Past Recipients

Congratulations to each of the dynamic leaders who has received a Minnesota Nonprofit Leadership Award!

2018 Award Recipients

Catalytic Leader (emerging leader award): Kiley Benson, Director of Operations, Loaves and Fishes, Minneapolis. Kiley cultivates relationships and creates unique partnerships for the benefit of Loaves and Fishes. Through his connections, Loaves and Fishes serves meals to people in programs for addiction recovery, trauma counseling, safe shelter, domestic violence prevention and homelessness. Kiley’s vision for feeding people began while working at a quick-serve restaurant where he saw bread going to waste every day. By connecting the dots, resources, and passionate people, he was able to re-purpose the bread to feed those in need. Kiley believes in the dignity of every person and sees beyond their circumstances, allowing care and compassion to take the lead. 

Visionary Leader (mid-career leader award): Chris Fastner, Senior Program Manager, Initiative Foundation, Little Falls. Smart, compassionate leadership is Chris' forte. One of his greatest strengths is his depth of knowledge of the issues facing rural nonprofits and his confidence in their ability to thrive. Over the past five years, Chris and the Initiative Foundation collaborated with Propel Nonprofits to develop and provide nearly 50 nonprofit organizations a yearlong Financial Resiliency Program to identify entrepreneurial projects, share successes and failures, and learn with each other. He leads with an ecosystem-perspective that brings together nonprofits, government bodies, elected officials, business leaders, and educators so that the residents of central Minnesota are better served. 

Transformational Leader (experienced leader award): Kate Bottiger, Executive Director, Reach for Resources, Minnetonka. Kate is an empathetic and compassionate leader. Locally, Kate is committed to developing a vibrant mission-focused organization through innovation, risk-taking and the cultivation of a healthy group culture. Nationally, Kate is a recognized champion, speaker, educator and policy leader for disability rights and other issues. Along with her role at Reach for Resources, she also serves as executive director for the National Neutropenia Network where she coordinates national efforts to promote awareness and education of neutropenia, a rare blood condition. Kate dedicates significant energy to helping those in need by tackling tough issues at the local, state and national levels.

2017 Award Recipients

Catalytic Leader (emerging leader award): Ashley Charwood lives in Bemidji where she is a licensed social worker and is currently the coordinator of the local Foster Grandparent Program. She has held employment in several nonprofits including working at an Area Agency on Aging; working with foster and adoptive youth and families; providing sexual health education to rural and tribal communities; and advocating on behalf of people affected by domestic violence. Ashley graduated from Bemidji State University in 2007 and plans on pursuing a master’s degree in fall 2017. She serves on the Bi-CAP board of directors and is the chair of the governance committee. Ashley enjoys reading, roller blading and spending time with her family.

Visionary Leader (mid-career leader award): Lisa Porthan has served as executive director and caregiver consultant for Northwoods Partners since 2008. She has a bachelor of arts degree in sociology of law and criminology from the University of Minnesota and has master's credits in social work. Lisa has also received a certificate in leading and managing nonprofit organizations certificate from the University of Wisconsin. Lisa has an array of certifications including: advanced mediation, TCARE, caregiver coach, family memory care consultant, matter of balance, validation theory, support group facilitation, REACH (resources for enhancing Alzheimer's caregiver health), STRIDE (strategies to reduce injuries and develop confidence in elders), powerful tools for caregivers, MAVA volunteer leadership, advance care planning & health care directive facilitator and extensive dementia and Alzheimer’s care training.

Transformational Leader (experienced leader award): Whitney Clark serves as the executive director for Friends of the Mississippi River. For 30 years Whitney has worked to improve Minnesota’s environment as a staff member for several environmental organizations. During his 20-year tenure as executive director, he has led FMR’s growth from a start-up to one of Minnesota’s largest and most effective conservation organizations. He holds a bachelor’s degree in multidisciplinary studies from the University of Minnesota. Whitney loves exploring wild places with his family, reading, travel, live music and claims the craft beer revolution gives him “hope for humanity.”

2016 Award Recipients

Catalytic Leader (emerging leader award): Tyrai Ross, Program Manager, Minnesota Reading Corps and Minnesota Math Corps

Tyrai Ross’s passion for education and social justice has led her to become co-leader of the Diversity and Inclusion Cross-Functional Team where she works to “equip all staff and members with the tools and resources necessary to cultivate an environment of inclusion and respect that recognizes and celebrates all backgrounds and experiences.” Tyrai has helped to develop diversity and inclusion trainings for AmeriCorps members across Minnesota, including Circle Dialog sessions on topics of race, age and gender. She received a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Creighton University and a master’s degree in organizational leadership from Judson University.

Visionary Leader (mid-career leader award): Blanca Raniolo, Executive Director and Co-founder, WERC Enrichment Resource Center

Blanca Raniolo, originally from Venezuela, moved to Minnesota in 2003 to earn her second master’s degree from Hamline University. In 2005, she continued pursuing her passion of working in the nonprofit sector at La Escuelita in Minneapolis. In 2011, Blanca co-founded and became the executive director of WERC Enrichment Resource Center, a bilingual after school program in Minneapolis. Blanca’s passion is working with diverse communities and offering them equal opportunities to learn in a welcoming, safe environment.

Transformational Leader (experienced leader award): LaDonna Hoy, Founder and Executive Director, Interfaith Outreach & Community Partners

LaDonna Hoy leads Interfaith Outreach & Community Partners, a Twin Cities metro human service organization with a 37-year history of serving families and individuals of eight west suburban communities. Under her visionary leadership, Interfaith Outreach has leveraged multiple cross-sector local and regional partnerships to effectively respond to human need, remove systemic barriers that keep families and individuals out of the community mainstream, and marshal the heart and will of a whole community to successfully transform tough challenges into real possibilities. 

2015 Award Recipients

Catalytic Leader (emerging leader award): Michele Anderson, Rural Program Director, Springboard for the Arts

Michele Anderson grew up in Dundas, Minnesota, and is the rural program director for Springboard for the Arts. Since 2011, she has managed Springboard’s office in Fergus Falls, developing programs to help artists make a living and a life, and mobilizing artists as community leaders. Michele has her B.A. in Music from Lewis and Clark College and her M.A. in Cultural Sustainability from Goucher College, where she was awarded the inaugural Rory Turner Prize in Cultural Sustainability in 2014 for her creative nonfiction essay titled “Imaginative Fields: A Companion to Action.” Previously, Michele lived in Portland, Oregon where she worked at the Oregon Symphony and Ethos Music Center. Michele is also a creative writer, composer and pianist.

Visionary Leader (mid-career leader award): Jaylani Hussein, Executive Director, CAIR-MN

Jaylani Hussein is dedicated to working in the nonprofit sector as he has founded many nonprofits in Minnesota, sat on various boards and is currently the executive director for CAIR-MN. He has served as secretary on American Relief Agency for the Horn of Africa (ARAHA) executive board since 2004. He has traveled to the Horn of Africa twice on behalf of ARAHA, to open a regional field office as well as to oversee large-scale humanitarian projects in the Somali Famine of 2011. He has built nonprofit organizations from the ground up, mentoring and coaching rising leaders and ensuring communities of color are represented in leadership positions within the nonprofit sector. Jaylani’s family emigrated from Somalia to Minnesota in 1993. He holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and community development/city planning and is currently pursuing a law degree.

Transformational Leader (experienced leader award): M. Beth Fagin, Senior Director of Pediatric Therapy and Autism Services, St. David’s Center

Beth Fagin is the senior director of pediatric therapies at St. David’s Center for Child & Family Development, leading autism and rehabilitation programming. For more than 30 years, Beth has dedicated her life’s work to assisting underserved children and families. She has initiated programs by reaching across systems to create integrated approaches that better serve clients’ needs. Most recently, Beth developed an autism treatment program specific to Somali children ages two to seven and their families. This program provides culturally informed treatment, increases community awareness of the importance of early intervention and trains Somali mental health professionals. Beth, who is both a licensed social worker and licensed marriage and family therapist, has taught at Augsburg College and at St. Catherine University/University of St. Thomas’s joint M.S.W. program.

2014 Award Recipients

Catalytic Leader (emerging leader award): Alfonso Wenker, Director of Diversity & Inclusion, Minnesota Council on Foundations

Alfonso Wenker is the Minnesota Council on Foundation’s (MCF) director of diversity, equity and inclusion. Most recently, Alfonso developed a philanthropic fellowship program at the Bush Foundation now housed at MCF. Prior to his time at Bush Foun¬dation, Alfonso held various staff roles at PFund Foundation, including as the founda¬tion’s first full-time program staff person, integrating racial equity frameworks across the organization, increasing volunteer participation and engaging new institutional funding partners. His responsibilities at MCF include leading the MCF Philanthropy Fellows program and managing MCF’s internal and external diversity, equity and inclusion work. This award is co-sponsored by MCN & YNPN Twin Cities.

Visionary Leader (mid-career leader award): Jodi Millerbernd, Executive Director, Boys & Girls Club of Rochester

Jodi Millerbernd is executive director for Boys & Girls Club of Rochester. She began her Boys & Girls Club career as an AmeriCorps volunteer and has held a variety of positions across the state. She now has over 15 years of Boys & Girls Club experience. Jodi is a progressive leader who has experience in developing strategic investment initiatives; connecting community resources; and developing staff to achieve objectives and reach their full potential. She is dedicated to maintaining an organizational reputation built on mission driven service and uncompromising ethics. Jodi holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology from St. Cloud State University, with an emphasis in minority studies. This award is co-sponsored by MCN & the Harvard Club of Minnesota Foundation.

Transformational Leader (experienced leader award): Patrick Coleman, Acquisition Librarian/Senior Curator, Minnesota Historical Society

Patrick Coleman has been the acquisition librarian at the Minnesota Historical Society for 35 years. In that curatorial position he has been responsible for adding approxi¬mately 100,000 volumes to the library, making it the premier place for scholarship on all Minnesota topics. Patrick writes and lectures on topics of Minnesota’s culture and history. He served as the president of the Library of Congress’s Minnesota Center for the Book, presided over the Minnesota Book Awards, is on the boards of Coffee House Press and the Minnesota Center for Book Arts, and received the Kay Sexton Award for contributions to Minnesota’s community of the book. This award is co-sponsored by MCN & the Center for Integrative Leadership at the University of Minnesota.

2013 Award Recipients

Catalytic Leader (emerging leader award): Kat Kempe, Senior Policy Advocate, Think Small

Kat began her career with the Lutheran Volunteer Corps, where she did community organizing within the faith community around early childhood issues. During that time, she gained significant experience in case management but realized she was missing the connection to the larger systems change work. In her subsequent roles with Ready 4 K and now Think Small, she has been able to bring people together around complex campaigns, engage with diverse audiences, and build the systems and infrastructure necessary for large scale progress in the arena of early childhood education.

Visionary Leader (mid-career leader award): Meena Natarajan, Executive/Literary Director, Pangea World Theater

Meena works as a playwright and director at Pangea World Theater, a progressive, international ensemble space for theater and dialogue. She has led the theater’s growth since its founding in 1995. She has served in leadership positions with Women Playwrights International, the National Performance Network and the Consortium of Asian American Theaters and Artists. As a playwright, her scripts have been professionally produced both in India and the U.S. She was awarded the International Citizens Award by the Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul in 2000. She received a Special Recognition Award from the Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights in 2005.

Transformational Leader (experienced leader award): Louise Wolfgramm, President Emerita, Amicus

For over 40 years, Louise led Amicus, one of the foremost nonprofits in prisoner reentry services, and built an agency around the philosophy of treating prisoners with caring and respect. Through Amicus, she matched and taught others to match thousands of community volunteers with individual inmates, building relationships that allow participants to try out new behaviors and rekindle dreams. In 2012, Louise led the merger of Amicus with Volunteers of America – Minnesota, in order to ensure that Amicus is positioned for the future. She has actively participated on numerous state and local boards and has inspired many through her work as a mentor, consultant and leader.

2012 Award Recipients

Catalytic Leader (emerging leader award): Nausheena Hussain, Director of Fund Development and Marketing, CAIR-MN

Nausheena is responsible for CAIR-MN’s grant writing, donor relations, operations, marketing and building relationships with the nonprofit community. In 2004, Nausheena co-founded the Muslim Youth Leadership Award and served on its board of directors. She also volunteers for the Islamic Resource Group and serves as its volunteer marketing director. Nausheena graduated from the University of Minnesota with her MBA and is pursuing her M.S. at the Islamic University of Minnesota.

Visionary Leader (mid-career leader award): Laura Zabel, Executive Director, Springboard for the Arts

At Springboard for the Arts, a national leader in the field of artist service, Laura serves as a consultant on strategic planning, board development, fundraising and nonprofit start-up. Laura is an actor in the Twin Cities and has worked with companies such as Theatre in the Round and Brave New Workshop. Previously, she was program director for the Twin Cities Unified Theatre Auditions and development manager at COMPAS. She serves on the City of Saint Paul Cultural Board and on the board of the National Association of Artists Organizations. Laura received her degree in theatre at University of Kansas.

Transformational Leader (experienced leader award): Steve Lepinski, Executive Director, Washburn Center for Children

Under Steve’s 25-year leadership, Minnesota’s leading children’s mental health center, Washburn Center for Children, has doubled the number of children it serves annually and became recognized for excellence in children’s mental health. Steve co-led the development of Children’s Mental Health Partnership, a statewide effort to reform the children’s mental health system. He has served in a leadership role of the Minnesota Association of Community Mental Health Programs, the Minnesota Mental Health Action Group and the Unemployment Services Trust. Previously, Steve was executive director of Storefront/Youth Action. He has a master’s from the University of Minnesota and a bachelor’s from St. John’s University.

2011 Award Recipients

Catalytic Leader (emerging leader award): Brooke Hanson, college program manager, Admission Possible

Brooke is a dedicated public servant and talented young leader. Brooke's leadership experience includes the college programming initiative at Admission Possible, a nonprofit that makes college admission and success possible for low-income students. She completed two terms of national service as a member of AmeriCorps VISTA. Brooke is a graduate of Bethel University and of the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits’ Leadership Institute.

Visionary Leader (mid-career leader award): John Davis, executive director, Lanesboro Arts Center

John has over 20 years of experience in arts and community development work. John's experience includes serving as executive director of the Lanesboro Arts Center and national Kids Philosophy Slam. John founded various entities including the New York Mills Regional Cultural Center, the Great American Think-Off and the Kids Philosophy Slam. He is an artist, philosopher, strategist and national speaker on rural arts issues and creativity. John is a graduate of the Minneapolis College of Art and Design.

Transformational Leader (experienced leader award): Anthony R. Wagner, president and CEO (retired), Pillsbury United Communities

Tony is a senior nonprofit leader with four decades’ service in the Twin Cities. Tony is the past president and CEO of Pillsbury United Communities, an association of organizations serving Minneapolis' core neighborhoods. Tony is a frequent lecturer, board president and consultant. He was a founder of the Metropolitan Alliance of Connected Communities and the Forum for Non Profit Leadership. Tony is a graduate of the University of Minnesota and served the nation through military service as a First Lieutenant in the Republic of Viet Nam.

2010 Award Recipients

Catalytic Leader (emerging leader award): Jeff Freeland Nelson, managing director of public strategy, Minnesota Public Radio

Jeff has served in several leadership roles at various nonprofits in Minnesota, including Minnesota Public Radio, McNally Smith College and Arts & Culture Partnership of Saint Paul. He also has completed fellowships with the Bush Foundation, German Marshall Fund of the United States and the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs. Jeff has a B.A. from Hamline University and a M.P.A. from Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government.

Visionary Leader (mid-career leader award): Kate Barr, executive director, Nonprofits Assistance Fund

Kate has significant experience working in nonprofit management and at financial institutions, including Nonprofits Assistance Fund, Riverside Bank and Resource Bank & Trust. Kate is an adjunct faculty member at Hamline University's Masters in Nonprofit Management program and the University of Minnesota's Humphrey Institute. She currently serves on the board of directors at the Neighborhood Development Center, Partners for the Common Good and Western Bank.

Transformational Leader (experienced leader award): Michael Wirth-Davis, president and CEO, Goodwill/Easter Seals Minnesota

Michael has over 30 years of experience in a variety of nonprofit and community leadership positions, including Goodwill/Easter Seals Minnesota, Courage Center, the Ray Graham Association in Illinois and state-funded programs in California. He is an adjunct faculty member at Hamline University's Graduate School of Business and the University of Minnesota's Humphrey Institute. He has written several articles and reviews on nonprofit best practices.

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