Leadership Conference – Breakout Sessions

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Breakout Sessions

Breakout sessions descriptions, times, and speakers are subject to change.

Quick Direct:  Round I  |  Round II  |  Round III  |  Round IV

Round I Workshops | 8:30 – 9:30 a.m.

Capturing Participant Voice in Nonprofit Decision Making

While nonprofit organizations exist to serve the needs of community members, there is often a disconnect between decision makers and those who are most impacted by the outcomes of those decisions.  This session begin with a reflection on how decisions are currently made at an organization, and then introduce tools to capture community voice in decision making with the intention of building a foundation of trust and community engagement upon which future connecting work can continue to build. These tools are intended to challenge assumptions, mental barriers, and to spark new, community centered avenues to decision making. Participants will: Understand the importance of challenging historic decision making processes in order to incorporate participant voices. Obtain a suite of tools to gather feedback and build trust with participants.   Practice delving into probing questions to uncover internal barriers and resistance to change.
Hannah Brauer, Food Shelf Engagement Fellow and  Katie Bull, Director of Programs, Foundation for Essential Needs 

How to Transform Your Board into the Effective, Strategic Team it Should Be

Learn how Aeon, a local nonprofit that creates and sustains quality affordable homes that strengthen lives and communities, transformed its board from passive oversight to active strategizing and made its volunteer leaders and organizational staff more agile, responsive, and accountable. This session will give attendees a transparent look at how Aeon decided to more fully and effectively utilize its board to dig into challenges, make strategic decisions, and sustainably grow and support the organization.
Melissa Downey, Senior Vice President | Director, Compliance, US Bank; Eric Anthony Johnson, CEO, Aeon; Martha Nevanen, Chief Marketing & Communications Officer, Buzz Partners 

No Money, No Mission: The Importance of Strong Financial Management through Leadership Transitions

This session is for organizational leaders of all levels to learn how to make sure their finances can survive an expected or unexpected leadership transition. With many retirements on the horizon and continuing increased challenges on our organizations, the sector will continue to see significant leadership turnover.  When finances only live in one or two people’s brains, things can fall into disarray quickly! And as we all know, good financial management – and accountability! – can make or break an organization. At this session you will learn how you can be better prepared with your finances and financial management for a transition, and how to navigate the transition once it happens.
Melissa Martinez-Sones, Owner and Roger Meyer, Owner, Mighty Consulting 

Pathways to Nonprofit Leadership: Navigating the Journey with Purpose

Not everyone has a linear career path and it’s becoming even more common post-Covid.  In professional groups, there are many posts asking how to transfer skills from corporate to nonprofit and how to best share career gaps and career changes.  In Pathways to Nonprofit Leadership, Kate will share her background from professional photographer, certified veterinary technician, art historian, director of development, and finally culminating in executive director. Participants in this session will learn how to leverage their soft skills and varied educational/employment backgrounds to gain new opportunities in the nonprofit sector, mainly in ways to advance their careers.  They will network with each other to discuss problems they are having with their own job hunts/careers and gain resources and connections to help further their careers.
Kate King, Executive Director, Feline Rescue 

Think You’re Prepared? Creating Readiness for Executive Transitions

Leadership transitions are an inevitable reality for every nonprofit organization, yet only a fraction actually discuss or plan for such a change. BoardSource reports that a mere 29% of nonprofits currently possess any form of transition plan, highlighting a significant gap in strategic foresight. The popular adage, “hope is not a strategy,” rings particularly true in the context of leadership transitions, where the absence of proactive planning can lead to less-than-ideal outcomes. This session sheds light on the critical importance of transition planning for nonprofit organizations. Participants will have the opportunity to explore intentional and proactive approaches that help foster transition readiness, mitigate risks that may compromise mission impact, and optimize the chances of a successful leadership transition. Participants will leave equipped to take on the complexities of leadership transitions, ensuring their organizations not only survive but thrive in the face of inevitable change.
Alex Clark, Founder & Lead Consultant, Turnlane 

Round II Workshops | 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

Humanizing Board Engagement: Aligning Organizational Identity with Inclusive Practice

Through this session, participants will deepen their understanding of organizational identity and explore models of organizational practice that support their ability to set a foundation for an inclusive and equitable process of recruiting, welcoming, and engaging with their board. This intentional look at board engagement provides space for leaders to ensure their broader purpose as an organization is aligned with an approach that supports board members to carry out their governance roles for the organization. This presentation will create opportunities for leaders to think through their current board engagement practice and re-imagine human-centered approaches. Participants will have the opportunity to engage in individual reflection and small group collaboration to inspire re-imagining and implementing models for sustained, impactful engagement with their board.
Carolyn Evans, Director, Center for Leadership Studies and the Master of Arts in Leadership and Keri Clifton, Program Director, Reell Office of Seeing Things Whole, Augsburg University

I Probably Shouldn’t Be Here: Working With and Through Imposter Syndrome

You got the job! Your pitch was accepted! You joined that board! But should you be here? What if you aren’t good enough? What if they don’t end up thinking you are really all that great? Participants of this session will learn to recognize self-doubt, negative talk, and other symptoms of imposter syndrome while also learning how to shift your mindset and have an asset-based lens moving forward.
Kristina Wright-Peterson, Nonprofit Founder & Executive Director, Seasons Hospice 

Recruiting and Supporting Neurodiverse Employees

Research suggests that 20 percent of the U.S. population is neurodivergent. You likely know, work alongside, and socialize with a significant number of people who are neurodiverse. While no two neurodivergent people are exactly alike, this session will explore inclusive approaches to recruiting and supporting neurodiverse individuals that benefit everyone. We will explore how inclusive practices (such as including neuroinclusivity in your diversity, equity and inclusion efforts) can increase innovation, improve communication, and create widespread feelings of psychological safety for all of your employees.  
Sarah Driever, Executive Director of Children’s Hospital Association benefitting Childrens Minnesota

Shared Leadership Models: Right For You?

Many nonprofits are thinking and talking about shared leadership. Whether it’s wanting more egalitarian org charts and cultures, creating better work/life balance for leaders, utilizing collective decision-making, leveraging more strengths and skillsets or simply avoiding hard choices between leadership candidates, “co-leadership” has become all the rage. Even so, many nonprofits hesitate to try it, in large part because there are real challenges to make it work.  Our session will help you consider whether shared leadership is right for your organization. We’ll delve into co-leadership models and real life stories from the field (including our own story at the Bush Foundation). We’ll discuss why and when you might want to consider shared leadership models, with an emphasis on why shared leadership models won’t solve all your problems, and in fact, may create new ones. Finally, we’ll discuss considerations and tips for how to make shared leadership work in your organization.
Molly Matheson Gruen and Mandy Ellerton, dawn:dusk

Translating Insights into Action (and Funding!) 

Feedback in the form of stories is a powerful way to convey impact. This session highlights how Seiche, a social impact strategy and communications firm, partnered with Energy News Network to bring great storytelling to grant reports, giving funders something interesting to read while gathering feedback during an impact reporting process. The result? Clear communication of impact, increased funding, and deeper connections to sources. We’ll also explore how the Minnesota Council of Foundations and Seiche brought a journalistic approach to storytelling to lift up impacts of the 2020 Minnesota Census Mobilization Partnership / the 2022 Our Maps MN campaign, resulting in creative and action-oriented materials to support future coalition and organizing efforts. As a result of attending this session, participants will know how to implement journalistic and storytelling approaches to impact harvesting and reporting and use impact reporting to support communications, advocacy, and development efforts while respecting stakeholders and their stories.
Ken Paulman, Senior Director, Energy News Network, Fresh Energy; Amber Collett Terway, Director, Seiche

Round III Workshops | 2:15 – 3:15 p.m.

Community-Centric Fundraising: Getting Buy-in from Your Own Organization

Are you interested in implementing CCF at your nonprofit? Great! Now what? Join this session to hear from a fundraising professional about her experience of making the case for CCF at her organization. She’ll share how she presented the opportunities to leadership, what has been implemented so far, and some potential strategies for how to get from maybe to yes in the future. Transformational change is a process; and can start with building support and strengthening your case to bring others along with you in the work. This is part of being a leader no matter your position within your organization.  
Pie Paulson, Director of Development, Friends School of Minnesota  

The Cost of Doing Business

As “DEIJ” is both advancing and being attacked nationwide, the impact of transforming nonprofits is heavy for few while benefiting many. As the ecosystem responds to ever evolving community needs, what is the cost of doing business the right way? This session will explore the human costs of advancing social justice within and through nonprofits, from a physical, social, and emotional perspective. Together we will contrast current realities, with a collective re-imagining of what aligning resources (policies, programs, people) can look like. Folks will leave with a refreshed vantage point, determined swagger, and a template to socialize and activate ideas post-session!
Ashley Oolman, Founder & Equity Strategist, Allied Folk 

Future-Proofing Your Leadership: Technology Skills for Tomorrow’s Nonprofit Leaders 

As a senior nonprofit leader–or someone who aspires to that level–you probably don’t need to know a coding language, or even how to make a pivot table. But there are some essential technology leadership skills that can make a tremendous difference to your success and that of your organization. This is especially true in times of uncertainty and transition, since technology is crucial for organizations that strive to be nimble and resilient, and it holds the keys to knowledge management. Join this session to understand why technology leadership is becoming essential, become familiar with six key technology leadership skills, and learn a few ways to boost your own technology leadership or that of a leader you oversee or mentor.
Karen Graham, Consultant and Coach, Karen Graham Consulting

Link to Leadership: Preparing Pathways for Leaders

At People Incorporated we believe a commitment to employee development and learning is a fundamental part of how we work. Our goal is for staff to feel supported and equipped to realize their full potential. In addition, our organizational values support equitable advancement in the workplace, and fosters a culture of inclusion and belonging. To that end, we removed the requirement for years of previous supervisory experience and replaced it with completion of our Link2Leadership program. This cohort style training program is built on a competency-based leadership theory originally developed by Robert Katz. In this session we will explore the intersection of organizational citizenship behaviors, leadership, and technical skills and describe our three-tiered cohort system of learning, selection criteria and processes, as well as the rationale behind training content and delivery.
Karen Kaplan, Chief Human Resources Officer and Russ Turner, Director, People Incorporated Training Institute

Transform Your Theory of Change into Practice of Change

How might we co-design impact systems that shift the focus from simply proving impact to meaningfully improving it?  In this interactive session for leaders, managers, and evaluation staff, we redefine impact measurement as a dynamic tool for improvement and learning within nonprofits. We’ll guide participants in transforming their Theory of Change into a Practice of Change, fostering an environment of continuous inclusive learning across the organization. Attendees will engage in activities and discussions to integrate impact and purpose into daily tasks, learning how to shift from proving impact to enhancing it. This approach transforms evaluation from a chore to an enriching opportunity, equipping participants with practical tools and strategies to adapt and grow their organizations in a changing landscape. Building capabilities across all team members that integrate our purpose and promote adaptability and learning are vital for our organizations to evolve and thrive in an ever-changing environment.
Janie Moore, Director of Impact, Entrepreneur Fund 

Round IV Workshops | 3:30 – 4:30 p.m.

Leadership Changes: Managing Key Stakeholder Transitions 

With trends of high turnover and burnout in the nonprofit sector, managing leadership transitions is essential to smooth functioning and maintaining the mission-focus for nonprofit organizations. Utilizing the example of a small nonprofit facing the exit of a Founder/ED, small groups will have time to discuss how to approach a key stakeholder transition. After small group discussions, groups will share their approach and considerations in a facilitated larger group discussion. Finally, the presenter will share an experience of a transition, highlighting opportunities and challenges faced. Participants will have the opportunity to think through key stakeholder transitions in a nonprofit setting, identifying key questions for periods of change; identifying considerations for Board, staff, and donor stakeholder engagement; and considering how to approach transitions with empathy and care.
Amy Petersen, Board President, CROSO

Setting a Larger Table: Inviting Those Traditionally Left Out

As a result of attending this session, participants will engage with a new framework to conceive leadership pathways through the reframing of who is/can be a leader, the traits of an effective leader, notions of power from a communal/collective perspective, and a toolkit for deep engagement to invite and hopefully recruit, retain and help develop leaders from more diverse backgrounds. The session will have a presentation portion and with components of small- and large-group conversations and debriefing.
Carla Manzoni, Ph.D., Founder & Owner, Vibrant Majority LLC 

Turning One-time Volunteers Into Lifelong Organization Champions

Volunteers can be a crucial part of a nonprofit’s impact infrastructure—but, by definition, their commitment to your mission is limited in both time and scope. As a nonprofit leader, what does it take to build a consistent, reliable volunteer base? And what untapped opportunities for further engagement might allow your volunteers to contribute more deeply, meaningfully, and sustainably to your work? In this session, Mary Uran will share lessons from Compass Pro Bono’s 20+ years of strategic engagement with more than 5,000 skilled volunteers across the country, including many who have stepped up to train and support other volunteers. She will reveal how to leverage the power of cross-generational volunteer teams and cultivate “super-volunteers” who stay involved for years or even decades at a time. Participants will walk away with specific frameworks for tapping into the full potential of volunteers—and getting them to come back over and over again.
Mary Uran, Managing Director – Twin Cities, Compass Pro Bono

Understanding Reasonable Accommodations: Employees with Disabilities Flourish, Succeed!

Every employee needs the right tools to do their work. Reasonable accommodations are the sometimes simple, sometimes complex tools that employees with disabilities use to get their work done. While many reasonable accommodations are less than $500, when budgets are tight, even small, one-time expenses can be a nonstarter. Navigating, and paying for, reasonable accommodations can be daunting, especially in the nonprofit sector. And yet, employees with disabilities bring skills, dedication, and expertise that can enhance your mission. When 13% of Americans identify as having a disability, the right person for a job could just be someone who may need reasonable accommodations. Participants will gain an understanding of the wide range of reasonable accommodations. They will also gain an overview of the Employer Reasonable Accommodation Fund, a new fund from the State of Minnesota that reimburses small to mid-sized Minnesota companies for the cost of reasonable accommodations.
Ray McCoy, ERAF Coordinator, Department of Employment and Economic Development 

Workplace Cultures of Belonging as a Key Employee Retention Strategy

A sense of connection and belonging is a basic human need, and a lack of belonging is a key reason why employees leave their places of employment, even if they enjoy the work they do. This workshop will explore the significance of workplace cultures of belonging that are rooted in trust and collaboration, leveraging insights from the successful AmazeWorks/KeyHubs partnership. We will introduce Keyhubs Matrix software as a tool for examining workplace relationships and team dynamics that inhibit or contribute to belonging. Participants will gain practical tools, strategies, and real-life examples to enhance employee well-being and retention in your workplace.
Mel Anderson, Education Director and Jenni Bratulich, Director of Advancement, AmazeWorks; Priya Narula, Co-Founder and Liz Otteson, Community Builder and Catalyst, KeyHubs 

Partner Sponsors:

Maroon logo for the Humphrey School of Public Affairs
Orange and grey logo for SUCCESS Computer Consulting

Connector Sponsors:

Yellow logo for Doran Leadership Partners
Logo for Mutual of America
Logo for Projenance