2022 Midwest Regional Conference Program

Thursday, June 23, 2022
Rotary International | Evanston, Illinois

Full participation in the 2022 Midwest Regional Conference is applicable for 4.25 points in Category 1.B
– Education of the CFRE International application for initial certification and/or recertification.

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Program Details

Keynote Presentation | Embracing Tomorrow: Be Ready for the Changing Donor Environment

The COVID-19 pandemic and unprecedented social and economic pressures have revolutionized the Donor Relations industry over the past two years. As we navigate what success means in this “new normal,” effective change management and professional and personal resiliency are increasingly important. Liz Livingston Howard, Director of Nonprofit Executive Education at the Northwestern Kellogg School of Management, will discuss how to build a long-term vision for your donor relations team, no matter your role, and how to advocate for and influence change with leaders and other key stakeholders.

Learning Objectives:

  • Understand how to build support for change and realistically implement a vision
  • Teach non-executives how to advocate for and lead change
  • How to influence and inform leadership

About the Speaker:

Liz Livingston Howard, Executive Director, Center for Nonprofit Management, Clinical Professor of Management, Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University

Liz Livingston Howard is a graduate of Northwestern University and holds an MBA degree from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern. Ms. Howard is the Executive Director of Kellogg's Center for Nonprofit Management and a Clinical Professor of Management. She developed and teaches curriculum for MBA students and nonprofit executives. Ms. Howard serves as the Academic Director for a variety of nonprofit executive education courses and designs custom executive education programs for local, national and global clients.

Previously, she served in a variety of senior development roles including as Assistant Dean for Development for the Kellogg School of Management. In that role, she was responsible for the fundraising activities of the Kellogg School including alumni and individual solicitation, corporate and foundation grants.

Ms. Howard is active in the civic community of Chicago, serving as Secretary of the 100 Club of Illinois, providing financial assistance to the families of first responders killed in the line of duty, the Secretary of the Irish Fellowship Club of Chicago, a board member for the School Advisory Board for the Archdiocese of Chicago and past Vice President of Programs of the Women's Board of Northwestern University.

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Breakout Session | Permanent Pivot? Exploring the Role of Virtual Events in Stewardship Portfolios

Like many cultural venues, Chicago’s Field Museum was forced to shut its doors at the onset of the pandemic in March 2020. To keep donor communities engaged during the first extended closure in the institution’s 125-year history, Advancement staff launched a series of online programs and adapted signature annual events to reach virtual audiences. During this breakout session, Scott Tews, the Museum’s Donor Relations Manager for Major and Planned Giving, will share insights learned over the last two years and lead a discussion on the appetite for virtual, in-person, and hybrid events in a post-lockdown world.

Learning Objectives

  • Transitioning from in-person to virtual to hybrid events (and back again!
  • Tools and strategies for agile event planning
  • Applying lessons from virtual events to plan more successful in-person events

About the Speaker:

Scott Tews, Donor Relations Manager for Major and Planned Giving, The Field Museum

Over his ten-year career working in the museum sector, Scott has led projects in various areas, from education and exhibits to special events and institutional advancement. In his current role as Donor Relations Manager for Major and Planned Giving at the Field Museum in Chicago, he coordinates stewardship of major and principal gifts, including those made to the recently-completed $250 Million Because Earth campaign. Prior to joining the Field Museum in 2019, Scott was Assistant Director of the Ellwood House Museum, a National Register historic mansion and park in DeKalb, Illinois. In May 2022, he was elected to the Ellwood House Board of Directors. Scott’s previous professional experience includes curatorial assistant roles at the West Chicago City Museum and the University of Iowa Athletics Hall of Fame. He earned his bachelor’s degree in history with a certificate in museum studies from the University of Iowa.

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Breakout Session | Metrics: Tools For Measuring Success in Donor Relations

Join consulting firm CCS Fundraising to learn how to leverage data and metrics to optimize your donor relations program, elevate its posture within an institution, and support major and principal gift activity.

Learning Objectives

  • How to accurately identify, collect, and synthesize data
  • Using metrics as basis to build program/innovate project
  • How to effectively illustrate and communicate metrics 

About the Speakers:

Meghan Davison, Senior Vice President, CCS Fundraising

M.A. Cornell University; B.A. College of William and Mary

Since joining the firm in 2012, Meghan has led development assessments, managed key campaigns, and executed campaign planning studies for institutions in the healthcare, higher education, civic, social service, and faith-based sectors. Meghan loves partnering with her clients to find new and innovative ways to meet their extraordinary goals. Her areas of expertise include development assessments, structural assessments, pipeline and portfolio review, major gift strategy, donor relations, and development staff coaching and management.

Meghan’s work with Vanderbilt University Medical Center is a professional highlight. Meghan led CCS’s work with VUMC from 2018 to the present. Over this time period, CCS conducted a development assessment and implemented a five-year growth plan, which helped the institution increase fundraising from $60 million to over $100 million in just four years. She has provided strategic leadership in similar engagements with Northwestern Memorial Foundation, the University of Texas Health Science Center, and Partners In Health.Before joining CCS, Meghan spent three years with CharityWatch, a watchdog group that evaluates the financial efficiency of nonprofits. Originally from Kansas City, Meghan now lives in Chicago with her family.


Elizabeth Hormann, Vice President, CCS Fundraising B.A. Columbia University

Elizabeth joined the firm in 2017 after spending a decade working in fine arts and cultural institutions in New York, New York. Professionalism, diligence, curiosity, and dedication to hard work fuel her passion for working with non-profit organizations to help them achieve their goals.

A lifelong learner and dynamic professional, Elizabeth’s clients appreciate the trust, organizational fluency, sense for opportunity, clear direction, and candor she brings to each of her engagements. Her areas of expertise include strategic planning, campaign planning and management, donor relations, principal gift programs, and capacity building. Her goal with every client engagement is to elevate the organization’s overall capacity and efficacy to fundraise in support of its mission.

Within CCS, Elizabeth serves as Chair of the Central U.S. Recruitment Committee and Co-Chair of CCS Elevate, the firm’s thought leadership initiative designed to apply CCS best practices to the next big questions in philanthropy.

Originally from San Diego, California, Elizabeth currently resides in Chicago, Illinois. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Columbia University, where she captained the Field Hockey team.

Elizabeth is active with Columbia University’s Odyssey Mentoring Program and Alumni Representative Committee. Outside of work, she enjoys frequenting museums, fitness, and spending time outdoors with her 100-lb Rhodesian Ridgeback, Judd.

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Panel Discussion | Engaging the Next Generation of Philanthropists

As Millennials and Gen Z enter the workforce and amass personal wealth at unprecedented rates, the future of philanthropy will depend on cultivating and engaging younger donors. A panel of fundraising and Donor Relations professionals will discuss the values and reasons for giving across generations, how organizations can attract younger donors, and how to ensure that younger philanthropists comprise a key segment of your donor engagement plan.

Learning Objectives

  • Key motivators for philanthropy by generation, and how this changes and evolves based on values and current events
  • Tools to attract and engage younger donors - social media, video content, other digital communications, etc.
  • Building a dynamic donor engagement plan suitable across generations

About the Speakers

Amanda LawsonCFRE, Director of Development, IU School of Education at IUPUI

Amanda brings almost 20 years of nonprofit fundraising and communications experience to the nonprofit sector, working in the areas of social service, arts and culture, and international humanitarian and development support.  Most recently, Amanda joined the IU School of Education at IUPUI (Indiana University/Purdue University Indianapolis) where she focuses on increasing the school’s philanthropic resources through charitable gifts from individuals, corporations, and private foundations. 

Amanda was born and raised in Indiana and attended Butler University where she graduated with a degree in Journalism.  In addition to completing the Certificate in Fundraising Management from the Lily Family School of Philanthropy, Amanda is a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE), and she is completing her Master’s in Nonprofit Management from North Park University.

Amanda resides in the Indianapolis area with her husband, Jeffrey Bell, and their two children. 


Gabby Martinez, Donor Relations Manager, The Nature Conservancy

Gabriela (Gabby) Martinez serves as the Donor Relations Manager for The Nature Conservancy in Illinois (TNC).  Through her role, Gabby enjoys connecting people and nature through fundraising, partnerships and policy. Gabby received her bachelor’s degree in Social Work from Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska. With over ten years of experience in non-profit, Gabby has an extensive background in program management and development, community outreach/relations, development and Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion education. 






Rebekah Nowak, Senior Associate Director of Donor Relations, Northwestern University

Rebekah Nowak is a senior associate director of Donor Relations at Northwestern University. She works with principal gift-level donors, creating custom stewardship that will strengthen and engage their relationship with the University. She has been in this role for nine years and has previously worked on the Reunions team as well as for the McCormick School of Engineering at Northwestern. Previous development experience comes from her time at the Newberry Library and Chicago Botanic Garden. Rebekah received her undergraduate degree from St. Olaf College and a master's degree in public service management and fundraising from DePaul University.




Moderated by Mary Weingartner, Managing Director, Stewardship, UNICEF USA

Mary has worked in the field of stewardship and donor relations for over 15 years, beginning at the University of Illinois Foundation in 2006. In 2009, she joined the University of Chicago’s Donor Relations team, leaving in 2012 to become Director of Alumni Relations & External Engagement for Loyola University’s Health Sciences Division. Taking a break from higher education, Mary managed stewardship for a portfolio of corporate and foundation donors at YMCA of the USA, the national resource office for local YMCAs across the globe. Mary returned to the University of Chicago in 2016 and served as Director of Donor Relations, leading the Donor Relations team and their work to create meaningful donor experiences that deepen relationships with the University. In 2022, Mary proudly joined UNICEF USA as Managing Director, Stewardship.

Mary is an active member of the Association of Donor Relations Professionals (ADRP). She enjoys serving as a volunteer and chaired the 2018 and 2019 International Conferences. Currently she chairs the ADRP Education Committee and serves as an ex officio member of the Board of Directors.

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Workshop Session | Back to the Future? Digital vs. Print at Lurie Children's

Like all other organizations, Lurie Children’s has done a lot of adapting over the last 28 months. This has meant that communications practices within the four pillars of Donor Relations—acknowledgment, recognition, engagement and stewardship—have changed in some cases, and stayed the same in others. Our team will share insight into where we’ve made the shift to digital, and where we’ve kept it old school; what has been successful and what has missed the mark; and where we hope to continue adapting. Our presentation will include discussion time for each pillar to allow others to share what their shops are doing. 

Learning Objectives

  • Strategies and tools for transitioning communications to a digital format
  • Enhancing engagement via digital communications
  • How to measure success when adapting communications

About the Speaker

Alexa Cottrell Donor Relations Officer, Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago

Alexa Cottrell started her first role in Donor Relations in March of 2019 when she joined Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago Foundation. Prior to Lurie Children’s, she worked in Development at Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo. Alexa studied French and was fortunate to spend an academic year teaching English in Brittany, France where she fell in love with the region and was bit by the travel bug.


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Workshop Session | Building Your Professional Development Plan in the New and Ever-Changing Labor Market

With the pressures on Donor Relations professionals amidst a rapidly changing landscape, it can be challenging to find the time and resources to dedicate towards professional development. During this interactive workshop session, participants will discuss the great resignation, how to navigate the job market in different economic environments, have the opportunity to craft their own professional development plan based on their own goals and budget.

Learning Objectives

  • Fundamentals of a well-rounded professional development plan
  • How to set (and achieve!) SMART goals
  • Free/low-cost opportunities for professional development 

About the Speaker

Rashid Abdullah, People & Culture PartnerRotary International

Rashid has a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations from The University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) and a Master of Arts in Applied Linguistics from the American University in Cairo (AUC). He was a university fellow at AUC and graduated with honors in 2018. Rashid has spent the last 10 plus years traveling and teaching English around the world; and has spent time as a teacher trainer, ESL instructor, program coordinator, and most recently as an HR Specialist. Currently, Rashid Abdullah is the People & Talent Partner for the Communications group at RI. He supports team culture, helping colleagues find pathways for growth & development, coaching teams through challenges, and addressing communication gaps and conflicts. He is the first point of contact for any HR-related issues or inquiries related to talent acquisition, DEI, benefits, compensation, or learning & organization development.

Prior to joining Rotary, Rashid was the Program Manager of Adult Education and Immigration Services at The Albany Park Community Center. Rashid has lived in both Morocco and Egypt, speaks three languages, and has visited over 35 countries! He has pivoted more than once in his professional life and understands the importance of self-reflection and evolution, especially as it pertains to the dynamic and ever-changing labor market.

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