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Opt In: Nonprofit Communications Conference

2019 Breakout Sessions + Topics

Participants will select the breakout sessions they wish to attend on the day of the conference. New and updated session descriptions are being added each day.

Looking for a little more beyond the breakout sessions? Attend a Table Chat in that time slot and get some one-on-one advice on a particular project or communications issue, or sign up to do a Creative Digital Speed Session. Learn more here!

Read about our 2019 Presenters + Volunteers.


Breakout Sessions – Round 1 (10:15am-11:30am)

1A: Email Marketing for Nonprofits: A Case Study with Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland
Presenters: Jeana Roth, Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland + Suzanne Madore, ARLGP Volunteer

During this session, attendees will be brought up to speed with email marketing best practices, including deployment options, frequency, subject lines, and more. Local nonprofit and email marketing superstar, Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland, will share their email strategy, wins, losses, and what they’ve discovered since they first hit “send.” Attendees will walk away from this session inspired to reinvigorate their email programs with tactics they can start implementing immediately.

Intended Audience: Communications or development staff; anyone involved with marketing for their organization. Geared toward novice and intermediate levels.


1B: Organizational Names in the News: Manage Yours
Presenter: Roland Adams, Communication for Results

Even in the digital age, which has brought so much greater capability for nonprofit organizations of every resource level to directly reach those they need to engage every day, independent third-party news coverage still has major potential impact for such organizations, for better or worse — as many nonprofits find every year. Regardless of resource level, every nonprofit should have, as one element of its communication efforts, regular pursuit of news coverage that contributes to achievement of its mission.

This session will go over the basics of how to be proactive rather than reactive, and how to manage the ways your organization’s name shows up in the news, as well as what to do after that happens. We’ll also talk about how to scale those efforts to your resource level.

Topics covered will include:

  • Story Spotting: Finding what has potential for coverage by general-interest news organizations.
  • Pitching: When and how you present your possibilities can determinate whether they get “play” or “the spike”.
  • Capitalizing on Success: You won! Great coverage! Go home and celebrate, right? Wrong. How to maximize impact.

Intended Audience: Staff involved with public and media relations for their organization. Geared toward novice and intermediate levels.


1C: Share Your Mission Message: Less “Pitching,” More Connecting
Presenter: Kendra Rand, Kendra Rand Communications

This breakout session will go beyond the “elevator pitch” to explore and practice those public and interpersonal interactions where you aim to truly connect with listeners and advance your cause. Make a lasting, personal impression in the moment; gain new supporters.Key focus areas:

  • Knowing your audience/conversation partner
  • Listening
  • Dispelling myths about charisma and perfection
  • Practicing
  • Setting and meeting communication goals

Participants may gain ideas for wider marketing and messaging purposes, including print, web, and social media content. However, this session will focus on in-person communication. Spoiler: sometimes the most introverted and reluctant team members make the best communicators, and everyone can benefit from these strategies. Join in, see how, and practice.

Intended Audience: Staff, board, or volunteers that want to practice their in-person communications.


1D: Times Are a Changin’: 7 Steps to Developing a Communications Plan for Today
Presenter: Lori Schaefer, Marketing that Matters

The days of unplanned, print-focused, top-down communication are pretty much over if you want your organization to thrive. Today’s competitive, fast-paced, digital world requires strategic, thoughtful, and personalized communication to amplify your mission and attract support.

In this hands-on session, learn how to develop a strategic communications plan in seven simple steps aimed at attracting the right audience(s), with the right message, at the right time and in the right ways. You’ll leave with tangible progress on your communications plan and strategies to make your communication more effective in 2019 and beyond. P.S. It doesn’t have to be hard or time consuming!

Intended Audience: Staff and volunteers involved with creating an organization’s strategic communications plan; geared toward any level (novice to advanced) looking to build a plan or revise their current one to involve more current methods.


1E: The Power of Letting your Audiences See Who You Really Are
Presenters: Adam Burk, Adam Burk + Co. + Leah Hurley, Craft 

Led by communication strategists Leah Hurley and Adam Burk, this breakout session will orient participants in the power of bold, emotionally resonant communications that go beyond the who/what/where of your work and let your audience see the deep WHY driving all you do. There is a massive sea change afoot as more and more for-profit brands are embracing the power of value-based communications and storytelling. Leah and Adam will share takeaways from a pilot program with the Quimby Family Foundation on how these best practices can come to life in the non-profit sector, and lead participants through exercises to connect with this value-focused lens.

Participants will leave with an understanding of the need for value-based messaging, feel the difference of communicating in this way, and be equipped to take the next step to explore this approach with your organization.

Intended Audience: Staff, board, or volunteers that are involved in communications strategy and execution.


Breakout Sessions – Round 2 (1:00pm-2:15pm)

2A: Nonprofit Guide to Using Social Media
Presenters: Suzanne Madore + Hannah Richards, Ethos|Vont

Social media is here to stay but how it works and how we use is it is constantly evolving. In this session, attendees will be brought up-to-speed on the current best practices for social media’s top players and given a number of strategies to maximize the value of their efforts without feeling overwhelmed by the enormity of the social media-sphere. Attendees will have the opportunity to break out into brainstorming sessions as well as ask questions to help overcome their unique social media challenges.

Intended Audience: Staff or volunteers who manage their organization’s social media or anyone looking to learn more on this topic. Geared toward novice and intermediate levels.


2B: Elevating Your Website Presence: Discussion and Live Critiques
Presenters: Peter Anania + Dustyn Bailey, Anania Media

Your organization’s website is fundamental to fundraising, organizing and promoting your mission. This workshop aims to highlight website development best practices through an interactive and engaging conversation. A few lucky participants will have the chance to volunteer their own websites for ‘live’ critiquing and discussion in a safe space to get productive feedback. Presenters hope to equip participants with a better understanding of how to better their organization’s digital presence through their site. Topics to be discussed:

  • Messaging and voice
  • Impactful design
  • User experience
  • Information architecture
  • Compelling copy
  • Effective calls to action
  • Analytics and measuring

Intended Audience: Communications staff, anyone involved with the web development for their organization or business. Geared toward novice and intermediate levels.


2C: Brand Identity: A Case Study with the Portland Public Library
Presenters: Heather Wasklewicz, Portland Public Library

Are you thinking about changing your organization’s brand? Are you nervous about how to begin, or how it might be received? Join Portland Public Library staff as they share the story of their recent process to create a new brand identity for the first time in more than 15 years. They will share each stage of their process from finding key community partners to assist in the process, redefining the organizational identity, choosing key features of the institution to accentuate, modernizing the text and color palette, testing various design options, selecting the final version, implementing the changes for a roll-out, and messaging the change to the public. In this interactive session, you will learn how to build a timeline, decide what does and does not need to change, some pitfalls to avoid, what external help you may need, ideas for a successful launch plan, and much more.

Intended Audience: Communications staff, executive directors, development staff, anyone interested in exploring the process of rebranding and brand identity.


2D: Time for a Party? Leveraging Milestones to Maximize Your Message: Panel Discussion
Moderator: Jennifer Hutchins, Maine Association of Nonprofits
Panelists: Michelle DiSotto, Goodwill Northern New England; Gilda Nardone, New Ventures Maine; and Charity West, consultant

Is your nonprofit celebrating a silver or gold anniversary soon? Is there another big accomplishment on the horizon? Trying to decide how much of a “splash” you want to make? By taking a strategic approach to communications around this important milestone, you can maximize this unique opportunity to promote your organization.

This panel discussion with three professionals who have recently managed milestone campaigns will highlight approaches they have found successful, including special events, sharing stories of impact, and fundraising campaigns. This session will also encourage sharing among all attendees so please come prepared to share your own ideas and experiences.

Intended Audience: Anyone interested in exploring how to leverage a milestone to further their mission.


2E: Google Grants
Presenters: David BrewbakerMichelle Lewis, Mill Cove Partners

Did you know nonprofits can take advantage of up to $10,000 every month for digital advertising from the Google Grants Program? For some organizations, dipping their toe into the world of digital advertising can be an effective means of getting the word out about their mission, recruiting volunteers and donors, or attracting participants to their programs. We’ll explain the Google Grants eligibility and application process, consider what organizations can benefit most, and discuss how to overcome management challenges and stay compliant after you secure your funds.

Intended Audience: Staff and volunteers that manage their organization’s digital presence or anyone wanting to learn about Google Grants.


Breakout Sessions – Round 3 (2:30pm-3:45pm)

3A: To Boost or Not to Boost: Facebook Advertising for Nonprofits
Presenters: Gabrielle Lovi + Hannah Richards, Ethos|Vont

In recent years, social media has grown to be a part of everyday life where users can connect with friends, family, and organizations, including your nonprofit. However, the days of simply posting to Facebook and having users see and engage with your content, are over. Facebook has led the pay-to-play model, changing this community-based platform to an advertising hot-spot. With diverse targeting options, Facebook is a cost-effective way for your nonprofit to advertise. This session will walk attendees through best practices to maximize the return on investment to ensure that goals are reached compared to dollars spent.

Intended Audience: Staff or volunteers who manage their organization’s social media or anyone looking to learn more on this topic.


3B: A Knack for Storytelling: Creative Multimedia on Any Budget
Presenters: Catherine Buxton, Speak About It + Lindsay Heald, Knack Factory

Professional photo and video are great tools for getting your message or story across in a visually compelling and relevant way. But what do you do when it’s just not in the budget? This breakout session will present different ways to utilize multimedia in marketing your organization, from DIY solutions to hiring the pros. Based on a case study of videos created for Speak About It by Knack Factory, Catherine and Lindsay will discuss the dynamic of communicating creative vision and knowing your limits.

Attendees will leave the session with a better understanding of how to leverage their team’s creative skills vs. when to call in the professionals (dabbled with a few insider video tips too).

Intended Audience: Staff or volunteers involved with communications/marketing; anyone curious to learn about creating video content with or without services providers.


3C: PR Campaign Case Study: How Two Nonprofits Earned National Coverage by Finding the Right Story
Presenters: Sarah Delage, University of New England + Marnie Grumbach, Fluent IMC

How does a local nonprofit’s story earn national coverage? This breakout session will take you behind the scenes of a unique co-branded communications campaign launched by Hospice of Southern Maine and the University of New England. Speakers Marnie Grumbach, Founder of Fluent IMC, and Sarah Delage, Director of Public Relations at UNE, will walk us through “Clay” — the virtual reality simulation of the dying process — from the PR perspective.

From a collaborative strategy and planning a variety of media events to capturing the interest of local and national journalists including NPR, The Wall Street Journal, The Boston Globe and more, Marnie and Sarah will tell the story of how earned media coverage of this remarkable project has (and still is!) increasing visibility for both mission-driven organizations.

Intended Audience: Executive directors, board members, communications staff, development staff


3D: How to Communicate Organizational Change to Stakeholders: Panel Discussion
Moderator: Craig Freshley, Good Group Decisions
Panelists: Dan Gardoqui, White Pines Program; Shannon Haines, Waterville Creates!, +
Andi Jackson-Darling, Falmouth Memorial Library

Whether it’s new leadership, new programs, or a merging with another nonprofit, organizational change most often results in uncertainty and anxiety for those invested in your organization: employees, donors, and clients. Communicating effectively is key to smooth transitions and success on the other side.

This breakout session features peer nonprofits that have gone through, or are going through, significant organizational change. Facilitated by Craig Freshley who has worked extensively with Maine nonprofits undergoing strategic shifts, these Maine nonprofit leaders will share their lessons-to-date on communicating change to employees, donors, and clients. We will discuss what to communicate to who and when. We will hear about successes. We will hear about mistakes. We will walk away with practical tips and tools for our own communications going forward.

Intended Audience: Executive Directors, communications staff, volunteers


3E: Accessibility + Inclusion at Events: Peer Discussion
Facilitator: Katrina Ruffner, Maine Association of Nonprofits

The Maine Association of Nonprofits (MANP) offers a clearinghouse for information and resources relevant to nonprofits. We are always learning and improving the resources we share, oftentimes with guidance from our nonprofit peers.

A recent topic of learning at MANP is designing events that are accessible and inclusive. Questions we have received and are asking ourselves include:

  • How are we encouraging or discouraging diversity at our events?
  • Do our promotions make everyone feel welcome?
  • In what ways can we expand accessibility and engagement to a broader audience?
  • Are we including people with a wide variety of backgrounds and social identities; those based upon race, ethnicity, language, religion, political affiliation, gender, sexual orientation, ability, class, age and more?
  • What other questions should we be asking?

What we know for certain is that we have a lot to learn and no matter what type of event you’re planning – an anniversary gala, an educational workshop, a board meeting – it’s important to take a step back and consider how to be welcoming and inclusive long before the event even starts.

In this session, participants will tap into the abundant knowledge and experience of the group, discuss options for acknowledging and accommodating people’s differences and share learning about how to create events that are welcoming and accessible to everyone.

Intended Audience: Nonprofit staff and volunteers involved in planning events of any kind who have questions and wish to share learning about how to create events that are universally designed, inclusive and accessible to all.