The GHJ 2015 Nonprofit Conference was a huge success, thanks to the knowledge and insights shared by each of the panelists and guest speakers. The theme this year was “The nonprofit leaders’ journey from ordinary to extraordinary: Tell me something I don’t know.” Each speaker described their personal experiences within the nonprofit industry and gave the attendees strategic ideas to strengthen relationships with their stakeholders and reach new heights with their organizations.

The conference led off with a panel discussion moderated by GHJ Nonprofit Partner Donella Wilson, with distinguished panelists that included: Fred Ali, chief executive officer, Weingart Foundation; Regina Birdsell, chief executive officer, Center for Nonprofit Management; Pegine Grayson, vice president of Philanthropic Services, Whittier Trust; and Scott Pansky, co-founder, Allison + Partners. The panel fielded questions from both Donella and the attendees, providing detailed anecdotes that conveyed their passion for the nonprofit industry and the wide breadth of knowledge they had gained throughout their careers. Key discussion points included leading in the nonprofit industry and working successfully with donors.

Collaboration was an important theme in all the panelists’ responses. Quite often, CEOs and executive directors are expected to be near-perfect super humans that are able to autonomously steer the organization in the right direction. However, the panelists each stressed that a highly effective leader surrounds his or her self with other motivated individuals that provide limitless value to the nonprofit. This includes people of all levels — from the staff who carry out the mission of the nonprofit on a daily basis to the Board members who can leverage their experience and connections to provide opportunities for the organization. Each individual in the organization can serve as an ambassador for its mission and values, and it ultimately takes the efforts of each person to create true organizational success.

Following the panel discussion, the keynote address featured Karen Baker, chief service officer of California. She discussed the value of volunteers and described several ways in which volunteerism can reduce expenses, provide better service to clients and increase trust and harmony within the community. Karen shared tips on how to take advantage of the added value volunteers bring to organizations. She also discussed the significance of mentoring and training volunteers as if they were the organization’s own employees, emphasizing the current and future value these individuals hold — volunteers are passionate about the organization’s mission, and therefore in many cases deliver better service to clients and are themselves potential future donors.

The conference concluded with two breakout sessions, one led by Terrance McNally, strategic communication consultant at McNally:MessageMatters, discussing messaging and storytelling for impact giving, and the other by Lisa Cleri Reale, principal at Reale & Associates, discussing development of best practices. Both sessions contained current and practical strategies and further reflected the GHJ commitment to the nonprofit sector.

About Diane Hernandez (Associate, GHJ)

Diane Hernandez is a tax associate at GHJ and has been with the Firm more than a year. Prior to joining the Firm in 2014, she worked as a bookkeeper and customer service representative. She is a licensed CPA in the State of California and holds a bachelor’s in Accounting from California State University, Northridge.