Principal and Creative Director, Barkada Creative
As partner to nonprofits, Pon is passionate about creating their distinct brand using his depth of real-world experience in communication design, event marketing and storytelling. Part artist and part engineer, Pon fuses seemingly disparate concepts to spark bold, new ideas that can lead to meaningful transformation. He has served as Nonprofit SIG Director for the American Marketing Association, Marketing SIG Chair for the Association Forum and Program Chair for the Chicago Area Chapter of the Grant Professionals Association. Pon’s unique approach is driven by his understanding for how principles and methods in science, business and the arts can converge for innovative problem solving. He has a BS Engineering Management, BFA Industrial Design and BFA Communication Design from the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Executive Director, Motorola Solutions Foundation Director – Inclusion, Diversity, and Culture Motorola Solutions
Matt Blakely has more than 20 years of experience working with private and corporate foundations. Since 2005, Matt has coordinated the foundation and corporate giving programs of Motorola and Motorola Solutions Foundation, a company recognized by Points of Light as one of the fifty most community-minded companies in the United States.He develops philanthropic strategies and directs grants, corporate contributions and volunteer programs focused on science education, public safety training, and disaster response.
Motorola Solutions Foundation and Motorola Solutions employees make contributions totaling more than 70,000 volunteer hours and $12 million in over 35 countries annually. Since 2017, Matt’s responsibilities expanded to include the coordination of Motorola Solutions’ Inclusion and Diversity efforts.Before joining the Motorola Solutions, Matt was Senior Program Officer in the Communities Program at the McCormick Tribune Foundation where he helped guide the philanthropic giving of 11 different companies across the United States.
He currently serves on the board of the Chicago History Museum including the museum’s OUT committee.He is also active in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) Funders Network, and recently joined the Inclusion and Diversity Committee of the Red Cross of Chicagoland
Facebook: Motorola Solutions, Foundation Twitter: @MSIFoundation
Director of Policy, Cook County Health & Hospitals System, Northwestern
Kathy is the Director of Policy for Cook County Health & Hospitals System where she provides leadership on policy activities and initiatives for one of the largest public hospital systems in the nation.
Previously, Kathy was the Associate Director and Director of Policy and Advocacy for EverThrive Illinois (formerly the Illinois Maternal and Child Health Coalition), where she worked for over ten years. From 2002-2006, Kathy staffed EverThrive Illinois’ Covering Kids and Families Project. Her efforts there helped Illinois gain recognition as a national leader in outreach and enrollment.
Kathy also worked at the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, where she assisted with strategic enrollment efforts and the implementation of All Kids. She is an appointed member and elected Chair of the Illinois Medicaid Advisory Committee and serves on the boards of the Midwest Access Project and Delta Dental Foundation of Illinois. Kathy formerly served on the boards of Chicago Volunteer Doulas, IFLOSS, and YNPN Chicago.
Kathy was recognized for her policy work with an award from Health and Medicine Policy Research Group in 2012. Kathy graduated with a B.A. in English from Northwestern University and began her career as an organizer with Green Corps.
Executive Director, Esperanza Community Services
As the Executive Director of Esperanza Community Services, Joy Decker is committed to serving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to help improve their quality of life. Joy joined Esperanza in 2014 and has over 22 years working in social service organizations that serve people with disabilities.
Prior to Esperanza, Joy worked at Orchard Village where she held various roles including case manager, residential director, senior director of programs, and president and CEO. She holds a B.A. in Psychology from Drake University and a M.A. in Nonprofit Administration with distinction from North Park University. Joy continues to stay connected with North Park and serves on the Axelson Symposium planning committee and the Alford-Axelson Award committee. She is a seasoned strategic executive with proven experience and demonstrated results in program development, community outreach, and strategic change.
Assistant Director, Executive & Strategic Projects, Dental Assisting National Board
Marissa, PMP, has 14 years of experience with associations and nonprofit organizations in Chicago. She currently serves as Assistant Director, Executive & Strategic Projects at the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) and its affiliate, the DALE Foundation. Prior to DANB, Marissa was the Nonprofit Programs Manager at Donors Forum (now Forefront). From 2010 – 2013, she was a member of the volunteer executive board at the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network (YNPN) of Chicago and served as Executive Co-Chair. Marissa earned a B.A. in English from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and a M.A. in Interdisciplinary Humanities from Arizona State University.
Industry Assistant Professor of Public Admin, ITT
Joanne Howard is an Industry Assistant Professor at the Stuart School of Business at Illinois Institute of Technology. Dr. Howard previously held academic appointments at Roosevelt University, The School of the Art Institute, and DePaul University. Dr. Howard has held senior administrative positions at The University of Chicago, Northwestern University School of Law, and the University of Illinois at Chicago. Prior to moving to Chicago, she worked for the Bureau of Curriculum and Instruction with the Pennsylvania Department of Education, the Office of Migrant Education with the New Jersey Department of Education, and the Chicago Urban League. She attended Hampton Institute where she received her bachelor’s in Sociology, her master’s in Public Administration at the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh, and a doctorate in Public Administration from the College of Urban Planning and Public Administration at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Dr. Howard’s research interests are pipeline programs for underrepresented groups, nonprofit organizations, and school finance reform. She has served on the board of directors of four nonprofit organizations.
Executive Director, Pride Action Tank Aids Foundation of Chicago
Kim has a 30-year career spanning the public, private, and nonprofit sectors with a focus on advocacy, nonprofit management, and training. She is currently the executive director of Pride Action Tank (PAT), a social justice lab devoted to improving outcomes for LGBTQ communities through a collaborative process of inquiry, advocacy, and action. PAT, which launched in the fall of 2015, is a project of the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, where Ms. Hunt also serves as an advocacy advisor.She is the former executive director of Affinity Community Services, a social justice organization that works with and on behalf of Black LGBTQ people and queer youth. While there her accomplishments included working with the board to grow the organization’s income, launching a youth leadership program, greatly increasing public policy involvement and visibility, and securing state funding to implement HIV prevention programs.
Prior to becoming an advocate for LGBTQ rights, Ms. Hunt worked in the private and public sectors. She co-founded a management consulting firm that worked with communities throughout the Midwest to create and implement community development plans and increase the capacity of neighborhood institutions and groups. The first 15 years of her career were in urban planning where she focused on public transportation.In her spare time Ms. Hunt is a co-host of a monthly LGBTQ storytelling event, the political columnist for FOP Magazine, a member of various boards and advisory councils, and occasionally an instructor for courses and workshops. In 2016, Ms. Hunt was inducted in the Chicago LGBT Hall of Fame.
Chief Financial Officer, Marillac St. Vincent Family Services
Karen has served as Chief Financial Officer since July, 2015 and has been involved with Marillac St. Vincent Family Services for over 20 years including serving as Chair of the Board of Trustees and Chair of the Finance Committee. Prior to joining MSV, Karen’s 30+ year financial career was with for-profit companies, including most recently as Group Senior Vice President Finance at RR Donnelley. She has a B.S. in Accountancy from Northern Illinois University, MBA from Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University and is a Certified Public Accountant, a Certified Management Accountant, and a Six Sigma Green Belt.
Executive Director, Peer Health Exchange
Danya has a decade of experience in non-profit management across both the direct service and advocacy sectors. She is currently the Executive Director of Peer Health Exchange Chicago (PHE). In this role, she is responsible for the development, management, growth, and evaluation of the PHE Chicago program, raising funds, managing and growing the Chicago Board of Directors, and providing fiscal and organizational oversight for PHE Chicago. Danya previously served as PHE’s Senior Director of Development in San Francisco, California since 2010. Prior to joining PHE, Danya spent over four years at Peace Action West (PAW) as the Deputy Outreach Director, where she was responsible for overseeing California-based programming. While at PAW, she lobbied for disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation with the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability’s DC Days, and managed the GOTV efforts for the 2006 CA-11 race through Peace Action West’s political action committee. Danya graduated from UC Berkeley with a B.A. in Sociology. She is a member of the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs’ JCore, the Chicago Foundation for Women’s LBTQ Giving Council, the Chicago Department of Public Health’s Maternal, Infant, Child, and Adolescent Health (MICAH) Advisory Committee, and is a New Sector Alliance mentor.
Chief Development and Strategy Officer, Navy Pier Inc.
Patrick has deep and wide expertise at the intersection of businesses, government and nonprofit organizations; advising Fortune 500 CEOs; starting a small business as a sophomore in college; leading highly respected nonprofit organizations; and currently, providing consultation on organizational change and program development to nonprofits and businesses.
Highlights of Patrick’s career include his positions as Managing Director and Americans Head of Community Affairs and Corporate Social Responsibility for UBS, as the Public Affairs Director for Sara Lee Corporation, as the founding board chairman for Center on Halsted, and as the current board chair of Woods Fund Chicago. The common thread and strengths that he has exhibited from these roles is the ability to inspire positive change, to support and develop colleagues, and to accomplish ambitious initiatives.
Patrick received his Ph.D. in Public Policy Analysis from the University of Illinois at Chicago; his M.S. in Educational Policy Studies from the University of Kentucky, Lexington; and his B.A. from Asbury College in Kentucky. He has taught courses in nonprofit management and fundraising at Northwestern University’s School of Continuing Studies and Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies.
Senior Director of Bequests in the Gift Planning Department, ALSAC/ St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital
Susan attended St. Norbert College in DePere, WI, where she earned a B.A. in International Business and Spanish. After graduation, Susan held positions with the Embassy of Argentina in Chicago, United Airlines and later worked in a family business. In 1997, Susan began her career in the nonprofit sector, as a Regional Representative for ALSAC / St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in the Chicago Regional Office. Her responsibilities were special event fundraising and volunteer development throughout the Midwest. She quickly moved into management roles, managing teams of special event fundraisers in several offices throughout Illinois and Minnesota that met multi-million dollar yearly budgets.
In 2008, Susan was promoted to Senior Regional Director of Field Operations, working with regional special event field staff, managing regional offices throughout the United States and driving national fundraising programs. In 2011, Susan accepted a position within the ALSAC/St. Jude Gift Planning Department, as a Regional Director on the Bequest Team. In this role, Susan and her team focus on the stewardship of donors who have included St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in their estate plans or hold other planned gifts with the organization. Susan currently serves as the Senior Director of Bequests in the Gift Planning department at ALSAC. In this role, she oversees the strategic direction of the second largest Bequest program in the country, as well as leading a team of 3 Regional Directors and 31 Philanthropic Advisors.
Chicago Executive Director, Health & Medicine Policy Research Group
Margie is the Executive Director of the Health and Medicine Policy Research Group. Prior to taking this position in 1993, Margie was a board member of Health and Medicine and served as its vice president. While maintaining overall responsibility of all of HMPRG’s activities, her specific policy expertise is in public health systems development, health equity, health reform, and women’s health. Prior to joining Health and Medicine, Ms. Schaps served for eight years as the Director of the Women’s Health Resource Center at Illinois Masonic Medical Center, the first in the nation hospital- based comprehensive primary care center for women. Ms. Schaps speaks nationally and locally on a variety of health systems issues, and has published articles on women’s health issues, heath care safety net issues, health system reform, and public health policies. She serves on a number of local and statewide boards and taskforces focused on public health system development. She is passionate about creating a just health system that will improve the health of the public. Ms. Schaps holds a Masters Degree in Public Health from the University of Illinois and a Bachelors Degree from Washington University in St. Louis.
Michelle Sherbun, PCC
President, Merlin Solutions LLC
Michelle Sherbun, PCC, ELI-MP, President of Merlin Solutions, LLC and recently launched Leadership Design Alliance, is committed to strengthening socially conscious leadership across sectors. She brings nearly 40 years of experience in nonprofit management and coaching. A seasoned consultant and accredited coach, Michelle has helped nonprofit leaders surpass fundraising goals and overcome organizational challenges. Through her work as a leadership coach, she brings philanthropists, advisors, businesses, and nonprofit leaders together in radical collaborations that turn good ideas into great solutions.Ms. Sherbun believes that each and every challenge presents organizations with unprecedented opportunities to transform. And she believes that successful people and organizations grow from the inside out. By tapping into the strengths that drive best efforts, clients inspire and motivate themselves and others toward success.She has led numerous management and fund development workshops. She continues to study and work in the area of leadership development and creative problem solving, introducing her clients to new techniques that prepare them to lead change.A published writer and accomplished speaker and trainer on topics related to fundraising, marketing, and personal development, Michelle is past president of the Chicago Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, and a member of the International Association of Advisors in Philanthropy, the Association of Philanthropic Counsel, Women in the Development Profession, the Community Memorial Foundation Capacity Building Initiative Advisory Board, and the International Coaching Federation and its Chicago Chapter. In 2016 Michelle was recognized by AFP Chicago with the Benjamin Franklin Award for her contributions to the fundraising profession.And in 2017, she received the President’s Award for her contributions to the AFP Chicago Chapter.
Executive Director, Retired- Former ED of Polk Bros Foundation
From 1989 to 2012, Nikki was the Executive Director of the Polk Bros. Foundation. She was the first staff person hired after the Foundation separated from the Polk Bros. stores. Nikki worked with the Board to design and implement the Foundation’s giving program and hire its staff. At her retirement, the Foundation’s assets were over $400 million and its grant distributions had grown from $2.5 to more than $20 million a year. Prior to working at the Foundation, Nikki was the studio manager of her husband’s commercial photography studio and also worked as an administrator at the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs. Since retiring, Nikki has served as a consultant to the Polk Bros. Foundation and an informal advisor to staff at numerous Chicago nonprofits.
Nikki is the past chair of the board of Donors Forum and has participated on the steering committees of many funding collaborations, including the 2016 Fund for Chicago Neighborhoods, Arts Work Fund, Fund for Educational Reform, Chicago Arts Partnerships in Education, the Fund for Immigrants and Refugees, and the Partnership for Quality Child Care. She is the past board president of KAM Isaiah Israel Congregation and the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs. Nikki is the board member of the Public Interest Law Initiative, and St. Leonard’s Ministries. She has also received numerous awards and been honored at several events.
Nikki is married to Fred Stein, mother of Max Stein and Benjamin Stein and grandmother of Sophie, Zoe, Molly and Madelyn Stein; life-long resident of Chicago.
Senior Consultant, Practice Director, Spectrum Nonprofit Services
Steve Strang, MPA is currently a Senior Consultant, Practice Director with Spectrum Nonprofit Services where he provides consulting in sustainability strategies for community-based organizations and internal organizational leadership. He is currently an Advisory Board member of the Axelson Center for Nonprofit Management at North Park University and the Evanston-based nonprofit Allowance for Good. Additionally, he is a former Executive Co-Chair of YNPN Chicago and was a member of the YNPN National Chapter Congress.
Prior to joining Spectrum, Steve worked as the Nonprofit Programs Manager at Donors Forum (ForeFront). Additionally, he worked as an Instructor at Madison College, federal grants trainer with the University of Chicago, and for the American Red Cross in both Chicago and Denver. He earned his BS from Grand Valley State University in Public & Nonprofit Administration and MPA from Roosevelt University with an emphasis in Nonprofit Administration.