eccf’s annual

institute for trustees

New for 2021! In partnership with Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation.

ECCF’s annual Institute for Trustees (IFT) brings hundreds of nonprofit leaders together for a full day of educational workshops led by experts in the sector and powerful networking opportunities. Each year attendees are invited to participate in a kick-off keynote session, nearly two dozen workshops and opportunities to connect with fellow attendees through a number of topic-driven, informal peer discussions.

The 2020 and 2021 IFT events were delivered virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The virtual format provided attendees the flexibility to attend wherever they like and the value in attending as many sessions as they want.

2021 Virtual Institute for Trustees

2021 Virtual IFT was held in April. Details on the keynote session and workshos can be found below.

Phil Buchanan, keynote | April 7

“Leading for Nonprofit Impact Amid Unprecedented Challenge”

April 7, 2021
6PM | Zoom event
Presented by Phil Buchanan

The work of nonprofits was uniquely challenging and difficult even before the crises of 2020. Now, many organizations face the twin challenges of increased demand and decreased revenue. How can they respond? How can nonprofit leaders navigate for impact? How can they be responsive to the massive disproportionate effects of COVID, the economic downturn, and structural racism on communities of color? How can they help shake funders out of the habit of providing restricted and short-term funding and get the support they need and deserve in this time of crisis? Phil Buchanan, author of Giving Done Right: Effective Philanthropy and Making Every Dollar Count and co-host of a new podcast, also called Giving Done Right, will answer these questions and outline key attributes required for nonprofits’ success. Drawing on extensive research from the Center for Effective Philanthropy, which he leads, as well as stories from his book, Phil will offer leaders both practical tips and inspiration.


Phil Buchanan, president of CEP, is a passionate advocate for the importance of philanthropy and the nonprofit sector and deeply committed to the cause of helping foundations and individual donors to maximize their impact. Hired in 2001 as the organization’s first chief executive, Phil has led the growth of CEP into the leading provider of data and insight on philanthropic effectiveness.

Phil is author of Giving Done Right: Effective Philanthropy and Making Every Dollar Count, published in 2019 by PublicAffairs and named the “Best Philanthropy Book of the Year” by Inside Philanthropy. He is co-host of a podcast, also called Giving Done Right, with CEP’s Grace Nicolette. Phil is a frequent blogger for the CEP Blog, author of op eds that have appeared in publications such as The Financial Times and The Boston Globe, and a frequent commentator on philanthropy in the media.

Phil is co-founder of YouthTruth, an initiative of CEP’s designed to harness student perceptions to help educators and funders accelerate improvements in K–12 schools and classrooms. In 2016, he was named the Nonprofit Times “influencer of the year” and he has been named nine times to that publication’s “Power and Influence Top 50” list. Phil serves on the boards of directors of Philanthropy Massachusetts and the National Council on Aging.

Phil lives in Concord, Massachusetts with his wife and their two daughters.

reinventing board governance | April 9

9AM – 10:30AM

Speaker: Gayle L. Gifford, MS, ACFRE, Cause & Effect Inc.

Do you wish there were a better way to be a board? Are you chafing against so-called “best practice”? Does your board process reflect your values of equity, community engagement, democracy, or even just teamwork? Are you getting any satisfaction or any joy from serving on your board? Here’s your chance to free your thinking about your board. To paraphrase one of the leading academic minds in governance: “excellence in governance is a social-construction,” meaning every organization must determine for itself what excellence means. In this participatory workshop, you’ll re-examine the should-dos you’ve heard. Topics include other ways boards can be organized, who’s in the governance system for your organization, what we’re learning about governance from the latest research. Overall, you’ll explore the question: how can we redefine governance and structure our board to add true value to our organization?

Intermediate/advanced content suitable for EDs and Board Members from nonprofits of all sizes.


all problems aren't created equal: leadership skills for complex problems | April 10

10AM – 12PM

Speaker: Abby Yanow, Skillful Facilitation and Coaching

We’re living in an uncertain and ambiguous time.  It’s difficult to solve problems when the future is unpredictable and when the experts don’t have the answers.  We also don’t really know the connection of cause and effect.  The Cynefin model of complexity model provides an approach to deal with complex problems. This workshop will provide an introduction to the Cynefin model as well as the leadership skills necessary to deal with them.  Takeaways:  1. Understanding of the model of complexity  2. Ability to diagnose problems according to this model  3. Understanding of the best approach to deal with “complex” problems  4. Application of the model to a challenge you’re facing  

Intermediate content suitable for EDs and Board Members from nonprofits of all sizes.

is your board addressing endowment building in the time of COVID? | April 12

12PM – 1:30PM

Speaker: Deborah Kaplan Polivy, Ph.D., Deborah K. Polivy & Associates

In this time of COVID, Boards are challenged with the issue of financial survival – in other words the success of the annual campaign.  But this is but one moment in a long continuum and data have shown that those organizations with strong financial cushions, in other words endowments, have had an easier experience getting through this crisis.  This workshop will address the following questions that boards and executive directors need to ask themselves at all times, but especially now.    Has your board discussed endowment building and its role in your organization’s future?    Has your board decided to pursue endowment gifts and what resources it will dedicate to the effort?    Has your organization communicated to donors that endowment gifts are essential for its survival and explained what kinds of contributions are the easiest to make, e.g. outright, future, income producing?    Has your board created policies for endowment building, e.g what to do with unrestricted bequests when they are received?    Has your organization reviewed its donor data in order to identify who might be the most likely prospects for endowment contributions?    Is your board operating according to The Uniform Prudent Management of Institutional Funds Act, or UPMIFA?    What is your role as board member or executive director to ensure that these questions are addressed and the responses are acted upon?

Intermediate/advanced content suitable for EDs and Board Members from nonprofits of all sizes.

trauma-informed leadership: creating safe and supportive work environments | April 13

12PM – 1:30PM

Speaker: Joanna Bridger, Riverside Trauma Center

There is a growing body of evidence that human service workers have higher rates of early adversity than people working in other professions. In addition human service workers are also regularly exposed to trauma in the work, either through hearing the stories of the people they are working with or through events that occur in the workplace. After law enforcement people working in human services have the highest rates of all occupations of being physically victimized while at work. Simultaneously there is growing knowledge from many fields about the ways that trauma-informed practices and creating psychologically safe environments for staff improve morale, creativity, and job outcomes at every level of programing as well as reducing staff turnover. Yet universal strategies for supporting staff in this field remain very limited. This presentation will explore why it is so essential to create safe and supportive environments for staff and some of the experiences Riverside Trauma Center has had in working with organizations to move towards more safe and supportive organizational cultures, including many of the common barriers programs face to doing this work and some lessons learned.

Content suitable for EDs and Board Members from nonprofits of all sizes.

accounting & tax update for nonprofits | April 14

9AM – 10:30AM

Speaker: Joyce Ripianzi, Partner/CPA, AAFCPAs 

This workshop will provide an overview of the recent changes to Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) and a tax update for nonprofit organizations.

Intermediate/advanced content suitable for EDs and Board Members from nonprofits of all sizes.


the time is now for researching potential major gift donors | April 16

9AM – 10:30AM

Speaker: Kenny Weill, K. Weill Consulting Group, LLC

The traditional 80/20 rule states that 20% of a typical nonprofit’s donors comprise 80% of revenue from individual gifts. Today, it’s more like 89% of giving comes from the top 14% of donors. So, where do we find this 14%? This workshop will give you the information and tools to kick-start your major donor research efforts. We will cover: -Why do this? -What is a major gift? -Who should take this on? -Key attributes of a major gift prospect -Mine your contacts -Acquire the tools -Prioritize -Hold a Prospect Review Session -Create profiles -Devise Moves Management plans You will come away from this workshop with the foundational knowledge necessary to kick-start this critical research process to uncover those hidden gems!

Beginner/intermediate content suitable for EDs and Board Members from small & mid-sized nonprofits.

a line of credit, how it's being used by nonprofits and what does a bank look for | April 26

12PM – 1:30PM

Speaker: Stephen Halasnik, Financing Solutions

Nonprofits have avoided setting up a line of credit either due to its complexity or awareness. At this lecture, you will learn how nonprofits are using their credit line, what a bank will look for to approve your application, and what other alternatives you have.

Beginner/intermediate content suitable for EDs and Board Members from small and mid-sized nonprofits.

advancing race equity through inclusive leadership practices | April 27

9AM – 10:30AM

Speaker: Monisha Kapila and Bianca Casanova Anderson, ProInspire

With the COVID-19 public health crisis and global demonstrations for racial justice defining our current reality, leaders are being called upon to meet the moment by actively and meaningfully working to advance racial equity. From both an individual and organizational perspective, this session will offer board members and senior leaders a reflective tool and guide – Crises as a Catalyst: A Call for Race Equity & Inclusive Leadership – that will support the awareness and development of leadership practices that build more inclusive cultures and more effectively advance race equity in our organizations and beyond.

Content suitable for EDs and Board Members from nonprofits of all sizes.

demystifying mergers | April 27

12PM – 1:30PM

Speaker: Brad Bedingfield and Eleanor Evans, Hemenway & Barnes LLP

In these uncertain times, many nonprofits are exploring mergers as a strategy to further their missions. Should your organization be too? Attend this session to learn about various ways two or more nonprofits can combine their programs, assets or entire organizations to improve their sustainability and enhance their efficiency and effectiveness. Get answers to questions including: What can we achieve by merging? When should we begin thinking about a merger? What should we look for in a merger partner? How do we find a merger partner? What’s the board’s role in the merger process? What lessons have other nonprofits learned from their experience with mergers?

Content suitable for EDs and Board Members from nonprofits of all sizes.

organizational learning during COVID: adapt so your organization can thrive | April 28

9AM – 10:30AM

Speaker: Kara Bixby, WithInsight

The pandemic has impacted all parts of our organizations, including the ways in which we learn and improve. For many nonprofits, staff are working remotely, and programming has been adapted to new settings and needs. These changes have a direct impact on an organization’s internal efforts to learn and improve its work, such as data collection, evaluation plans, reporting and communication methods. This session will present strategies to help your organization continue to use data for continuous improvement in the context of the pandemic. First, we will discuss the implications of major programmatic changes on evaluation efforts. The session will offer a framework to help your organization make strategic decisions about if and how specific evaluation efforts can continue. We will utilize a case study from Policing One2One, a law enforcement education model designed to transform relationships between police and communities of color. Through the case study, we will examine creative, alternative methods that allow organizations to continue learning and improving during this time. In addition, we will discuss the important role of staff morale and organizational health. We will share ways you can track organizational health and use the information to inform your leadership and staff support. Participants will also have opportunities to share their own ideas and innovations with each other in this interactive session.

Intermediate content suitable for EDs and Board Members from nonprofits of all sizes.

bored to brilliant: better board meetings | April 28

12PM – 1:30PM

Speaker: Eric Phelps, Rainmaker Consulting

The majority of meetings in the US are rated as “unproductive,” with 91% of people surveyed admitting to day dreaming during the session (and another 30% admitting to falling asleep!). Currently, it is even more challenging to stay engaged in a meeting, with many of them taking place in a digital format (Zoom, Google Meet, GoToMeeting, etc.). The platforms are inherently “disconnected’ (no eye contact, no personal informal interactions) and can be difficult to navigate for some board members and staff. This session will provide numerous practical tips – both basic and advanced – for improving your meetings, including how to creatively engage people online, thereby increasing connection and team effectiveness. The goal of the session is provide participants with ideas that they can implement at their very next meeting and use throughout the year with their organizations.

Intermediate/advanced content suitable for EDs and Board Members from nonprofits of all sizes.

the fundraising pivot: 2021 and beyond | April 30

9AM – 10:30AM

Speaker: Sharon Danosky, Danosky & Associates

The year 2020 has brought about incredible challenges that the world continues to face. In the midst of these challenges is the nonprofit sector and the increasing and accelerating demand to raise more money. While some nonprofit organizations have had their fundraising world come crashing down, many more have been able to exceed their goals, even without in-person events. How? By investing in proven fundraising strategies that larger nonprofit organizations know and have been practicing for decades. In this workshop we will explore what drives donors to give, in both the best and worst of times, and how your nonprofit organization can speak to that donor motivation and inspire even greater giving. We will discuss the fundraising strategies that have been proven effective by the organizations that have succeeded in 2020, and provide examples of how to implement these in your own organization; large or small. This workshop will discuss how speaking with an authentic voice, sharing the challenges as well as the successes can create a strong and lasting relationship with your donors. We will also demonstrate how board members can be a powerful part of this effort. And, finally, we hope to inspire you to invest in your fundraising program, so that it will become a viable and growing source of revenue year after year. Donors don’t need an event to give – we will show you how they only need to understand and share your belief in your nonprofit’s mission.

Content suitable for EDs and Board Members from small and medium sized nonprofits.

five things every nonprofit leader should know about finance | May 3

9AM – 10:30AM

Speaker: Ellen Sturgis, Night Heron Consulting

Most people are intimidated by financial reports and so they are often ignored. But with fiduciary responsiblity a key part of the job description, Board members and senior leadership should know what they are seeing and what key elements they should understand and ask about. I will work through the key financial reports everyone should be seeing on a regular basis. We’ll take real examples from participants and do “role playing” to see what you see or what others see. We’ll talk about putting these numbers in context, both within your organization’s history as well as against peers in your field. We’ll also talk about evaluating your finance staff, leadership and auditors—what are the questions to ask in the interview when you really don’t know the material yourself? And we’ll talk specifically about managing finance in a pandemic: what systems are in place to ensure financial security, how to change or look at your budget in the context of this “new world”. This is a very hands on, non-theoretical workshop. My goal is that you leave, feeling you actually are ready to ask questions at the next board meeting.

Beginner/intermediate content suitable for EDs and Board Members from small and mid-sized nonprofits.

last year was so 2020, how do we even plan for this year and next year? | May 3

12PM – 1:30PM

Speaker: Sarah M. Glatt, Paper Crane Associates

None of our 2020s looked anything like what we expected. Who could have predicted covid, shut downs, the recession, remote working and learning, and overnight changes to our service delivery and demand? While many organizations are having a natural instinct to abandon planning since their last plans felt irrelevant, this is the worst time to be abandon planning. How can you help your board and leadership team take stock of the lessons learned from 2020 and prepare for your next year, even with what feel like so many unknowns? What conversations will be helpful to have now and which will only add to the feelings of stress? How can we use planning to guide our decision-making in times of change and uncertainty?

Beginner/intermediate content suitable for EDs and Board Members from small and mid-sized nonprofits.

board leadership and fund raising success: converting crisis to opportunity | May 5

9AM – 10:30AM

Speaker: Chuck Gordon, The New Kensington Group

The board’s role related to fundraising has never been more important. As we navigated the turbulent waters of 2020, many boards realized a new level of engagement and philanthropic result. As we journey from crisis to opportunity in 2021, join us to learn more about best practices in inspiring board members to embrace their fundraising responsibilities. From setting expectations to creating accountabilities, join us to better understand how you can motivate your board to action and raise increased philanthropic support for your organization.

Content suitable for EDs and Board Members from nonprofits of all sizes.

governing during a crisis | May 5

12PM – 1:30PM

Speaker: Nanette Fridman, Fridman Strategies

What is the role of your board during a crisis? What are additional roles and expectations of board members? How do you clarify the expectations of management versus the board? How can board members support the executive and staff while feeling stressed and depleted themselves? Come discuss the steps boards can take to strategically position your organization to emerge stronger from this period. Bring your challenges, questions and successes to share!

Beginner/intermediate content suitable for EDs and Board Members from nonprofits of all sizes.

how advocacy accelerates your mission | May 7

9AM – 10:30AM

Speaker: Rick Jakius, Office of Congressman Seth Moulton

Effective policy advocacy and lobbying can be a game changer for your nonprofit and the people it serves. Break through the myths, confusions and stereotypes to become an effective advocate.

Beginner/intermediate content suitable for EDs and Board Members from nonprofits of all sizes.

addressing the challenges of a truly inclusive, multicultural board | May 10

12PM – 1:30PM

Speakers: Elika Dadsetan-Foley, Stephanie Blount, Gwendalynn Morris, Vincent Johnson, Jude Goldman, Louise Howlett, VISIONS, Inc.

All or mostly white boards often complain they cannot find “talented” black, indigenous or people of color to join their boards. In many communities the same few, prominent people of color are recruited over and over. Diverse but predominantly white boards also often lose these members because of unacknowledged micro-aggressions and other limiting behaviors that drive them away. Most historically white organizations that started 30 or so years ago, also may have structures and processes that inadvertently reinforce “white cultural norms and values.” This workshop addresses and provides actionable solutions for these common board challenges. Participants will leave with a tool and resources that will help them begin to strengthen their internal board relationships, align their cultures with a multicultural worldview, and attract and retain black, indigenous and other people of color. A panel of VISIONS, Inc. board members will discuss the significance of having a uniquely multicultural board in an organization that operates with African-centered values and practices such as collectivism, community, empathy, and relationships. They will discuss the advantages and challenges of having such a diverse board, and will share what attracted (and kept!) them on the VISIONS, Inc. Board of Directors. Participants will be given the opportunity to ask questions of the panel members. The panel will be followed by a presentation that introduces some basic tools participants can immediately begin using to address challenges related to this topic. Participants will then be given an opportunity to “try on” these new tools in small breakout groups at the close of the session, and will leave the session with a list of resources to deepen their knowledge.

Content suitable for EDs and Board Members from nonprofits of all sizes.

capitalization after COVID | May 11

12PM -1:30PM

Speakers: Susan Nelson, Rachel Crocker Ford and Bailey Hoar, TDC

Capitalization—the accumulation and application of assets on an organization’s balance sheet—is critical to nonprofit health, both in the best of times and in times of extreme economic distress such as the one we are currently experiencing. In these moments, the need for flexible consumable capital and operating cash become paramount. The ability to understand and obtain sufficient cash to both operate and rebuild will be the difference between organizations that survive and those that do not. The ability to define and obtain consumable capital for reinvention and reimagination will be the difference between organizations that thrive and those that do not. This session will help staff and board leadership think about this critical concept at this pivotal moment. Capitalization is the glue that connects and enables mission, vision, and strategy. Yet, despite capitalization’s importance, TDC’s research shows a sector in distress, with persistent and pervasive undercapitalization the manifestation of systemic and structural problems in the way the sector is capitalized. In addition, structural racism across the sector has caused an inequitable flow of support and wealth that favors larger, white organizations. This workshop will introduce core concepts of capitalization and discuss what it looks like to support capitalization in a time of realignment, growth, and resizing; how the sector might counter historic barriers and inequities that have thwarted organizations; and what roles different stakeholders can play in remaking our sector. Familiarity or recent experience with your organization’s financial statements will help you make the most of the session.

Content suitable for EDs and Board Members from nonprofits of all sizes.

why succession planning should be an ongoing priority | May 12

9AM – 10:30AM

Speaker: David Harris, Interim Executive Solutions

Succession Planning should be an ongoing process in nonprofits of all sizes, even when a leadership transition is not anticipated: staff can take leaves of absence, become ill or choose to leave the organization and few nonprofits have excess resources to plug the gaps. This workshop, designed for board members and senior staff, will explore: – making succession planning a practice throughout the organization – inventorying top job requirements and current skills – hiring, cross training and professional growth plans – setting and meeting goals for diversity and inclusion – fostering equity of voice and opportunity – responding to short-term emergencies – implementing planned and unplanned transitions – assessing internal vs external options for interim assignments – adapting these concepts to organizations large and small. Participants will leave with a roadmap to begin the conversations within their own organization.

Intermediate/advanced content suitable for EDs and Board Members from nonprofits of all sizes.

strength and sustainability through affiliated networks | May 12

12PM – 1:30PM

Speakers: Eric Curtis, Curtis Strategy; Jean Phelps, Incompass; Chris Tuttle, Bridgewell

Revenue loss, increased expenses, shifts in funding – no one could’ve predicted what this year would bring. In response to these changes, nonprofit leadership and boards are finding stability through the building of affiliated networks. Jean Phelps, CEO of Incompass, Chris Tuttle, CEO of Bridgewell, and Eric Curtis, President of Curtis Strategy, are here to help you navigate this process. Our panel will walk you through their experiences with building networks, including lessons learned from successful and failed deals. They will share the benefits and long-term potential of this strategy, and how to successfully manage and operate an agency through change. Attendees will learn: *How to begin the process internally *The role of both the CEO and Board throughout the deal process *Ways to identify and approach potential partners *How to prepare the Board of Directors and common obstacles throughout the process *The difference in strategy between mergers and affiliations and the benefits of each.

Intermediate content suitable for EDs and Board Members from nonprofits of all sizes.

the art of the ask in this digital age | May 14

9AM – 10:30AM

Speaker: Rick Blain, CFRE, Richard R. Blain & Associates, LLC

Whether you are new to the profession of fundraising, or are a seasoned professional, you can learn more about “the ask” especially as we need to become more creative working in this digital age of using many different fundraising platforms. Connecting with donors has never been more important, and we need to continue to do so in a meaningful way. -Understanding why people give: It hasn’t really changed -Preparing for the Ask: It may be a little different -Cultivation and solicitation: Pivoting our approach -Importance of “listening”: More important than ever -Developing donor relations: Communication is key -Art of the Ask: Art + Science + Technology -And the “New Normal”: What will it be?

Content suitable for EDs and Board Members from nonprofits of all sizes.

advancing race equity through democratic institutional practices | May 15

9:30AM – 11AM

Speakers: Alexandra Piñeros Shields, Brandeis University & Essex County Community Organization

Working towards sustainable racial equity/DEIA requires examination and innovation across multiple levels of your institution including structures, polices, and practices. This session will introduce you to theories, systems, and practices of democratic inclusion towards the goal of equity. The workshop will focus on governance practices as well as systems and strategies that authentically and meaningfully include the perspectives and participation of the people and communities foundations and nonprofits serve. Come be inspired by real-life stories of how to advance racial equity/DEIA at the board level and throughout your organization, ultimately leading to more effectiveness in achieving your institutional mission.

Beginner/intermediate content suitable for EDs and Board Members from nonprofits of all sizes.

learn more about past IFT events

2020 IFT brochure

2019 IFT brochure

Institute for Trustees 2019 Brochure

thank you IFT partners!

Brace Cove Foundation
John and Mollie Byrnes
Amelia Peabody Foundation
Peter and Elizabeth Tower Foundation
Edwin S. Webster Foundation
ECCF Trustees

nonprofits & grants

get in touch

Rebecca Turner headshot

Rebecca Turner

IFT Consultant

community voices

“I am grateful for the opportunity to improve and strengthen my knowledge in nonprofit management and governance. I do not know where else I could go and find such a range of opportunities!”

– 2019 Institute for Trustees attendee

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