Connecting for Impact! Justice for All

August 31, 2015

By Melissa Sines, Director of Education and Accreditation, Maryland Nonprofits & Standards for Excellence Institute

This year, we are planning a different kind of conference. At Maryland Nonprofits, we were deeply affected by the April events in our home city of Baltimore, and we continue to hear from our members that events like this – in our own state and around the country – encourage them to connect their work to systemic change. Deeply entrenched social injustices and disparities mean that communities around our state wrestle daily to combat some of our most pervasive challenges and fill in the gaps where government and the private sector leave people behind. Now, more than ever, we need to meet with our colleagues in the nonprofit sector and find a way forward.

When we say this year will be different, here are some differences you’ll notice right away:

The conference is two days long! All of us together, we have a lot to talk about this year. We’re calling it a “pre-conference,” but Thursday November 12th is packed full of the type of capacity building sessions you’re used to finding at our conference. Strategic Planning, Fundraising, Board Excellence… we’ve got every topic covered. What’s different this year is that you won’t have to pack in session after 50-minute session of content. Choose 1 or 2 pre-conference sessions to attend. They’re 2 hours, 3 hours, or 7 hours in length, allowing you to soak in knowledge, process it, and reflect on your learning. These sessions will be hosted by our member organizations around Montgomery and Prince George’s County near the conference hotel. 

These sessions were specifically designed with nonprofit leaders from the further reaches of the state in mind (but folks in Central Maryland are invited, too!). Come for a pre-conference session and stay with us at the conference hotel. To round out the pre-conference day, we’ll be hosting an evening panel session and a “Meet Maryland Nonprofits Staff” Happy Hour to welcome you to the conference.

More time to network! Friday November 13th will look more like the traditional conference you’re used to, but only on the surface. We’ve got a great keynote planned. You’ll find sponsors and exhibitors to connect you with needed products and services. The Standards for Excellence awards will recognize excellent nonprofits in Maryland. That’s where the similarities end.

If you take a look at the conference agenda, you’ll see two 90 minute breakout sessions. In these small-group deep-dive conversations, you won’t be sitting passively in your seat watching a PowerPoint presentation. You will be engaged in exciting and inspiring conversations with fellow nonprofit leaders. You can join a discussion based on your mission area (or a mission area where you’d like to find more partners). You can join a discussion based on the role you fill in your nonprofit (board member, executive, fundraiser, etc.). Or, you can join a discussion about the big challenges faced by the nonprofit sector as a whole (can collective impact really work?). You will have an opportunity to contribute your voice, your energy, and your commitment to improving the quality of life for all of Maryland.

We’ll end the day with some more connection and reflection at the President’s Reception, held in the beautiful atrium at the Hilton Rockville. Instead of hitting the road right away and sitting in Friday traffic, join us for some light refreshments and energizing conversation.

We’ve got an app for that! We know. You spend a lot of time on your electronic devices. At this conference, we’re not asking you to put your phone away. Take it out. Connect with other attendees. Find a conference map. Check out a nearby restaurant or store. Share your experience on social media. The app will be released about a month before the conference, so be on the look-out for communications about how to download and use the app. For those who may not be as tech-savvy, we’ll have a help-desk on site at the conference to help you navigate the app and find the information you need.

We’re going green! Conference gatherings can really put a strain on resources, so this year we’re making some major changes to reduce our impact on the environment. First – the conference app means there won’t be a conference program book. (Yay! Save the trees!) Second, there won’t be any plastic water bottles. Each conference attendee will receive a great stainless steel water bottle that they can refill throughout the day, and take home with them to encourage the good habits of drinking water and reducing waste. (Want your business name on the water bottles?) Third, the conference location is accessible via public transportation. Take the metro or the bus (but, if you have to drive because you’re not local, the parking is free!) Do you have other ideas for reducing our footprint? Let us know!

Connecting for Impact: Justice for All is an event carefully designed to enable all of us to connect and accelerate the work we do every day in nonprofit organizations. You will be given the gift of time: Time to discuss. Time to connect with great people. Time to think long-term. Time to breathe a sense of renewal and vision into your every-day work. It is our belief that the nonprofit sector has an important role to play in creating a more just and equitable world. We aim to reclaim, renew, and give voice to the value that the nonprofit sector brings to our cities and towns. With your participation, this conference will benefit all of us by connecting people, connecting our organizations, and connecting our voices for a better quality of life for all Marylanders.

So, to recap:
Why You Should Attend
• Connect with leaders working in your mission area, or in the same role as you, or who are facing the same big issues as you are.
• Develop shared goals with others in your community to create a greater impact
• Strengthen the partnership capacity of your organization
• Hear from others about what’s working – and what’s not working
• Leave ready to implement concrete solutions that address your community’s challenges


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