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2021 ACTcon

Breakout Sessions

Plan your day based on the content most useful to your work. With tracks focused on fundraising, communications, technology, or a combination of one or more, the variety of topics allows you and your team to map out a day that matches your professional and organizational goals.

Advancement/Fundraising Track

It’s More than Mere Semantics
As grant professionals, the power in our penand keyboard—is real. How we choose to define and describe the communities our nonprofit programs serve has impact. Words like “at-risk” when describing a child or “homeless” for a veteran define populations by their challenges and could perpetuate longstanding stereotypes and stigmas. Join us as we discuss reframing grant proposals using strengths-based messaging and asset-based terminology that will showcase how your programs and services work toward solving the bigger issues impacting the populations you serve to build stronger and more vibrant communities without minimizing the people who use them.
Jan Castillo, president & owner, The Dotted Line Consulting and Barbara Martenson, owner, Upwords and Onwords LLC

Is Ethical Fundraising Possible Without CCF?
In this dynamic session, we’ll ask you to actively engage with us, as we explore whether ethical fundraising is possible without the principles of Community-Centric Fundraising (CCF). CCF is a fundraising movement rooted in dismantling the ways that white supremacy shows up in fundraising. We will first set the table with some key learning and grounding, including giving an overview of the ten principles of CCF. Then, you will engage in facilitated small-group discussions, digging into the questions and scenarios we’ll pose for you. Together, we will explore whether ethical fundraising, something fundraisers have long prioritized, is possible without CCF. We hope you will leave with a clearer vision of what ethical fundraising looks like for you, now and into the future, as you incorporate this philosophy into your day-to-day work. We look forward to learning with you!
Cecelia Caspram, founder/principal, Mission Growth Partners and Clara Lind, donor experience manager, Beacon Interfaith Housing Collaborative

Wheel of Fortune? Setting Goals and Predicting Grant Income 
Minnesota foundations, corporations, and government agencies contribute billions of dollars in grants to Minnesota nonprofits every year, and predicting your organization’s share of those dollars has always been a difficult and necessary task. Then the sudden emergence of COVID-19 relief and racial justice funding in 2020 and beyond presented new opportunities, and sometimes meant that longstanding reliable opportunities were suspended. Development professionals use a variety of stratagems to assess internal factors, analyze opportunities/trends, set fundraising goals and contingency plans, and communicate goals and results to their organization’s senior management and board. Join this session to explore how other organizations are dealing with these common pitfalls and practices for setting supportable fundraising goals for grant revenue, predicting the outcomes, and making adjustments in real time.
Kari Aanestad, director of advancement and Jon Pratt, executive director, Minnesota Council of Nonprofits; and Aretha Green-Rupert, program director, Carlson Family Foundation

Communications Track

The Story We Tell
Now is the time to get clear and focused on your organization’s most powerful path forward. We’re headed into a collective rebuilding and recovery era—the task will be to create a new vision for the future. The story you tell now will pave the way for what comes next. In this session, we’ll highlight two critical communication mindsets to keep centered as we all move forward. 1. The importance of imagination in painting a narrative vision. Our audiences want to know how we imagine building a better future—let’s bring them along to see what’s possible. 2. Relevant and honest language is deeply needed when imagining a new future and how to achieve it. There’s no time for B.S., sector jargon, or vague impact statements. We’ll show examples of nonprofits and businesses using these strategies effectively and we’ll share ideas on how you can craft these strong narratives yourself.
Julie Cohen, engagement & advancement director, Mónica Nadal, art & talent director, and Jerome Rankine, editorial director, Pollen Midwest

Becoming an Equity-Centered Communicator
When thinking about equity, communications professionals often begin by wondering if they are using the “correct” words and pictures. Especially for white communications professionals, this can often land us in dicey territory. Why? While these elements are okay initial considerations regarding equity, communicators must go deeper if we wish to develop equity-centered communications skills and practices within organizations. In this workshop the presenters will share their personal experiences and journeys in trying to center equity as communicators, including mistakes they have made and frameworks they’ve used for learning. The discussion will start with an analysis of the (typical) white communicator’s journey. It will then shift to design questions/tools to incorporate when assessing whether our communications practices both center equity and reflect an organization’s commitment to equity. In small and large group conversations, attendees will consider their thinking and “workshop” questions in real-time.
Sandra Boone, communications specialist, UMN Global Programs and Strategy Alliance and Naaima Khan, owner and principal, Create Good

Advocacy in Action: Make Your Voice Heard
Channeling and activating the energy of nonprofit staff, volunteers, and partners is essential for nonprofits to create change in their communities and at the State Capitol, and it’s not always easy. The COVID-19 pandemic and renewed pushes for social justice have exposed wide inequities in our society. Many nonprofits are at the forefront of advancing policy to right these inequities and are activating their supporters to call for renewed focus on housing stability, social justice, and more. This session will examine the tools, messages and strategies necessary for effective advocacy.
Ashley Aram, senior account manager, Goff Public and Kristen Rosenberger, director of advocacy and external engagement, Greater Twin Cities United Way

Lessons Learned Conducting Campaigns in a Virtual World
With Covid vaccines now being actively deployed, it’s time for fundraisers and communicators to consider how lessons learned from the pandemic will influence future work plans. Creative Fundraising Advisors has provided counsel to several local and national nonprofit fundraising campaigns over the past year and, together with nonprofit fundraisers, we will bring forth the best virtual and hybrid strategies that can be integrated with your future campaign plans. We will focus on strategies relative to individual major donors and campaigns, such as: 1. On-line campaign cultivation events that work. 2. Keeping your leadership Committee engaged and productive. 3. The digital case for support and how to adapt it for different donor audiences. 4. Making the ask over Zoom. 5. Best practice in virtual donor stewardship.
Meagan Bachmayer, vice president, advancement and chief administrative officer, Milkweed Editions; Karen Casanova, chief development officer, Northside Achievement Zone; and
Tony Gundhauser, principal, Creative Fundraising Advisors

Technology Track

Embracing the Remote Team Lifestyle Care
Being remote has changed the way the National Wildlife Rehabilitation Association approaches so many aspects of our work. Knowing we will remain remote beyond the pandemic has allowed us to fully embrace this newer-to-us environment and the technology that goes with it. Since our team has been remote, we've interviewed and hired new staff, pivoted our organization’s in-person annual conference online, and set up an internal system that we've found successful. In this session you’ll learn about which technology we use, our team framework, our experience onboarding new staff, and the boundaries we've created to for our team in this flexible working environment.
Molly Gazella-Baranczyk, executive director, National Wildlife Rehabilitation Association

Surveillance Self Defense for the Small and Mighty
“Controversial” collectives and nonprofits, including those focused on Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities, queer/trans folx, abolition, and reproductive rights, are often underfunded and over-surveilled. This reality increases the likelihood of technology-facilitated attacks and harassment. In this session you will learn cost-effective tips for stronger protection, so as advocates you can continue your important work.
Dee Baskin, executive director, Loan Repayment Assistance Program of Minnesota

Combined Track

Nonprofit Public Policy Success in Minnesota: Case Studies
Nonprofits have gone through massive changes this past year as they have worked to adjust to a new normal, modifying environments, adjusting their workforce, and maintaining services to their clients whose needs have shifted and often increased. Public policy advocacy on behalf of our organizations and the missions and clients we serve has also adapted and changed. Nonprofit organizations of all sizes need to learn from each other, work smart together, and start planning for what’s next if we want to be part of shaping the new public policy/advocacy landscape in Minnesota. Successful advocacy campaigns have utilized strategies based both on the knowledge of previous best practice along with the new experience, skills, and tools gained from the reality of the past year. In this session, we invite a panel of local nonprofit advocacy leaders to share their experiences as case studies of both lessons learned and strategies that work.
Angelica Klebsch, senior director of community leadership & advocacy, CLUES (
Comunidades Latinas United En Servicio); Kathy Mock, chief government affairs and community engagement officer, Animal Humane Society; Stu Silberman, senior donor advisor, Alzheimer’s Association; and Paul Spies, department chair of the education center and co-founder of the Coalition to Increase Teachers of Color and American Indian Teachers in Minnesota, Metro State University

Make the Robots Do It!
How much time does your organization spend on duplicate data entry? How much time is spent moving data between systems? How many errors get made in that process? These data challenges are common, but in 2021 they often don’t have to be anymore. Many software platforms now have robust APIs which enable automatically feeding data out to or taking data in from other systems. Middleware platforms have matured to enable connecting thousands of these APIs together, empowering anyone to build custom software integrations between the systems you use. APIs also make possible the emerging no code application platforms that empower anyone to build custom apps that interface directly with the data in your systems. Come to this session to hear examples and discuss ideas for how to eliminate inefficient data processes by making software robots that do the work for you instead.
Jason Samuels, IT operations manager, American Craft Council

Sudden Surge: Dealing with Unexpected Donations
The Minnesota Freedom Fund was a small (~$180K/year) nonprofit fighting to end cash bail when the murder of George Floyd sparked a flood of support. Over 1 million donors contributed over $40 million dollars in a matter of weeks. What happens when donors find you in a crisis, and your infrastructure is overwhelmed trying to respond? Our panel was in the heart of what happens when other organizations (Facebook, ActBlue) start using your name to raise funds, when community expectations are not only unclear but often conflicting, and what your charity needs to know to get to scale fast when the demand rises. Topics include the technology to support communications as well as the strategy around setting expectations and responding in crisis.
Steve Boland, managing partner, Next in Nonprofits; Mirella Ceja-Orozco, co-executive director, Minnesota Freedom Fund; and Jasmine RuKim, CEO and founder, Monicat Data


   Tuesday, July 27

Round 1 Breakouts  //  11:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.


Round 2 Breakouts  //  1:00 - 2:00 p.m.


Round 3 Breakouts  //  2:30 - 3:30 p.m.


   Thursday, July 29

Round 4 Breakouts  //  11:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.


Round 5 Breakouts  // 1:00 - 2:00 p.m.


Round 6 Breakouts  // 2:30 - 3:30 p.m.