Conference Overview

The twelfth annual Nonprofit Management Institute—Leading Social Change in Turbulent Times—recognized that organizational leaders face difficult and uncertain roads ahead. Through a mix of intensive sessions, hands-on workshops, and insightful interviews with thought leaders from academia, nonprofits, for-profits, and government, this conference inspired and made the attendees ready to take action.


The Giving Code: Understanding and Bridging the Gaps Between New Philanthropists and Community-Based Nonprofits

Heather McLeod Grant and Alexa Cortés Culwell

Heather McLeod Grant and Alexa Cortés Culwell will examine the mindset and approaches of today’s new high net worth donors, their common disconnects with community-based nonprofits, and how to take a more strategic approach to attracting them to your cause. The session will draw on the presenters’ two years of research on motivations and barriers to giving, including The Giving Code: Silicon Valley Nonprofits and Philanthropy, and additional data to be published this fall. In this interactive session, the authors will share their insights about what motivates these high net worth donors, strategies for how to better engage them, and essential content for every nonprofit’s business plan or pitch deck.

Designing Your Life

Bill Burnett

Everyone wants a life of fulfillment and joy, constantly creative and purposeful, and one that always holds the possibility of surprise. Bill Burnett, co-author of Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-lived, Joyful Life, will talk about how design thinking, the human-centered design methodology pioneered at Stanford, can help you create or re-boot a life that is meaningful. The same design thinking that companies use to design amazing technology and products can be used to design, build or refresh your career and your life, and drive purpose in your daily engagements.

Collective Impact with a Justice-Minded Approach

Brian C.B. Barnes, Dorian O. Burton, and Paola Peacock Friedrich

Supporting local leaders who are able to drive community-based strategies is the heart of social justice. It’s especially important when we are targeting leadership mindsets and challenging problematic historical narratives. In this interactive session with Dorian O. Burton and Brian C.B. Barnes of TandemEd, and Paola Peacock Friedrich of AchieveMission, you’ll be prompted to reflect on your own organization and practice, examine what might be getting in your way of supporting and investing in local leaders in your community, and identify key practices that may serve you in building and sustaining a collective impact initiative working from a justice-minded approach.

The Leadership Development Challenge

Libbie Landles-Cobb and Preeta Nayak

How can you successfully cultivate the next generation of leaders from within? How do you better prepare for the inevitable point when your organization needs to find a new ED or CEO? In this session, Libbie Landles-Cobb and Preeta Nayak, partners at The Bridgespan Group, share findings from their research and outline key steps senior leaders can take to help their organizations solve leadership challenges, including succession planning and slowing the “turnover treadmill” that drains much-needed talent. Participants will have a chance to assess their organization’s strengths and weaknesses in developing future leaders and practice tools for helping high potential reports grow in their leadership capabilities.

Community Engagement Matters (Now More Than Ever)

Paul Schmitz

Paul Schmitz will share the importance of purposeful and inclusive community engagement in the pursuit of social impacts, especially those guided by evidence and data. He will share stories that illustrate six key lessons, and offer resources for social impact efforts that aim to do work with communities instead of to or for communities.

The Power of Moments

Chip Heath

What if a teacher could design a lesson that he knew his students would remember 20 years later? What if nonprofit leaders knew how to create experiences that would change the behavior of their clients or their communities? Or how these experiences can help managers to better engage their employees? What if you had a better sense of how to create memories that matter for your children? Chip Heath, co-author of The New York Times bestselling books Switch and Made to Stick, will explore why certain brief experiences can jolt us, elevate us, and change us—and how we can learn to create such extraordinary moments in our life and work. This presentation will demonstrate how you can be the author of richer experiences for your clients, employees, communities, children, and for yourself.

Leading During Turbulent Times

Jonathan Greenblatt and David V. Johnson

In an interview with SSIR’s Senior Editor David Johnson, Jonathan Greenblatt will discuss his experience leading the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), drawing from his background in the private, public, and nonprofit sectors. His tenure at ADL over the past two years has coincided with other significant world events, including the 2016 US election, the rise in hate crimes and hate groups, and the increase in cyber hate. Throughout this period, Greenblatt has re-committed ADL to focusing on its core dual mission, first established in 1913: “To stop the defamation of the Jewish people, and to secure justice and fair treatment for all.” From this conversation, attendees will learn more about the challenges and opportunities that come with leading a nonprofit organization through turbulent times.

Preparing for Risk…and its Reward

Jesús Gerena, Michael Madnick, and Laurie Michaels

The social impact sector is inherently risky. Even tried-and-true interventions can hit unexpected roadblocks during implementation. And yet, research shows that the sector generally lacks a standard for defining, assessing, and managing risk. This gap materially contributes to suboptimal planning, disruptions during project implementation, and inefficient interactions between funders and nonprofits. Nonprofits, however, are often in a position to evaluate project risks internally, and also share essential information with funders to better ensure their projects have the necessary resources to succeed—even if disaster strikes. In short, managing risk ensures its reward. Drawing from Open Road’s research, insights from a nonprofit leader pioneering risk management, and the Risk Management Toolkit, this session will provide a practical training on baseline best practices for risk management including a framework for defining, evaluating, and discussing risk.

Scenario Planning: A Practical Tool for Managing Through Uncertainty

Jonathan Star

How can nonprofit organizations plan effectively for the future in such turbulent times? In this session, Jonathan Star will provide an introduction to scenario planning, a technique used by nonprofit, government, and commercial organizations to help them plan for the future. Based on over 20 years of experience in the field, he will describe the value of the approach, highlight some tips for conducting effective scenario work, and explain some of the potential pitfalls. Through a series of simple conversations and exercises, Star will ensure that attendees not only learn about scenario planning, but also practice developing and using the approach.

Constituent-Centric Design

Marty Rodgers and Courtney Clark

The nonprofit sector is both large and complex, serving more constituents than ever before through a vast array of business models, funding sources, and partnerships. Recently, this complexity has been compounded by a tumultuous political landscape and a digital revolution that has amplified both the number and volume of voices in the sector. As a result, nonprofits are facing unprecedented levels of competition for the time and attention of their constituents—beneficiaries, partners, volunteers, donors, suppliers, and staff—anyone with whom the nonprofit interacts. This session will examine how nonprofit leaders can leverage design thinking as they attempt to cut through the noise and effectively engage their constituents. Marty Rodgers of Accenture and Courtney Clark of Forum One will introduce the concepts of design thinking and constituent-centricity, before leading participants through a collaborative, case-based design thinking activity focused on helping nonprofits craft their communications, services, actions and initiatives around the needs of their constituents. Following the session, participants will be armed with frameworks and practiced techniques to help incorporate constituent-centric thinking into their organizations, and enable better outcomes for their beneficiaries.

Lunch and Learn: Building Movements and Coalitions That Inspire Action

Nikita Mitchell

A movement is not measured by the strength of an individual organization, nor by a collection of organizations. A movement is measured by its ability to captivate and catalyze the masses toward a particular vision. In this session, Nikita Mitchell of Black Lives Matter will discuss the conditions that create sustainable coalitions and movements, explore the elements of the current iteration of the Black resistance movement, and share lessons they have learned from engaging in the Movement For Black Lives. Participants will walk away with a better understanding of why and how movements are instrumental in bringing about social change, and will acquire tools for engaging in movements that align with their organizations.

Making Evidence-Based Decision-Making More Appealing to the Nonprofit and Public Sector

Jennifer Brooks

In her recent SSIR article, Jennifer Brooks posited there are three reasons why evidence-based decisions have gotten limited traction in the public and nonprofit sectors. This session will explore those three themes and discuss some key shifts that will be necessary to make the idea of evidence-based decision-making more relevant and appealing to mission-driven public and private organizations. Participants will be asked to participate by sharing their own strengths and challenges in this area, and suggest solutions with others in the nonprofit and government sectors.

Diversifying Fundraising Sources in the New Age: Top Three Tips

Darian Rodriguez Heyman

Given the turmoil in today’s political climate, nonprofits can no longer rely on government funding. Perhaps more than ever, it is critical that nonprofits embrace the need for self-sufficiency and diversify their revenue bases. Join us for an interactive, intensely practical workshop designed to leave every attendee with concrete tips and tools that get more money in the door. Darian Rodriguez Heyman will share insights and exercises that help you engage your board in fundraising and maximize their personal financial contributions, double your online fundraising within three months, and create a compelling, concise elevator pitch useful in all aspects of fund development.

The Five Practices of Breakout Innovation

Joanna Levitt Cea and Jess Rimington

What does it take to create truly breakout innovation? How do we instigate and create solutions that radically re-imagine what is currently deemed possible? For the past two years Stanford Visiting Scholars Jess Rimington and Joanna Cea have been exploring how breakout innovation occurs. Through extensive interviews, qualitative research, and case studies, Rimington and Cea looked for similar practices that might exist among those delivering breakout results across sectors. From this exploration, a code for a very different way of working emerged, which recently debuted in a cover story of the SSIR’s summer 2017 issue. In this session, participants will directly engage with these practices, explore practical examples and stories, and discuss together with other session participants. This lively workshop will be part teach-in and part live experimentation. All participants will walk away having had a taste of the five practices in action. They will also take home a packet of how-to materials to help in the implementation of breakout innovation within their own organization or company.

A Global View of Change

Anja Manuel and Kim Meredith

Not a day goes by without a headline news or social media story about China or India, in relation to the US and world. Join an armchair interview featuring Anja Manuel, author of This Brave New World: China, India and US, led by Kim Meredith, Executive Director, Stanford PACS. What does it mean for US-based and global social sector leaders, who strive to overcome the enormous global issues from climate change to girl’s education, while balancing the social sector challenges of transparency, accountability, and governance during tumultuous times?

Think Big: How Nonprofit Leaders Can Spark Creativity and Reignite Passion in Themselves and Others

Michael McAfee

Each of us has a role in collectively moving the nation towards greater equity. While these may be challenging times, we need to think big and reimagine our roles as nonprofit organizations; we can’t do the same things and expect different results. Participants will gain insights into using the self as an instrument of change by tapping one’s courage to lead more effectively, regardless of position or title, to advance equity through whole-system leadership. Dr. McAfee will share his story of how he lives the work of equity by promoting just and fair inclusion into a society in which all can participate, prosper, and reach their full potential.