The Nonprofit Leaders Conference for Coastal & Southwest Washington is an annual gathering for nonprofits throughout Grays Harbor County, Pacific County and beyond. In its 10th year, the conference will offer 19 workshops centered around vital aspects of nonprofit operations, like fundraising, strategic planning and ethics. A full-day conference, this year’s theme is “Everyday Heroes,” celebrating the important work of nonprofit employees and volunteers.

Nonprofit Leaders Conference for Coastal & Southwest Washington Keynote Speaker Susan Howlett
The conference’s keynote speaker, Susan Howlett, is a nonprofit consultant, working in her field for over four decades. Photo courtesy: Nonprofit Leaders Conference

The 2019 Nonprofit Leaders Conference will take place on Friday, September 13 at Grays Harbor College in Aberdeen. Registration opens at 7:30 a.m., with opening remarks starting at 8:00 a.m.

The Nonprofit Leaders Conference was designed to be an accessible continuing education event for coastal and Southwest Washington nonprofits, an opportunity that is not always available in remote regions.

“It’s always been geared towards those communities doing work further out,” explains Jill Rose, board member of the Nonprofit Leaders Conference. “Where it’s harder for them to come to Seattle or go to Portland for a big conference training.”

With a myriad of sessions scheduled throughout the day centering around nonprofit management, the conference has value for employees in any stage of their career.

“We get people from across the board,” explains Rose. “We get executive directors of very small nonprofits who might be the only staff person. We have big organizations like Big Brothers Big Sisters, who send several people. It really runs the gamut from small, completely volunteer run organizations, to bigger ones that really look to this as a training opportunity for their staff that’s really cost-affordable.”

The price to attend the conference is $35, and because of the lower admission, it allows organizations to send multiple employees to the conference, enabling them to learn together and share their knowledge. With 19 sessions offered, each attendee can pick four different workshops to attend throughout the day.

“If you’re a volunteer coordinator, there’s something for you,” says Rose.  “If you’re raising money, there’s something for you. If you’re working with a board or on a board, there’s something for you.”

Jan Brazzell PhD Principal Counsel and CEO, Advancement Consulting Nonprofit Leaders Conference for Coastal & Southwest Washington
Many experts in the nonprofit sector will be leading conference workshops, like Jan Brazzell, PhD, Principal Counsel and CEO of Advancement Consulting. Brazzell’s workshop is titled, “Yes, They DO Exist! Attracting Affluent Donors To Invest In Your Cause.” Photo courtesy: Nonprofit Leaders Conference

Workshops cover the topics of fundraising, grant writing, diversity in the workplace, strategic planning, working with volunteers, fundraising ethics and social media marketing. The conference’s keynote speaker, Susan Howlett is a nonprofit consultant and has been working in the field for over 40 years. An author and faculty at the University of Washington, Howlett will also be leading the breakout session, “Sustaining Our Organizations While Sustaining Ourselves,” at the conference, in addition to her keynote speech.

The Funders Panel is an opportunity for nonprofits to hear directly from funding sources about how funding decisions are made and how to build a more effective funding strategy. The panel is made up of funders from both public and private foundations and in addition to words from a panel, there will also be time allotted for a question and answer session.

A veteran in the Southwest Washington nonprofit sector, Tony Airhart has attended every Nonprofit Leaders Conference, since its inception in 2009. Representing the Friends of the Aberdeen Museum, Coastal Harvest and most recently, as Deputy Director of Connections, A Center for Healthy Families, Airhart values the wide range of topics offered at the conference every year while remaining accessible to rural organizations.

“There always seems to be things that you need to learn about or get better at that are made available to you,” says Airhart. “It’s all in one place, all local and it’s very inexpensive for training. For a lot of nonprofits on the harbor, sending somebody any great distance, especially if it’s overnight, that’s a pretty expensive training proposition. So, I think this conference is a real advantage.”

The conference’s theme is “Everyday Heroes,” concentrating on the sometimes underappreciated and overlooked efforts of nonprofit workers. This theme will be implemented throughout the day, serving as an influence for multiple breakout sessions and an inspiration for conference activities.

“We forget with the drudgery of day to day work, people who choose to do this work usually are making a big impact in their communities through their organizations in whatever role they have,” says Rose. “We really want to celebrate the heroes among us.”

In addition to breakout sessions and a keynote speech, the conference schedule also allots time for networking. Whether catching up with longtime partners, or being introduced to a new organization, the conference will be a chance to build relationships and connections with other area nonprofits.

Grays Harbor College Nonprofit Leaders Conference for Coastal & Southwest Washington
The Nonprofit Leaders Conference for Coastal & Southwest Washington will take place on September 13 at Grays Harbor College in Aberdeen. Photo courtesy: Nonprofit Leaders Conference

“There’s been some very, very valuable contacts that you wouldn’t ordinarily get to make out on the harbor,” explains Airhart. “Even with some of those you may have had some contact with, to be able to see them again in a different context and maybe have some actual time to stand and talk instead of just being there for a presentation, is valuable.”

For this year’s conference, Airhart is sending his employees, the potential next generation of leadership at Connections, to the Nonprofit Leaders Conference. Airhart hopes his employees will be able to sharpen their nonprofit leadership and fundraising knowledge. As Airhart and other senior members of Connections near retirement, he hopes these employees maintain a well-rounded education in nonprofit management as they advance in the organization and in their careers.

“There’s a real advantage to an organization, to having a broad spectrum of knowledge about nonprofits,” says Airhart. “Very rarely do you get to wear one hat entirely. So, being able to help with fundraising, grant writing, budgeting, working with the boards, working with volunteers, all of those aspects of it generally kind of spill over into all of the programs you might have. So, for us to be able to bring those folks along, get them some of that experience and some exposure, is a real benefit.”

To learn more about the conference and for registration information, visit the Nonprofit Leaders Conference of Coastal & Southwest Washington website.


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