll know that she brings an impressive record of accomplishments to her new role. Since joining MCN, she has become known for her collaborative leadership style and strong working relationships with our talented team. She has been instrumental in advancing the organization’s commitment to equity and justice and stewarded the BenefitsMN association health plan. As the former executive director of SMART (www.thesmartprogram.org) in San Francisco, CA, she has first-hand experience with the challenges, demands, and opportunities of nonprofit leadership that our members face.

“Nonoko is a proven leader, and we have benefited from her vision, integrity, and focus on equity and justice for several years,” said Cameron Kruger, MCN board chair and president and CEO of the Duluth Children’s Museum. “The board strongly believes that she is the right choice to sustain MCN’s good work on behalf of Minnesota’s nonprofit sector, and that she will take our organization to new heights.”

In her new role, Sato will combine her strategic vision, value-based leadership, and operational acumen to help MCN remain both forward-thinking and responsive to the ever-evolving needs of Minnesota’s robust nonprofit sector, including further embedding MCN’s strategic priority to advance equity and justice into every facet of the organization’s work. She takes the helm at a critical time for Minnesota’s nonprofits, with the COVID-19 pandemic and uprising against racial injustices posing both new and well-tread challenges to our communities, while also serving as prime opportunities to reimagine and advance the change we all want to see.

“I see a responsibility for MCN to harness our power and privilege to ensure Minnesota’s robust nonprofit sector has what they need to fulfill their important work towards a just, joyful, and equitable world,” said Nonoko. “I can’t imagine a better team and board to partner with in this work, and remain grateful to Jon and past MCN leaders who have laid a strong foundation for us.”

Nonoko’s new leadership role follows more than three decades of organizational and sector leadership by Pratt, who helped form MCN in 1987 in response to the increased information and support needs of nonprofits and Minnesota’s growing nonprofit sector. In the years since MCN’s founding, Pratt has helped foster MCN’s strong reputation through its development of resources, myriad educational offerings, influential state and federal public policy work, and sector-leading research.

“Nonoko has deep leadership experience in the challenges facing nonprofit organizations,” said Jon. “As we move into an equally complex and exciting time for our state and sector — and with MCN well-positioned to remain a leader and support for the amazing nonprofits across our state — Nonoko will be a strong advocate and vital resource in the important work to come.”

About MCN’s Leadership Transition Process

Upon Jon’s retirement announcement in December 2020, the MCN board of directors took a thoughtful, deliberative approach to our organization’s first-ever executive transition. The board appointed a transition committee that consisted of current board members and led by Kenza Hadj-Moussa, MCN’s former board chair and director of public affairs at TakeAction Minnesota. The committee retained Good Insight (www.good-insight.org), a national firm headquartered in Washington, DC, which  specializes in founder transitions and approaches executive search through an antiracist lens. Good Insight engaged the staff and board, comprised of MCN members, through surveys, listening sessions, and interviews to identify key criteria for MCN’s next executive director.

“We began this process committed to examining traditional methods for an executive director transition, pausing when needed to ensure we were using equitable practices,” said Kenza. “As we outlined criteria for the next executive director, it was clear that Nonoko was a top candidate. We shifted our process to evaluate her track record and learn about her vision for MCN’s next chapter.”

To learn more about MCN’s leadership transition process, please visit the Process for the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits’ Leadership Transition.

More about Nonoko Sato

Nonoko Sato has served as the associate director at MCN since January 2018. In this role, she oversees the organization’s member services, operations, and financial management and has stewarded key initiatives including BenefitsMN, Minnesota’s first association health plan for nonprofits.

In addition to her work at MCN, Nonoko serves on the boards of the Coalition of Asian American Leaders and Theater Mu, as well as the Minneapolis Public Schools’ Equity and Diversity Impact Assessment Committee. She has served on the boards of Asian American Theater Company and Ferocious Lotus Theatre Company, promoting representation, voices, and perspectives of Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander artists on the stage.

Nonoko relocated to the Twin Cities in 2017 after spending 13 years — nine as executive director — at SMART, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that champions education equity by supporting students in overcoming systemic barriers on their journey to a college degree.

An immigrant from Japan, she grew up in Chicago. She was the first in her family to graduate college, attending Carleton College in Northfield, MN. She currently lives in Minneapolis with her husband and two children, and is a parent of Minneapolis Public Schools.