2019 Breakin' It Down Conference - October 11 , 2019


 2019 BID THEME - Fulling The Promise: At the center of nonprofit fund development and management is fulfilling the promise - of the organization, its mission and vision, its community, and its donors and funders.  Are nonprofit organizations able to live up to their potential given the systemic barriers at play, predominately in communities of color that have dealt with historic structural racism? 

At 2019 BID, we’re exploring the ways nonprofit professionals and philanthropists are realizing their promises given historic and systemic barriers.  Inspired by a Racial Equity framework and commitment to healing practices, 2019 BID seeks to engage the nonprofit fundraising professional's and philanthropy leader's relentless pursuit of equity and healing to overcome historic barriers and fulfill its promise.  We aspire to spark conversation on how to respond to the state of our society and shape it moving forward through a racial equity framework and lens of the practice of healing  as we explore  donor-donee and funder-grantee relationships, diversity, racial equity and inclusion  in the nonprofit sector, and the role of philanthropy and more. 

At  2019 BID, we seize the moment to look backward and forward, to examine how diverse professionals have progressed and what we must do to be a society that is inclusive, equitable, and capable of sustaining its forward momentum. At 2019 BID, we will explore how our analysis and engagement can  help transform systems, attitudes, and outcomes, and increase impact on society. 

*Please note that agenda and speakers are subject to change.  

Welcome from the Conference Chair

2019 BID Conference program booklet


Plenary Panel Speakers

Workshop Presenters

Inaugural Denise Stennis Awards

Speed Networking with Funders

Sponsors and Partners

2019 BID Conference Photo Gallery


"Learned some new things and met some great people at Breakin' It Down Chicago. I look forward to implementing strategies in Doris & Clara Community Initiative and staying connected with the people I met.

Thankful for opportunity."

- Cheronda Everett

2019 BID Scholarship Recipient


2019 Breakin' It Down Conference Program Booklet

2019_Breakin It Down Conference_Program Booklet_10-11-19 (pdf)



Dear Colleagues,

On behalf of the 2019 Planning Committee, I am honored and pleased to welcome you to the 2019 Breakin' It Down Conference at Columbia College Chicago. The conference theme Fulfilling the Promise has been carefully

chosen, as it is central to nonprofit fund development. 

To put a conference of this magnitude together is not a small task. To that end, we are grateful for generous support of our sponsors and partners: the Grand Victoria Foundation, the Lloyd A. Fry Foundation, and the Polk Bros. Foundation; to Columbia College Chicago; to the Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy and the Filipino American Council of Greater Chicago. We are also grateful to Woods Fund Chicago for a special scholarship grant, and to our exhibitor the Axelson Center for Nonprofit Management. We would like to thank all of the conference speakers, presenters, volunteers, and participants for their contributions which are the foundation of this conference. Thank you.

It Started with an Idea. Back in 2003, Denise Stennis and Juan Calixto recognized the opportunity to build up diverse people via peer-to-peer skills training to make the social impact sector stronger and more equitable. They realized that while their organizations could afford to invest in their professionalization, some grassroots organizations doing integral work could not afford similar professional development of their staff. They also realized that in working together to train their affinity group memberships, together they could combine resources to cultivate the next generation of diverse professionals in nonprofit and philanthropic services. 

While we have come a long way, of course, there is much more to do.

Fulfilling the Promise. Our vision is that the organizations who serve our communities have leaders who reflect us so we can move the needle on equity. We are not marginalized communities needing to be fixed with charity. We are underserved who need investment and affirmation.

We are at a critical point in time with various social movements: #MeToo, Black Lives Matter, overcoming internal organizational scandal, backlash towards immigrants, impact investing and finally defining the difference between diversity vs. equity vs. inclusion. How do we fulfill our missions in these times? How do we heal? How do we fulfill the promise?

Our hope is that we learn from what others are doing to ensure respect for women, embrace diversity, ensure equity and design programs for full inclusion. 

The Breakin’ It Down Conference is for your professional and personal benefit in our shared community to stop the discourse of hate and embrace our common humanity.

Rhea Yap

Conference Chair

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Rhea Yap, Chair - 2019 BID Committee
Rhea Yap, Chair - 2019 BID Committee





9:00 AM - 10:45 AM - PLENARY PANEL

The Game Plan:  Fulfilling the Promise, A Cross-sector Conversation with Funders on How do Nonprofit Grantees Fulfill the Promise in a Time of Crisis

Under the organizing rubric of racial equity and healing practices each plenary participant will be asked to address this broad questions based upon their work.


Felicia S. Davis, President and CEO for Chicago Foundation for Women; 

Antonio Martinez Jr., President and CEO of the Oak Park-River Forest Community Foundation; 

Tuyet M. Le, Independent Consultant; Disability Fund at The Chicago Community Trust


Gil Zamora, Director of Development  of Mujeres Latinas en Accion 

11:00 AM - 12:15 PM WORKSHOPS (Concurrent)

Workshop 1 - How to Reach Young People of Color using Social Media and Build Community Engagement

Presenter:  Pedro Alonso Serrano, Project Director - Hektoen Institute LLC

Serrano’s experience is how to employ social media to engage youth in public health campaigns, specifically young queer youth of color.  He has learned how organizations can effectively employ social media to have authentic engagement with youth. These lessons can be applied to building young professional board, crowd rising for small campaigns,  and building support for advocacy. 

Workshop 2 - Putting into Practice Principles of Equity and Inclusion

Presenters: Linda Tortolero, CEO - Mujeres Latinas en Accion 

                            Caronina Grimble, Program Officer - Woods Fund Chicago

What are unique challenges and opportunities that organizations led by people of color face when putting into practice the principles of equity and inclusion?

Workshop 3 - What To Do in October to Raise More Money in December

Presenter:   Joan Flanagan

                          Professional Fundraiser, Consultant, Speaker, and Author

Research tells us that almost one-third (31%) of all annual donations occur in December.  Even more surprising, twelve percent (12%) of all annual donations occur on December 29, 30, and 31.  Learn what 

your organization can do in October to:

1. Get ready for "Giving Tuesday", December 3, 2019

2. Prepare winning emails and letters for year-end gifts

3. Develop strong leaders able to ask

12:15 - 12:45 PM - LUNCH



Get your business cards ready and race your way to new connections at the BID Conference's "Speed Networking with Funders" session!  Each registered participant will have  the opportunity to meet philanthropic leaders for approximately 20 minutes and will learn about the foundation's funding priorities, parameters and grant application review process, and then move on to connect with the next philanthropic leader.   There will be three "meet and greet" rounds formatted in a small group setting.  We encourage participants to prepare two to three questions they would like to ask and bring with them to the session.   

The "Speed Networking with Funders" has been an overwhelmingly popular element at our BID conference featuring between 14  area foundations, which enable an introduction quick enough for participants to meet philanthropic leaders, but long enough for each session to be valuable.  In order to achieve this meaningful goal, the BID Conference has a  Non-Solicitation Policy


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Each year the Breakin' It Down Committee brings individuals to our conference who focus on areas of nonprofit and philanthropy.   

We are very pleased for 2019 to present our participants  with distinguished industry leaders.



Juan Calixto

Deidra Somerville, PhD

Rhea Yap

Gil Zamora


Felicia S. Davis

Felicia S. Davis

President and CEO

Chicago Foundation for Women

Felicia S. Davis, President and CEO of is a self-described “girl from the South Side of Chicago.” Davis has spent the bulk of her professional career in public service. Most recently, Davis served as the interim president of Olive-Harvey College, one of the seven City Colleges of Chicago (CCC). She was named to this post by CCC Chancellor Juan Salgado in May 2017. As interim president, her primary responsibility was to provide vision for the College and continuous leadership and direction for the planning and operation of all aspects of the College's programs and services in conformity with CCC Board policies, Illinois Community College Board (ICCB) and Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE) rules and regulations, and State law. She was also responsible for developing, maintaining and evaluating the academic programs and student services of the College and creating a climate which enhances student learning, stimulates creative approaches to teaching and learning and motivates both staff and students to optimum achievement.

Prior to joining City Colleges, Davis held several executive positions in city government. She served as Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s first deputy chief of staff, the first executive director of the Mayor’s Office of Public Engagement, and as commissioner of the City of Chicago’s Department of Buildings. She also led the Public Building Commission (PBC) as its executive director. As a public developer, the PBC plans, designs and builds schools, parks, libraries and municipal buildings that help to make the communities of Chicago and Cook County better and safer places to live. Under Davis’s leadership, the PBC developed more than 

$200 million worth of public projects. With Davis at the helm, the PBC’s annual Minority Business Enterprise and Women Business Enterprise participation rate was nearly forty percent. 

Davis spent ten years in administration at Kendall College, rising to vice president of operations and student administration. Davis began her public sector career with the Chicago Police Department (CPD), where Davis served with distinction for ten years. Davis  is a native Chicagoan and life-long resident of the city’s South Side, where she resides with her family. This dynamic leader and mother of five is deeply committed to community.  She s proud to serve on the Advisory Board for the Willie’s Warriors Leadership Initiative and is a founding member of the South Side Giving Circle at Chicago Foundation for Women. 


Antonio Martinez, Jr.

President and CEO

Oak Park-River Forest Community Foundation

Antonio Martinez, Jr. is President and CEO of the Oak Park-River Forest Community Foundation. As

president and CEO, Martinez leads and directs the advancement and fulfillment of the mission of the

Community Foundation. He is responsible for the achievement of the operational and strategic goals,

including fund and donor development, fiscal management, grants and programming, board relations,

staff oversight, community relations and management.

Before joining the Oak Park-River Forest Community Foundation, Martinez served as director of

development for The Chicago Community Trust, Chicago’s community foundation, where he was

instrumental in increasing the organizations assets by $1.6 billion.

Martinez also worked for the American Bar Association, Museum of Science and Industry and the

Chicago Cubs. Martinez serves on the board of the Hispanic Alliance for Career Enhancement, The

Resurrection Project and Future Leaders of Chicago. Martinez is founder and chair of LEARN West

Rogers Park, a collaboration of nonprofits, community leaders, and business leaders focused on building

solutions to address the needs of Chicago’s West Rogers Park neighborhood.

A graduate of Columbia College, Martinez holds a bachelor’s degree in Marketing Communications. He

has served on the Bateman Elementary Local School Council in Chicago and has volunteered on 

aldermanic and congressional campaigns. Martinez is a 2017 Edgar Fellow, 2014 Leadership Greater

Chicago Fellow, a 2012 Fellow of Great Cities Institute at University of Illinois Chicago, and a 2008

graduate of Metropolitan Leadership Institute. In 2017, Martinez received recognition for his work in

nonprofits by Negocios Now in their annual Who’s Who in Chicago Hispanic Power magazine edition.


Tuyet M. Le

Independent Consultant

Tuyet M. Le is an independent consultant for nonprofits and government. Previously, Le served as

executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice | Chicago (Advancing Justice | Chicago) for

nearly 19 years. Established in 1992, Advancing Justice | Chicago is a pan-Asian, not-for-profit

organization that builds power through collective advocacy and organizing to achieve racial equity.

During her tenure, Le grew the organization from one staff to fourteen full-time staff. Advancing Justice |

Chicago’s programs included civic engagement, community organizing, leadership development and

legal advocacy. Her current board service includes Access Living, and One People’s Campaign. She has

been a panelist, keynote, and rally speaker on a wide range of issues including immigration, disability

rights, census, redistricting, and political empowerment.

Le is a polio survivor and came to the United States as a refugee at the age of three from Vietnam.

Some of her previous board service includes the Illinois Coalition for Immigrants and Refugee Rights,

Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC, Disabilities Fund, and the Leadership Fellows Association for

Leadership Greater Chicago. She was also a 2013 Rockwood Leadership Institute Fellow, and a 2004

Leadership Greater Chicago Fellow.

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Joan Flanagan

Professional Fundraiser, Consultant, Speaker, and Author

Nationally-recognized  fundraising expert Joan Flanagan is the author of three bestselling "how-to" books, including  international best-sellers The Grass Roots Fundraising Book: Raising Money in Your Own Community and The Successful Volunteer Organization.  As a professional, she has raised money as the director of development for the Interfaith Worker Justice's national office in Chicago while she served as consultant to its sixty-five local worker rights chapters nationwide. As a trainer, she has led fundraising workshops in forty-seven states, six Canadian provinces, and seven formerly Communist countries. Flanagan worked for two grant-making foundations in Chicago and Washington, D.C. that have made more than $300 million in grants.


Currently,  Flanagan serves as the fundraising advisor for ECON, the European Community Organizing Network, serving leaders and staff from nine formerly communist countries to establish a fundraising mentoring program. She volunteers for her church, where she is leading a $60,000 campaign to create a columbarium, and Journey Care Hospice and Palliative Care. 


Caronina Grimble

Program Officer

Woods Fund Chicago

Caronina has been a Program Officer at Woods Fund Chicago since 2013.   

As Program Officer, she shares responsibility for reviewing grant proposals, making informed funding recommendations to Woods Fund’s Board of Directors, monitoring relationships with organizations that Woods Fund supports, and identifying service gaps and areas appropriate for Woods Fund’s support.   Caronina works to leverage the impact of Woods Fund’s grantmaking into increased interest and engagement from other foundations. In addition to supporting Woods Fund’s grantmaking, Caronina also leads the foundation’s racial equity work.

Before joining Woods Fund Chicago, Caronina served as Acting Associate Director of the Division of Family and Community Services at the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS), managing a group of human services programs that provided homeless services, emergency food services, immigrant and refugee services, domestic violence services, and managed a federal block grant that funded an array of community services programs.  Prior to that, she served as a Senior Policy Advisor in the Office of the Assistant Secretary at IDHS, where she was responsible for the planning and execution of executive level tasks, special statewide projects, multi-agency projects, and other initiatives. 

Prior to that, Caronina worked as a therapist and case manager at Wheaton Youth Outreach, a multi-purpose community resource center, where she provided mental health services for individuals and families, emergency crisis intervention for locked-out and runaway youth and their families, and an array of services to homeless and at-risk youth, as well as pregnant and parenting teenage girls.  


Pedro A. Serrano, MPH

Project Director

Hektoen Institute LLC

Pedro A. Serrano, MPH, is Project Direct for the Hektoen Institute LLC.  He is a public health researcher with experience directing epidemiological, behavioral and clinical trials. In particular, his research has utilized mobile and web health strategies to improve HIV prevention efforts among gender and sexual diverse adolescent and young adult populations.  He has worked on protocols of the Adolescent Trials Network, HIV Prevention Trials Network, Microbicide Trials Network and is currently directing a limited interaction targeted epidemiology study named “#keepingitLITE: Exploring HIV Risk in Vulnerable Youth with Limited Interaction." #keepingitLITE is a cohort study designed to describe and characterize multi-level socioecological factors that impact attitudes toward sex, sexual behaviors and ongoing HIV/STI infection trends across the United States.

Serrano’s experience is how to employ social media to engage youth in public health campaigns, specifically young queer youth of color.  He has learned how organizations can effectively employ social media to have authentic engagement with youth. These lessons can be applied to building young professional board, crowd rising for small campaigns,  and building support for advocacy. 


Linda X. Tortolero

President and CEO

Mujeres Latinas en Acción

As of September 2017, Linda X. Tortolero assumed the position of President and CEO of Mujeres Latinas en Acción. She is a highly regarded development and communications professional, having served most recently as the director of development at the Association House of Chicago. In her role, she was responsible of managing Association House’s daily operations for all fundraising and marketing activities. She built strategic relationships with stakeholders and created and executed the annual development plan in order to support the organization’s mission. Previously, Linda served as the special projects director at the National Museum of Mexican Art and as the development manager at Mujeres. In addition to having more  than a decade of fundraising experience, Tortolero brings a legal and policy background to her new role. In 2012,  Tortolero was a Proteus Fund Diversity Fellow at the Nellie Mae Education Foundation — a one-year fellowship designed to provide individuals of color with a comprehensive understanding of the philanthropic sector.  Tortolero has a Bachelor of Arts from Brown University in Political Science and History of Modern Latin America and a Juris Doctor from Northwestern Pritzker School of Law. 

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The Denise Stennis Awards.

The Denise Stennis Awards pays tribute to the memory of Denise Stennis, a community leader, mentor, friend and a founding member of the Breakin' It Down conference.  Well- known and regarded in the metropolitan Chicago nonprofit community, Denise served a number of social benefit, educational and cultural organizations. She directly influenced countless nonprofit decision-makers, fundraising volunteers, and the work as well as careers of many Chicago area development professionals.  Denise wrote: “I use the word serve as a description of my responsibilities to the nonprofit community. I do not take that responsibility lightly. My love and faith in mankind is a driving force in my commitment to the profession and to those non-profits I have been fortunate to work with.”

2019 Awards Committee


Rose Olea

Deborah Clark

Tekla Syers



The 2019 Breakin' It Down's Planning Committee is pleased to announce that the inaugural Individual award in memory of Denise Stennis was presented to Sharon Bush, Executive Director, of the Grand Victoria Foundation. 

The selection of Sharon rewards her tireless commitment to empowering communities in Illinois to thrive.  

"Throughout her tenure, she has always focused on philanthropic solutions that are responsive and equitable in communities of color. Her experience in business commerce has also informed how workforce development and economic opportunities increase community viability for the persons who live there. Sharon is a natural collaborator and has used her voice at the table of influentials to effect system change in workforce development and environmental issues."

"She is a clear bridge builder and always finds a way to create connection and community with all whom she encounters."  

"She is also aware of the organic nature of the environments in which she operates and allows them to inform her strategy and approach."

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The 2019 Breakin' It Down's Planning Committee is pleased to announce that the inaugural Organization award in memory of Denise Stennis was presented to Erie Neighborhood House.

The selection of Erie House is for "their monumental legacy in lifting up disadvantaged immigrant communities and empowering them through education, training, advocacy, and support. Transformative work like that of Erie Neighborhood House is what creates a just, more inclusive society. We cannot think of a better way to celebrate their strength and resilience that has brought positive change to Chicago over the last 150 years ..."

"Erie House has proven their collaborative spirit through sharing best practices and screening tools ... . This is a testament to their continuing efforts to collaborate with sister organizations, stay action-oriented and create powerful communities."

"Erie Neighborhood House collaborates with the community they serve to enable participants to engage in advocacy issues which are important to them and their community. Through their extensive education, mental health, and other supportive programming, Erie Neighborhood House is creating leaders within disadvantaged communities, and in doing so, creating equity in a more inclusive Chicago. Erie Neighborhood House is an example we should all live by."


Participating Foundations

 Paul M. Angell Family Foundation

The Paul M. Angell Family Foundation was founded in 2011 to support work in ocean conservation, performing arts and social causes. New applicants can submit a Letter of Inquiry in May and November. Learn more about the foundation at

Chicago Foundation for Women

Chicago Foundation for Women (CFW) is a public foundation working to advance gender equity which we believe is inherently interconnected with racial, economic and health equity. CFW envisions a world in which all women and girls have the opportunity to thrive in safe, just and healthy communities. We celebrate the spectrum of identities and experiences of women and girls, uplift their leadership and center the voices of community to achieve true equity.  Learn more about the CFW at

Community Memorial Foundation

Community Memorial Foundation aims to improve the health of those who live and work in the western suburbs of Chicago. Through partnership with grantees and community stakeholders, we manage a grantmaking portfolio that includes our Regional Health and Human Services Agenda, Responsive Grants and Building Organizational Effectiveness programs. Our priorities include ensuring access to physical and behavioral healthcare and advancing health equity.  New applicants can submit a LOI in February and August.

Learn more about CMF at

Grand Victoria Foundation

The Grand Victoria Foundation's mission  is to empower communities to ensure Illinois is a great place to live and work. We believe people and communities are at the center of social and economic change. Through our funding, we aim to change and improve conditions that persistently hold problems in place. Our grantmaking is organized into five program areas – Economy, Education, Elgin, Engagement, and Environment.  

For more information, visit

Healthy Communities Foundation

We are a community informed grantmaking foundation that seeks to measurably improve the health and well-being of individuals, families, and communities in our service area by promoting health equity, quality, and access. We understand that systemic conditions such as implicit bias and institutional/structural racism impede access and opportunities that improve well-being and a sustainable quality of life. We intend to use our platform and resources to create change, forge partnerships, and share learning through a focused and visible commitment to address these disparities and achieve health equity. Learn more about the foundation at

Illinois Arts Council Agency

The Illinois Arts Council Agency provides public funding to Illinois residents, not-for-profit, tax exempt (501c3) organizations, units of government, and institutions of higher education. Applicants must include proof of eligibility at the time of application. Learn more about the agency at

Mayer and Morris Kaplan Family Foundation

The Mayer and Morris Kaplan Family Foundation is a multi-generational family foundation inspired by a tradition of Tzedakah, lifelong learning, and a commitment to social justice. We are dedicated to advancing educational opportunities for young people and promoting the sustainability of our natural environment. We focus our efforts in Chicago and in communities in which family members live. For more information, visit 

 MacArthur Foundation (Chicago Commitment)

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation supports creative and effective organizations and influential networks working to improve the quality of life and the prospects for residents to make our hometown a city where opportunity is equitable, and justice can thrive. Organizations that wish to be considered for support may submit a brief description of their work at

Robert R. McCormick Foundation

The Robert R. McCormick Foundation works with communities in Chicagoland and across Illinois to develop educated, informed and engaged citizens. The Communities Program invests in programs that improve the education, health, employment and economic opportunities for individuals living on Chicago’s south and west sides where racial and economic disparities are prevalent. Please visit our website to learn more about our grantmaking process at

Polk Bros. Foundation

Polk Bros. Foundation is a private, independent foundation that focuses its work at the intersection of Chicago’s most pressing issues to address the complex roots and devastating effects of poverty, challenge inequity, and ensure that all Chicagoans have the opportunity to reach their full potential. To learn more about the foundation, visit

J.B. and M.K. Pritzker Family Foundation

The J.B. and M.K. Pritzker Family Foundation has a national focus on catalyzing entrepreneurial change that promotes greater equity and fairness. The Foundation and its affiliates anticipate continuing to make substantial philanthropic investments in excess of $1 billion over 20 years. The Foundation’s primary areas of strategic focus are early childhood development, community healthcare and upholding and expanding individual civil and human rights. The Foundation also maintains a portfolio of grants that meet critical community needs in the state of Illinois.

The Springboard Foundation

The Springboard Foundation provides start-up grants to nonprofits to help them “springboard” to the next level of growth and development. We believe in small barrel grantmaking, thoughtfully crafted. Our mission is to improve the lives of youth in under-resourced Chicago communities through the support of grassroots educational afterschool programs and their intrepid leaders with our resources—time, treasure, knowledge, and network. Learn more about the foundation at

Third Wave Fund

Third Wave Fund is an activist fund led by and for women of color, intersex, queer, and trans people under 35 years of age that resources and supports youth-led gender justice activism to advance the political power, well-being, and self determination of communities of color and low-income communities. Our grantmaking includes a rapid response fund, multi-year support, capacity building fund, and a sex worker-led giving circle. Learn more about Third Wave's work at

Woods Fund of Chicago

The Woods Fund of Chicago is a private foundation committed to the promotion of social, economic, and racial justice through the support of community organizing and public policy advocacy that engages people most impacted. New applicants can submit a Letter of Inquiry in May and December. Learn more about our foundation at

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Deborah Clark and Alejandra Ibañez

Networking skills have never been more crucial to ensure success for nonprofit fund development professionals, including those serving traditionally under-represented and underserved communities  At the Speed Networking with Funders, take advantage of the opportunity to meet philanthropic leaders for approximately 20 minutes and learn about the foundation's funding priorities, parameters and grant application review process, and then move on to connect with the next philanthropic leader.   There will be three "meet and greet" rounds formatted in a small group setting.  We encourage participants to prepare two to three questions they would like to ask and bring with them to the session.  Nonprofit fund development professionals of all backgrounds are encouraged to attend the 2019 BID Conference!

Sponsors and Partners


 We would like to thank our Sponsors and Partners for their generous support .               

Marketing and Advancement

Elaine Lehman