Explore the complete list of Breakout Sessions

Breakout Sessions will be offered throughout the day on Thursday, September 28, and in the morning on Friday, September 29.  They will not conflict with Keynote Speakers.

Breakout Sessions last approximately 1 hour.  You do not need to register for Breakout Sessions in advance.

Breakout Sessions are grouped to help you choose the sessions that best meet your professional growth needs.  There are three target audiences:

  • Communications 101: The session is focused on the core skills a communicator needs. The audience is early-career communications professionals and veterans who want to brush up on the fundamentals or learn the basics of a new tool or platform.
  • Thinking Big: The session will explore a big idea or question in the philanthropic/nonprofit sector. The audience is interested in exploring philosophical or strategic considerations with their peers.
  • From the Field: The session shares specific examples and case studies that demonstrate the implementation of communication strategies and lessons learned. The audience is someone who wants to see how success is achieved with a detailed look at some of the steps along the way.


Below are the Breakout Session titles.  Scroll down for details.

Thursday 11:00am

Thursday 3:00pm

Friday 10:15am


 
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Free, as in a Puppy: Lessons Learned from Building a Digital Strategy Capacity Program

Breakout Leaders

  • Chiara Wegener, External Affairs Manager, Nellie Mae Education Foundation
  • Randall Smith, Digital Strategist, PowerLabs
  • Zack Mezera, Executive Director, Providence Student Union

Breakout Description

Giving someone a free puppy sounds great at first, but a cute little puppy turns into quite the expense that needs to be fed, walked, and taken to the vet! Similarly, many funders have struggled to offer grantees free technical assistance programs that increase capacity and effectiveness without creating new, time-intensive hurdles for the grantee. In this session, you’ll find out how the Nellie Mae Education Foundation designed a digital communications technical assistance program that helped grantees strengthen their communications practices, earn media attention, and accelerate change. We’ll also highlight some successes, share lessons learned, and discuss how you can walk the tightrope between offering support and not overburdening your grantees.

Key Takeaways

  1. How to build a technical assistance program around digital communications from the ground-up
  2. How to create technical assistance that is personalized to each grantee, without burdening them too much
  3. How a digital communications technical assistance program can accelerate the work of your grantees

Audience

From the Field: The session shares specific examples and case studies that demonstrate the implementation of communication strategies and lessons learned. The audience is someone who wants to see how success is achieved with a detailed look at some of the steps along the way.


 
 

Pathways, Pitfalls and Preaching: Refreshing Your Organizational Values

Breakout Leaders

  • Phil Zepeda, Director of Communications, Robert R. McCormick Foundation
  • Courtney SteckDirector of Organizational Effectiveness and Strategic Initiatives, Robert R. McCormick Foundation

Breakout Description

How visible and tangible are organizational values in your organization? Are they “there” but only present in a binder or framed on the wall? Do your staff, volunteers, grantees and community know what you stand for, what you believe in? Core values support the vision, shape the culture and reflect an organization’s core beliefs. They become the heart of a team’s DNA and are evident in every decision made, every step forward, every fall back.  But if they aren’t visible and refreshed over time to reflect changing organizational cultures, they will fade and diminish your optimism and mission. But attention to the vitality and depth of an organization’s core values can increase productivity, job satisfaction, and program success. Take a journey with leadership from Chicago’s Robert R. McCormick Foundation as they walk you through the process they undertook to update the Foundation’s organizational values, gather input and feedback, and implement new ideas that bring their values to life. A brief workshop exercise at the conclusion will help you launch your own values refresh initiative.

Key Takeaways

  1. How to create an initiative to refresh values in your organization
  2. Gathering input on organizational values from staff, donors, your Board and other key stakeholders
  3. Implementing a program that helps promote values integration into all aspects of your foundation’s work.

Audience

Thinking Big: The session will explore a big idea or question in the philanthropic/nonprofit sector. The audience is interested in exploring philosophical or strategic considerations with their peers.


 
 

First, Do No Harm: The Top Five Communications Practices That Should Change Today

Breakout Leaders

  • Shaun Adamec, Director of Strategic Communications, Nellie Mae Education Foundation
  • Nat Kendall-Taylor, Ph.D, CEO, FrameWorks Institute

Breakout Description

The communications profession is an ever-evolving field of practice. This session will examine five of the most common communications practices in the field today through the lens of cutting edge framing research. Beyond simply advancing a message, we will use real-world examples to explore what research shows are the most effective ways to shift mindsets, and truly drive change through strategic communications.

  • How important is it that our messages resonate with audiences?
  • What are the best ways to counter inaccurate information?
  • How can I convince my audience of the urgency of my issue?
  • How much do I really need to tailor each message for its intended target audience?
  • How do we present our issue in a way that will lead people to support systemic change?

With the latest in strategic framing research, this workshop will bust open many of the most common trends in the communications field and explore how they may actually be having the opposite of the intended effect.

Key Takeaways

  1. What the latest in strategic framing research says about the most common communications practices in the field today
  2. How our initial instincts in strategic messaging may be having the opposite of the intended impact
  3. How the ways in which we frame the problems we seek to solve impact the ways in which our audiences consider potential solutions to those problems.

Audience

From the Field: The session shares specific examples and case studies that demonstrate the implementation of communication strategies and lessons learned. The audience is someone who wants to see how success is achieved with a detailed look at some of the steps along the way.


 
 

Difficult Conversations: How to Communicate Changes in Your Grantmaking to a Variety of Audiences

Breakout Leaders

  • Jennifer Oldham, MTS, Program and Communications Officer, The Healing Trust

Breakout Description

No one looks forward to having difficult conversations, but hard conversations are inevitable. Having these conversations with organizations that you fund can be even harder to do when you understand the challenges they face. Navigating these conversations with board members presents its own set of challenges and can be intimidating.

In this session, we will explore a variety of strategies for tackling difficult conversations with applicants, grantees, and board members while, simultaneously, maintaining transparency. We’ll discuss ways to effectively communicate budget cuts, the conclusion of grants programs, and the end of a foundation’s relationship with its grantees.

Key Takeaways

  1. Attendees will learn how to use a holistic communications strategy to navigate difficult conversations with applicants, grantees, and board members
  2. Attendees will learn how to avoid potential verbal landmines
  3. Attendees will learn how to relay undesirable information in a way that decreases the likelihood of a negative response

Audience

From the Field: The session shares specific examples and case studies that demonstrate the implementation of communication strategies and lessons learned. The audience is someone who wants to see how success is achieved with a detailed look at some of the steps along the way.


 
 

Building Your Leadership's Street Cred: A Statewide Foundation's Experience with Listening Tours

Breakout Leaders

  • Taryn Fort, Communications Director, Colorado Health Foundation
  • Karen McNeil-Miller, President and CEO, Colorado Health Foundation

Breakout Description

Strong relationships are key to addressing complex issues, such as Coloradans’ health. Just 13 days into Karen McNeil-Miller’s position as the new CEO of the Colorado Health Foundation, she set out on a statewide tour to foster relationships and understand how communities view and value health. The award-winning #HealthiestCO Statewide Listening Tour was led by the Foundation’s communications team as an engagement strategy focused on events and an integrated multimedia campaign.

Ultimately, the Foundation engaged more than 1,400 Coloradans in 40+ counties. The Foundation was able to establish a new presence for leadership and envision new local engagement methods for mission impact. The tour not only established Karen’s “street cred”, but also informed organizational strategic direction. During this session, attendees will experience a mock tour session led by Karen and the communications team to hear perspectives and lessons from the experience. Karen will highlight how a simple request to tour Colorado resulted in the Foundation establishing a deeper approach to community engagement and a refined overall brand.

Key Takeaways

  1. CEO perspective on the value of communications to develop institutional reputation and influence
  2. Communications perspective on how to design a strategy that establishes the reputation of new leadership and the organization
  3. Lessons learned and how organizations of any size can replicate the tour concept

Audience

From the Field: The session shares specific examples and case studies that demonstrate the implementation of communication strategies and lessons learned. The audience is someone who wants to see how success is achieved with a detailed look at some of the steps along the way.


 
 

Back to the Future: Equipping Your Organization to Win in a World of Breakneck Digital Innovation

Breakout Leaders

  • Jono Smith, Marketing & Digital Strategy Director, Make-A-Wish Foundation
  • Michael Hoffman, CEO, See3 Communications

Breakout Description

Self-driving cars, cancer-fighting nanobots, social media changing the course of political history... for better or worse, we’re living in the future and facing new digital innovations at a breakneck pace. Is your organization keeping up, or is it going to get run over? In this breakout session, we’re not only going to talk about tools like Facebook Live and Snapchat. We’re going to learn how organizations need to adapt from the inside in order to better meet the challenges of this new digital world. You’ll learn that with the right approach you will not only survive, but thrive.

We’ll look at examples of nonprofits getting it right such as Make-A-Wish, who recently updated their 35-year-old storytelling strategy to ride the digital wave and better connect with donors, advocates, and volunteers. And you’ll learn how you can conduct a technology audit and get your organization on the path to creating more meaningful and innovative communications. You’ll discover principles that enable you to evaluate the new next thing with an eye toward impact. In a futuristic world where you talk to your computer, where everyone is carrying a professional-quality video camera in their pocket, and the next social media site is reinventing messaging yet again, you can still create content that changes lives forever.

Key Takeaways

  1. Why organizational alignment and capacity building is so important to achieving success in audience growth and retention
  2. How to perform a technology audit and adequately assess your organization’s ability to achieve success
  3. How Make-A-Wish’s learning model has improved internal and external communications across the national and affiliate offices, and set them up for future digital success

Audience

Thinking Big: The session will explore a big idea or question in the philanthropic/nonprofit sector. The audience is interested in exploring philosophical or strategic considerations with their peers.


 
 

Designing Communications With — Not For—Your Grantees

Breakout Leaders

  • Neha Singh Gohil, Communications Officer, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
  • TJ Bliss, Program Officer, Education, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
  • Tanja Hester, Senior Vice President, GMMB
  • Nicole Allen, Director of Open Education, Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition

Breakout Description

Do you have a strong field-wide communications strategy for your issue area? Do your grantees know about it? Do they care?

Funders animate their visions for change by working with various organizations. But often, communications is not something grantees have in common. From message language to strategy to style, each organization often has wildly different communications priorities. And nobody wants their funder telling them what to say.

This session explores how to align grantees’ communications approaches with a broader, field-led communications strategy. It builds off the Hewlett Foundation’s work with GMMB and partners in the Open Educational Resources (OER) community—a group of education grantees who work to make high quality learning materials freely available. In 2016, this coalition launched a rapid response and messaging approach around OER to guard against misrepresentation and attacks as OER gains popularity and national attention.

We’ll answer key questions about grantee communications, including:

  • How can funders integrate grantee perspectives into communications strategies and planning processes?
  • How can we build message consistency while valuing grantees’ diverse abilities and concerns?
  • How can we empower grantees to lead communications for their field?
  • How can communications teams partner with program staff to embed communications in institutional goals?

Key Takeaways

  1. Steps for involving and empowering grantees to lead communications efforts for their fields
  2. How to give grantees the communications support they need while building on a larger communications approach for the movement
  3. Tips for integrating grantee perspectives into the strategy and planning process

Audience

From the Field: The session shares specific examples and case studies that demonstrate the implementation of communication strategies and lessons learned. The audience is someone who wants to see how success is achieved with a detailed look at some of the steps along the way.


 
 

A Nation’s Story: Designing the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture Online Experience

Breakout Leaders

  • Lanae Spruce, Manager of Social Media and Digital Engagement, National Museum of African American History and Culture, Smithsonian Institution
  • Joey Tackett, Managing Director of Creative, Forum One

Breakout Description

The highly-anticipated Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) opened in 2016 in Washington, D.C. Over a million visitors have already experienced the stunning building and rich historical and cultural exhibits—but what about those who may never make it to the building? This question drove the web design process that began over a year before the historic grand opening.

The website was designed to be a truly unique experience, striving to balance the rich history with a current voice for African American history and culture. This digital experience engages online museum goers through immersive design and smart content strategy.

Lanae Spruce, Manager of Social Media and Digital Engagement NMAAHC & Joey Tackett, Managing Director of Creative, Forum One (NMAAHC’s web partner) will lead the presentation and facilitate the discussion.

Lanae and Joey will explore:

  • Developing the scalable framework: establishing a structure to present powerful stories in a unique way.
  • Designing the experience: adding emotion and setting the stage visuals for users to engage with the site’s content.
  • Digital storytelling: making historical content relevant for today’s online audience, from the website to social media and beyond.

Key Takeaways

  1. Content strategy tips for organizations that have deep content and/or historical content
  2. Tips and best practices for designing a digital experience from a physical one
  3. Tips for pushing large amounts of content across multiple digital channels

Audience

From the Field: The session shares specific examples and case studies that demonstrate the implementation of communication strategies and lessons learned. The audience is someone who wants to see how success is achieved with a detailed look at some of the steps along the way.


 
 

Sparking a Communications and Advocacy Ecosystem: A Guide for Funders and Partners

Breakout Leaders

  • Kollin Min, Senior Program Officer, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
  • Catherine Hinrichsen, Project Director, Project on Family Homelessness, Institute of Public Service, Seattle University
  • Christena Coutsoubos, Director of Strategic Communications, Building Changes

Breakout Description

Foundations, nonprofits, government and academia each play unique roles in advocacy and social change initiatives. But how can these sectors collaborate effectively toward a common purpose, harnessing and leveraging the power of each other to ensure maximum impact? The presenters will share lessons they have learned from working closely together over the past 7 years on communications and advocacy initiatives aimed at reducing family homelessness in the Puget Sound region of Washington state.

Facilitated by the funder of these initiatives, this panel will feature representatives from a major urban university and a nonprofit intermediary who will discuss how they worked together to develop a communications ecosystem that ensured that the issue of family homelessness would be prioritized by state and local governments. The panel will address:

  • The challenges and opportunities of working across sectors
  • Tips for convening and building a collaborative workspace for advocates
  • Identifying shared goals and complementary skills and disciplines
  • Overview of communications and advocacy goals of the Family Homelessness Initiative
  • How to develop a portfolio of advocates
  • Tales of unexpected cross-sector collaboration
  • Examples of how collaborative efforts succeeded in changing policy

Key Takeaways

  1. How to spark collaboration across organizations and sectors towards a common goal
  2. How advocacy and communications portfolios can complement social change initiatives
  3. How to align the work of multiple grantees for greater impact

Audience

From the Field: The session shares specific examples and case studies that demonstrate the implementation of communication strategies and lessons learned. The audience is someone who wants to see how success is achieved with a detailed look at some of the steps along the way.


 
 

Communicating in a “Post Fact” World: The Missing Art and Science of Explanation

Breakout Leaders

  • Joe Voeller, Director of Communications, NoVo Foundation
  • Meg Bostrom, Co-founder, Topos Partnership

Breakout Description

It seems we are in an environment where facts don’t matter. We’ve learned (rightly) that issue advocacy is a competition between values. However, communicators risk an overreliance on values, and ignore the power of explanation-based communications. People’s basic understanding of how an issue works fundamentally shapes the policy solutions they accept.

For example, the “trickle-down economics” metaphor “taught” that money flows from the wealthy to everybody else. Long after the phrase died, the image continued to resonate and shape policy. Appeals to sympathy are beside the point, if you believe workers get better wages only when investors have more to invest. Progressive economic policy requires a new understanding of how the economy works.

In NoVo’s efforts to address commercial sexual exploitation, we found that Americans embraced our values, but landed on the wrong solution. The more we emphasized the need to protect women and girls from harm, the more they felt prostitution should be legalized—because it would make women safer. To address this obstacle, we developed a new common sense explanation for how this issue actually works.

In this interactive presentation we’ll share our experience and describe key approaches—causal sequences, cognitive models, and metaphor.

Key Takeaways

  1. The power of common sense explanation in advocacy communications
  2. The difference between facts and explanations
  3. Tools for creating simple explanations such as causal sequences, cognitive models, and metaphor

Audience

Communications 101: The session is focused on the core skills a communicator needs. The audience is early-career communications professionals and veterans who want to brush up on the fundamentals or learn the basics of a new tool or platform.


 
 

Getting Return on Your Research Investment: 3 Key Steps to Effectively Communicate Research

Breakout Leaders

  • Lucas Held, Director of Communications, The Wallace Foundation
  • Jeffrey Rosenberg, EVP, Nonprofits & Causes Practice Leader, Crosby Marketing Communications
  • Danielle Kim, Director of Policy and Communications, Boston After School and Beyond

Breakout Description

Concepts that are clear to researchers and issue experts, whether percentages and probability estimates, correlations or effect sizes, can be confusing to the public and professionals alike—making effective communications vital to having foundation-commissioned research pay off in field improvements. Yet, too often, communications professionals are brought in at the last minute to write a press release. The result: At best, lost opportunities; at worst, confusion (even resentment) and misunderstandings.

Based on the experiences of The Wallace Foundation’s National Summer Learning Project that included a major RAND research effort, best practices in research communications, and analysis of prior mistakes, this session offers an alternative three-step process to reduce the chance of misunderstandings and increase utilization.

Step 1 is transparent, upfront communications with subjects and stakeholders. This is especially important for studies in low-income, urban communities, such as the NSLP, where the Tuskegee effect can cast a shadow. Step 2 involves ongoing engagement with those stakeholders. Step 3 is the delicate work of turning complex research findings into credible messages that allows your key audiences to walk away with an accurate understanding of what the findings mean. This evidence-based approach can help ensure that your investment in research makes a difference.

Key Takeaways

  1. How to effectively leverage communications to support research projects—along with key mistakes (learned from experience) to avoid
  2. What communications research reveals about how to communicate data so the public will accurately understand research findings
  3. How to convert complex data into accessible and understandable messaging

Audience

From the Field: The session shares specific examples and case studies that demonstrate the implementation of communication strategies and lessons learned. The audience is someone who wants to see how success is achieved with a detailed look at some of the steps along the way.


 
 

Collaborating with Community and Nonprofit Partners to Gather, Listen, and Learn From Voices that Matter

Breakout Leaders

  • Jean Westrick, Director of Civic Engagement and Partnerships, The Chicago Community Trust
  • Lilly Weinberg, Program Director for Community Foundations, Knight Foundation
  • Norma Ramos, Director of Engagement and Partnerships, University of Illinois at Chicago’s Institute for Policy and Civic Engagement

Breakout Description

On the Table is an award-winning annual forum designed to elevate civic conversation, foster new relationships, and create a unifying experience across the region. Now in its fourth year in Chicago, nearly 100,000 residents (and counting) have gathered in small groups to share a meal and discuss the challenges and opportunities facing the community. These conversations have inspired new ways we can work together to make our communities stronger, safer and more dynamic. The On the Table initiative has expanded the way that the Trust engages with the community, and has offered organizations, individuals, and civic leaders a platform to deepen their commitment to our region and spark new relationships with their fellow residents. In January, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation contributed over $1M to help ten cities replicate this civic engagement platform.

Key Takeaways

  1. Designing interactive community engagement initiatives
  2. Using community input to inform strategies, identify opportunities and spark collaborations
  3. Broadening and diversifying audience reach

Audience

Thinking Big: The session will explore a big idea or question in the philanthropic/nonprofit sector. The audience is interested in exploring philosophical or strategic considerations with their peers.


 
 

Advocacy Communications: How to Strengthen Movements and Effect Change

Breakout Leaders

  • Nick Rathod, Executive Director, State Innovation Exchange
  • Nishith Bhatt, Chief Relationship Officer, Hershey Cause Communications
  • Teresa Alonso Leon, House District 22, Oregon House of Representatives

Breakout Description

Now more than ever, communications professionals are being called to implement high-impact strategies around issues that affect communities. The Montgomery bus boycott happened 9 years before the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and was itself the result of earlier resistance and advocacy. In the current moment, we cannot afford two decades before we see the passage of legislation that responds to the needs and demands of movements on the ground. We will use this session to create a dialogue about how to improve advocacy communication to harness energy that’s focused on the national level and get responsive legislation passed in the states starting now. We not only hope to inspire and empower attendees, but we will share specific ideas and communications strategies to foster stronger connections between the people fighting and innovating in communities and the people who are in positions to support, amplify, and help realize the people-centered vision that drives and informs that vital, life-changing work.

Key Takeaways

  1. How to harness energy from national movements to focus on state and local advocacy
  2. How to listen to and build authentic coalitions with communities, grassroots, civil society, and government
  3. How to bring together diverse coalitions to speak with one voice 

Audience

From the Field: The session shares specific examples and case studies that demonstrate the implementation of communication strategies and lessons learned. The audience is someone who wants to see how success is achieved with a detailed look at some of the steps along the way.


 
 

Speaking with a Unified Voice: How to Build Communicating Coalitions to Achieve Greater Impact

Breakout Leaders

  • Paul Silva, Strategic Communications Manager, Ford Foundation
  • Veronica Selzler, Senior Associate, Hattaway Communications
  • RJ Bee, Senior Vice President, Hattaway Communications

Breakout Description

You and coalition partners work to advance shared goals. But mixed messages and divergent strategies might keep you from making progress that could be possible by coordinating communications to speak with a unified voice.

Join strategists from Hattaway Communications for an interactive workshop that will introduce research and tools to help get your partners on the same page. You’ll learn how to work with coalitions to build consensus around meaningful goals and objectives, and develop shared messages about complicated ideas to amplify impact. You will walk away with ideas, tools and techniques that can help you:

  • Co-create messages and communications objectives that coalition partners can unite behind.
  • Equip partners with digital tools to drive shared strategies and implement coordinated communications.

You’ll also leave with tools for how you can begin to apply these ideas in your own coalition, helping mobilize partners to achieve impact that would not be possible alone.

Key Takeaways

  1. The benefits and nuts-and-bolts of coordinating coalition communications
  2. How to co-create shared messages with a diverse set of partners
  3. Examples of digital tools and other resources used by coalitions to coordinate communications

Audience

Other: Funders and nonprofits who work with coalitions and want to enhance their collective impact through communications


 
 

Innovation at Work: How Nonprofit Communicators can Become Catalysts for Organizational Change

Breakout Leaders

  • Bridget Lowell, Chief Communications Officer, Urban Institute
  • Kate Villarreal, Director of Strategic Communications, Urban Institute
  • Blythe Thomas, Chief Communications Officer, Partnership for a Healthier America
  • Jennifer Hoyer, Director of Corporate Partnerships, The Nature Conservancy

Breakout Description

Every nonprofit communicator knows the challenges of advancing new ideas in a slow-to-change work environment. Constrained resources, long-held historical norms, matrixed org charts, and consensus-driven decisions—these factors can make it difficult to innovate and accomplish new initiatives. What are some strategies for overcoming these hurdles and creating a nimble, modern work culture where communicators are empowered to innovate for good?

Key Takeaways

  1. How to build an organizational culture and structure that empowers communications teams, encourages collaboration and reduces bureaucracy in both small and large nonprofits
  2. How to pilot new communications products on tight budgets in a risk-averse environment
  3. How to overcome the natural tensions that often exist between communications teams and their counterparts in science, policy, and other content areas

Audience

Other: Current and would-be managers in nonprofits of all sizes. This session is for communicators who want to build capacity for greater impact, increased efficiency, and a more productive work culture.


 
 

Three Years and 30M Unique Users Later: Lessons Learned from Launching a Nonprofit Brand

Breakout Leaders

  • Kevin Hager, Managing Director, Understood
  • Priscilla Rodriguez Keshani, Vice President, Poses Family Foundation
  • Dana Brinson, Programme Officer, Learning Differences Programme, Oak Foundation

Breakout Description

Three years ago Understood.org didn’t exist. Now, we routinely engage more than 2M unique users each month, have secured over $100M in donated media, won a Webby for best family and parenting site, and helped millions of families become more confident and capable. We will share the research-driven approach that we used in designing and building Understood; as well as, the most useful lessons learned over the three years since launch.

The managing director and two of the key funders behind this groundbreaking program will walk you through the inception, its incubation inside of a foundation, and the wins and setbacks we’ve encountered. We will reflect on what most surprised us in the last 3 years and lessons learned around coalition building, reaching and engaging an audience, mobilizing them to action, and raising awareness of an issue that effects 1 in 5 but most had never heard.

At the end of this session you will walk away with:

  • A clear understanding of how we approached product creation
  • Practical tools and tips on overcoming complexity
  • Efficient approaches to scaling issue awareness
  • knowledge of how to work across an ecosystem to build a successful site for social good
  • Ways to measure impact of a digital-first resource

Key Takeaways

  1. Key questions to ask to know your audience better and build from there
  2. How to bring together diverse organizations from across an ecosystem and focus them on one shared set of goals
  3. Practical, proven, scrappy ideas to reach your audience and engage them in your issue.

Audience

From the Field: The session shares specific examples and case studies that demonstrate the implementation of communication strategies and lessons learned. The audience is someone who wants to see how success is achieved with a detailed look at some of the steps along the way.


 
 

The Science of Story Building

Breakout Leaders

  • Ann Searight Christiano, Frank Karel Chair in Public Interest Communications, The University of Florida
  • Annie Neimand, Frank Research Director, University of Florida
  • Matt Sheehan, Director of Stories and Emerging Platforms, University of Florida

Breakout Description

While we know a great deal about why stories work, we don't focus enough about what makes one story more compelling and effective than another. This fall, with support from the Knight Foundation, we brought together 20 scholars from around the world to share their research about what makes one story more memorable, sharable and inspiring than another. These sessions were hosted by people who tell stories for a living--representatives from NPR, Fusion, and one of the world's foremost environmental journalists. We've assembled their insights in a lively, hands-on session that will offer participants opportunities to apply these insights to their own work, and tell stories that reflect the best of what science teaches us.

Key Takeaways

  1. How to use the best of what we know from science to construct stories that are compelling, persuasive and memorable
  2. How to construct narratives that create space for audiences to see their own values reflected
  3. Where to find new insights that can inform effective story building

Audience

Other: Using social science to increase the effectiveness of our work


 
 

Storytelling in a Thunderstorm: Communicating Through a Crisis

Breakout Leaders

  • Craig Minassian, Chief Communications Officer, Clinton Foundation
  • Tom Watson, Founder, Cause Wired
  • Donna Shalala, Former President, Clinton Foundation; Former President and Professor of Political Science, University of Miami; Former Secretary, Health and Human Services (HHS)

Breakout Description

Social impact and philanthropic organizations already start from an interest deficit in a media business driven by the bottom line.

Throughout 2016, the downward spiral from clutter to click-bait to fake, weaponized news has resulted in a fundamental shift of how people trust and consume information. Now more than ever, organizations must be prepared for when they unexpectedly find themselves at the center of a storm.

In this session, you will hear firsthand about key strategies deployed by organizations like the Clinton Foundation to stem the tide of misinformation, misperception and fake news, while firmly communicating who they are, what they believe in, and how their charitable work has improved lives around the world. From developing strategic and substantive media partnerships, ramping up fact-checking efforts, reinforcing digital content and brand strategy, or building out an effective surrogate program—this workshop will provide helpful insight on universal ideas that can help organizations prepare for a wave of media scrutiny, criticism or inquiry.

Key Takeaways

  1. Actionable strategies for preparing for, understanding, and responding to a communications crisis
  2. Approaches for managing negative media attention or a barrage of criticism
  3. Tactics for proactively positioning the work and partnering with others to tell your story when crisis hits

Audience

From the Field: The session shares specific examples and case studies that demonstrate the implementation of communication strategies and lessons learned. The audience is someone who wants to see how success is achieved with a detailed look at some of the steps along the way.


 
 

Print AND Digital—Organizations as Publishers

Breakout Leaders

  • Eileen Willis, Editorial Director, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts
  • Robert Nolan, Director of Communications and Content Strategy, Carnegie Corporation of New York

Breakout Description

For many organizations, print is a tried and true way to reach core audiences, while digital publishing can help cultivate new ones. How do the two work together? How can foundations and nonprofits tap their resources to create authentic, compelling print content in a way that connects with audiences and aligns with their digital products? And how can lessons from the print world inform digital publications (and vice versa)? This session will offer lessons learned from launching (or relaunching) two different publications, one print, one digital, and will invite participants to share tactical knowledge from their own organizations.

Key Takeaways

  1. How to choose the best medium for reaching your existing audience
  2. How to create authentic, compelling content to reach new audiences
  3. How to build a publishing infrastructure

Audience

From the Field: The session shares specific examples and case studies that demonstrate the implementation of communication strategies and lessons learned. The audience is someone who wants to see how success is achieved with a detailed look at some of the steps along the way.


 
 

Technological Innovation? That’s the Easy Part

Breakout Leaders

  • Lee Rainie, Director of Internet, Science and Technology, Pew Research Center

Breakout Description

As digital technology infuses everyday life, it will affect people’s behavior and the broad social, economic, and political environment. This world of ubiquitous data and algorithm-driven analytics raises new challenges about how organizations can promote useful information; how they can deal with a hyper-partisan environment where people have new ways to torment each other; and how they can cement trust in an untrusting world. Among the key questions:

  • How do people struggle finding the right information?
  • What new social fissures emerge from those challenges?
  • What role do mediating institutions in civil society play in helping ease new problems?

Key Takeaways

  1. How philanthropic messaging will fit into information diet of people in the "datacosm" that is emerging
  2. Why "social innovation" is the most urgent need in the new era
  3. Why “next generation” communications requires all groups to think like publishers, act like community organizers, build like net-weavers

Audience

Thinking Big: The session will explore a big idea or question in the philanthropic/nonprofit sector. The audience is interested in exploring philosophical or strategic considerations with their peers. 


 
 

Are You a Unicorn? Key Qualities to Build an Awesome Communications Shop

Breakout Leaders

  • Taj Carson, CEO, Carson Research Consulting 
  • Tristan Mohabir, Editorial and Operations Officer, The Communications Network
  • Sheila Matano, Research Analyst, Carson Research Consulting

Breakout Description

Organizations that communicate well are stronger, smarter, and more effective. So how do we excel at a time when modern strategic communications are rapidly evolving? To better understand the trends and gain more detailed insight, CRC and CommNet implemented a survey to get a clearer, data-driven definition of what skills, qualities and competencies are necessary for people who do work for the greater good to do communications work well. In this session, we will review results from the survey, share lessons learned, and have talk with you about what competencies can help your organization communicate better. Curious about the results? Findings from the survey can be accessed here.

Key Takeaways

  1. A better understanding of what other communication shops struggle with and what they think is most important to ensure the future of communications.

  2. An understanding of what organizational barriers you might be facing in your own communications team.

  3. A list of key competencies you need to build an awesome communication shop.

Audience

Thinking Big: The session will explore a big idea or question in the philanthropic/nonprofit sector. The audience is interested in exploring philosophical or strategic considerations with their peers.


 
Breakout--Print AND Digital—Organizations as publishers.jpg
 

BREAKOUT LEADERS

  • Jeff Stanger, Partner and Vice President, Alley Interactive

  • David Nassar, Vice President for Communications, Brookings

  • Barry Scholl, Senior Vice President for Communications and Publishing, The Commonwealth Fund

  • Ari Kramer, Communications Officer, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

BREAKOUT DESCRIPTION

Let’s face it, your web publishing needs more cowbell. Compared with the dazzling interactives, data visualizations, and multimedia stories turned out by those at the leading edge of the web and online journalism, your “blog,” those weighty reports, and that endless pile of PDFs are looking pretty long in the tooth these days. Join us as we examine timely case studies in data visualization and web publishing along with some leading foundation- and nonprofit-sector organizations. We’ll have success stories to share, but also some frank conversation about things that didn’t work. Come with case studies from your own work. As a group, we’ll get a picture of the strategies, challenges, and results of new approaches to digital publishing

KEY TAKEAWAYS

1. An understanding of the wide range of possibilities in modern digital publishing including data visualization and long-form content

2. An appreciation for how some foundations and nonprofits are devising strategies and overcoming challenges inherent in a rapidly evolving digital landscape

3. How to gauge success (or not) of data visualization and web publishing projects

AUDIENCE

From the Field: The session shares specific examples and case studies that demonstrate the implementation of communication strategies and lessons learned. The audience is someone who wants to see how success is achieved with a detailed look at some of the steps along the way.