2018 Nonprofit Essentials Conference

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Nonprofit Essentials Conference

Speaker Biographies

Kari Aanestad is the development manager 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.

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 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.

Elise Chambers is the program director of the Conflict Resolution Center, an attorney and a qualified neutral under Rule 114. Beginning with her experiences as a youth volunteer trainer, Elise has developed, presented and evaluated training curriculum for a variety of audiences and topics. Through her work as a criminal defense lawyer representing adults and juveniles at the Minnesota Law Collective, a nonprofit she founded, Elise trained and mentored certified student attorneys to represent low-income criminal defense clients in court. Elise also ran the nonpartisan national Election Protection voters' rights coalition in Minnesota in collaboration with the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights. Elise has also co-authored and presented published research regarding youth brain development and the mutual impacts of the juvenile justice system and adolescent mental illness on each other.

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.

Josh Dye is the president & founder of the Convene Training + Resilience Community and the marketing manager of HousingLink, a nonprofit organization in Minneapolis. Since 2010, attendees in over 300 of his presentations have learned how to harness the courage to lead, create, have tough conversations, maximize precious time and leverage moments of failure for meaningful growth. What separates Josh apart from other speakers and trainers is how he combines practical, actionable tips with inspiration and motivation. He doesn’t just tell you what to do, he charts the course for how to do it. Josh authentically speaks from his own experiences, benefiting audiences with lessons from both his successes and gut-wrenching failures. Josh earned a master’s degree in public and nonprofit administration from Metropolitan State University.

Maryan Gaafaa, research & evaluation intern, is working towards her undergraduate degree in psychology and research at Metropolitan State University. Maryan spent a significant amount of time in high school working with children and developed a deep interest in learning from people. She was introduced to the world of research and evaluation through her internship at Rainbow Research and has fallen in love with it. One of her greatest strengths is working on qualitative research projects. Maryan is a very detail oriented person, and she finds herself utilizing this skill frequently in her work. Maryan has been at Rainbow Research for over a year and continues to grow from her work. Maryan’s main goal is discovering ways to break false stigmas that come with being a Muslim immigrant woman.

Molly Granzow is a certified public accountant and a senior accountant at Abdo, Eick, & Meyers (AEM), a Minnesota accounting firm specializing in nonprofit auditing and 990 preparation. She joined AEM’s nonprofit segment after graduating with her bachelor’s degree in accounting from North Dakota State University. Molly is a member of the Minnesota Society of CPAs and the American Institute of CPAs. Gaining a hands-on experience in all aspects of nonprofit operations, Molly has served on the board of directors of the Youth Dance Ensemble & School in Burnsville since 2014 and is an active participant in the Nonprofit Financial Group.

Stephanie Jacobs is director of the Public and Nonprofit Leadership Center (PNLC) at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, a community that creates and nurtures excellence in public affairs management and leadership. 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 participated in the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits Leadership Institute and is an active volunteer in the Minnesota nonprofit community.

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.

Jennifer Kramm has a background in new business development and philanthropy. In Thrivent Financial's strategic development department Jennifer was part of a team that developed social enterprises resulting in two successful ventures, helping her gain an enterprise-perspective on what organizations need from leadership. As a grants associate at the InFaith Community Foundation her department awarded $10 million in annual grants to up to 5000 national charities. At Propel Nonprofits Jennifer supports boards of directors and the work they do, including strategic planning, strategic alliances and restructuring, and board development. Jennifer serves as the co-chair of the Twin Cities Social Enterprise Alliance and is leading strategy for The Corporate Volunteers Council of the Twin Cities as a board member. Jennifer graduated from St. Olaf College with a B.A. in biology.

Rebecca Lucero, public policy director at the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, is responsible for developing and implementing the organization’s advocacy agenda locally and nationally, and lobbying on behalf of Minnesota’s nonprofit sector. Prior to joining MCN, Rebecca served as policy and advocacy manager for Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity, where she helped pass $100 million bonding in the Homes for All campaign. Rebecca has also worked as senior community representative in the Minnesota office of Representative Keith Ellison, an unemployment law judge with the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, and an attorney in private practice with a small firm and with Legal Aid Society of Minneapolis. She has a law degree from the University of Minnesota and a B.A. in political science from Grinnell College.

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.

Lisa Negstad, nonprofit strategist, specializes in designing training that uses creative and engaging methods, leverages individual strengths, and produces sustainable learning. A graduate of Yale University’s M.B.A. program and Luther College, Lisa held senior leadership and management positions in several (international and U.S.-based) nonprofit organizations before starting her company, Negstad Consulting, LLC. Lisa has directly supervised over 70 individuals in various types of departments.

Taylor Putz is the public policy advocate at the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits (MCN). Taylor works with MCN’s public policy director to influence policy decisions that impact the nonprofit sector and community partners at local, state and federal levels with a focus at the Minnesota State Capitol. Taylor also engages MCN members in public policy action opportunities and civic engagement. Prior to joining MCN, Taylor served as the community relations and outreach manager at Prepare + Prosper, training associate at the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, and community organizer at Drug Free Communities of Fond du Lac County. Taylor has a B.A. in international studies from Marian University and is currently pursuing a dual master’s degree in public administration and nonprofit management from Hamline University.

Emily Robertson is a partner at Rubric Legal and focuses on advising nonprofits on the nonprofit-specific issues that affect their work, particularly in the areas of tax, governance and regulatory compliance. Emily’s practice has always been offered on a sliding-fee scale that makes it more reasonable for all sizes of organizations to afford legal services. Emily is a board member and member of the Finance and Planning committee of the Hennepin County Bar Association, and a member of the Program Committee of the Collaborative Community Law Initiative. Emily’s teaching includes stints as adjunct faculty in Hamline University's Nonprofit Management Program and Mitchell Hamline School of Law, co-chair and regular speaker for the Hennepin County Bar Association’s LINC program, and frequent presentations on governance, tax and other issues related to nonprofits. 

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 is the GrantAdvisor 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 College. 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.

Vidhya Shanker is a doctoral student in evaluation studies at the University of Minnesota. Her dissertation research bridges systems thinking with theories of systemic oppression to examine the ways race is constructed through both the enterprise and the discourse of nonprofit evaluation. Recently, Vidhya provided evaluation assistance to organizations engaged in food systems work. Previously, she was director of research, innovation & program evaluation at Catholic Charities, where she led agency wide data-governance efforts to facilitate the organization’s measurement of client outcomes across program areas and throughout the case management process. Her experience addressing racial, economic and gender justice within the context of evaluation includes her role evaluating Ramsey County’s Employment Services for MFIP participants, work with the UMN’s Institute on Community Integration, and consultancies with organizations like CARE International.

Emily Steinmetz is the sponsorship and event manager for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Minnesota, previously serving as the volunteer coordinator. Prior to this she was the Central Minnesota regional coordinator for the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits. Emily also served as adjunct faculty for the Masters of Public Administration program at St. Cloud State University. Emily received her undergraduate degree in business administration from Minnesota State University – Moorhead and her M.B.A. from Lynchburg College in Virginia.

Chris Vanecek is an accounting & finance consultant at Propel Nonprofits. Chris has been working in nonprofits in various capacities since moving to the Twin Cities in 2007, including everything from wielding chainsaws to crawling around in attics to being an interim controller. He has been doing nonprofit accounting and finance since graduating with an M.B.A. in sustainable business from Presidio University. Chris currently enjoys helping nonprofits connect sound accounting practices with larger questions about finance and strategy. He believes having a solid accounting footing gives organizations the ability to plan for their futures. He currently is serving as treasurer of the board of the Social Enterprise Alliance Twin Cities.

Arlene Vernon is a human resource strategist with over 25 years of experience as a trusted resource for a diverse group of small and medium-sized organizations. She’s seen first-hand what nonprofit leaders face every day, and her results-oriented consulting and training successfully addresses those realities. In her work with 500+ organizations since starting her consulting firm HRx in 1992, she develops and implements do-able strategies to address the short-term challenges and long-term success of each organization. With an M.B.A. and a master of education in counseling, as well as a professional of human resources certification, Arlene is both a studied and practiced authority in human resources and human relations.

Abby Wellan joined the Charities Review Council team in 2012 and is currently serving as the Council’s nonprofit services & communications manager. In this role, Abby plans and executes the Council's communications plan, including blogs, social media, e-newsletters, brochures and more! Abby is also an integral member of the Nonprofit Services Team, providing one-on-one support and technical assistance to nonprofits as they complete their Accountability Wizard® nonprofit review process. Additional responsibilities include donor education, management of the Council's paid internship program, board and committee engagement, event planning and overall project management. Abby graduated with honors from St. Cloud State University, with a bachelor of arts in international relations, and three minors: intercultural communications, human relations, and political science.



Reid A. Zimmerman is a 30+ year veteran leader in the nonprofit sector of Minnesota, having worked as an executive director, board member and senior development officer for a number of organizations. Reid has served as a lecturer and professor at Hamline, St. Thomas, 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.

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