Help Us Build a New Kind of Conference

If you think all conferences are the same, we are out to change your mind.

On the road to tomorrow, the Independent Sector Conference is in the rearview mirror. In front of us is something exciting and immersive. Something ambitious and collaborative. Something brand new.

This year, we are proud to unveil Our Common Future, a conference for every kind of changemaker. A conference for you.

Independent Sector, the Council of Michigan Foundations, and Michigan Nonprofit Association are partnering to produce a three-day gathering in Detroit this October 25-27 that’s unlike anything we’ve done before. And a different kind of conference starts with a different design process.

In that spirit, we’re proud to issue not just a call for sessions, but a call for your ambitious ideas, transformative experiences, and profound insights. With a block of time in the program, how will you inspire your peers to build a better tomorrow?

There’s a bright future ahead if we’re brave enough to create it. So buckle in. We’re ready to hit the gas – and the Call for Sessions closes May 1!


Additional Resource

What Makes for a Great Session Idea? (April 24, 2017)

Types: Blog
Global Topics: IS Member, Leadership Development, Upswell
  • Ana Doonan


    Thank you for the opportunity to provide feedback regarding the conference format.
    Having a keynote speaker is one of the best features in any conference – someone who has a great reputation, is engaging and shares a lot of wisdom.
    Instead of just breakout sessions, it would be great to have a combination of one-on-one coaching sessions, War shops and a panel. For the one-on-one sessions, I suggest peer learning opportunities like CEO or CFO or Community organizers coaching others in their field. For the panel, we need more questions and answers that are more closely monitored to allow as many people to ask questions and for the speakers on the panel to be brief and precise. Practitioners at looking for practical tips and wisdom on how to be better at what we do.
    Thank you!

    • Katie Jones, Director of Sector Advancement and Convenings

      Hi Ana, Thank you for your feedback, it is appreciated. Can you tell me more about the “war shops” you mention? Is that a format? Or a different type of “workshop”? One of our goals of the conference this year is to deepen relationships between participants and I think one-on-one peer coaching could be a great way to add this. Where have you seen this done well? And do you have thoughts on how the people should be paired to ensure the time is worthwhile?

      • Danielle Todd

        I agree about having one-on-one coaching opportunities. Troy’s nonprofit conference uses this format and it fills up fast. You could have advisors from multiple areas in the discipline. Often, it’s companies who specialize in a topic, which would make it easier to fill on the advisor side. Participants sign up for time slots with the person/topic they are most drawn to.

  • For any of the fund development or board sessions it would be great if you could partner with the Greater Detroit Chapter of AFP to see if the content would qualify for CFRE credits. There are many development professionals that would benefit from receiving the credits toward their certification.

    Personally my staff and I would benefit from numerous topics including: Newsletters, Storytelling, Case Statements, Development Plan, Direct Mail, Creative Websites, and Volunteer Management.

    Providing enough down time, or activities designed for networking, during the conference reaps benefits long after the event is over. Finding people you can reach out to for professional support, or advice on a specific topic, keeps the entire non-profit field strong.

    • Katie Jones, Director of Sector Advancement and Convenings

      Hi Cathy, Thank you for your thoughtful reply. We are committed to deepening relationships among our conference participants and are planning to pilot a few ideas this year in the “down time” so I hope you will join us in Detroit to participate. I am interested in hearing more, specifically around your interest in “Storytelling”. We have heard this quite a bit. What aspect would be most interesting/helpful to you and your staff?

  • Services to Enhance Potential is a non-profit with services throughout Wayne County, missioned to assist individuals with disabilities find employment opportunities within the communities they reside. We would be interested in offering a panel discussion to the attendees of the conference to discuss the benefits of employing individuals with a disability. The panel could consist of employees of Services to Enhance Potential and individuals representing employers who have employed individuals with disabilities in their work settings. October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month as well.

    Please let me know if the conference planners would be interested in discussing this opportunity further.

    • Katie Jones, Director of Sector Advancement and Convenings

      Hi Brent, thank you for your suggestion! We would be delighted if you would consider submitting your session through our call for sessions ( We feel this open call is a way for us to hear what is most pressing within the sector and provide a forum for connection. Deadline is May 1 so its is coming up fast!

  • Mitzi Brown

    It would be a great addition to have a session on Volunteer Recruitment, Retention, and Engagement. Today’s volunteer is tomorrow’s donor.
    I currently am the Volunteer & Community Outreach Coordinator and am always looking for more tools.
    With some non-profits background screenings have to be done and tracking of hours is crucial to some agencies funding. The budget for all of this is minimal. Most volunteer programs do everything on a dime.
    Thank you for asking for input, and i look forward to the conference.

    • Katie Jones, Director of Sector Advancement and Convenings

      Hi Mitzi, Perhaps you want to consider submitting a session that would be some kind of brainstorm/ information sharing about how other organizations do this to help you with your learning and gathering more tools? While some conferences may only offer “expert” panels, we also welcome sessions which allow people to connect over common challenges and help solve in real time. It is just an idea, but I think it could be really interesting to do.

  • Hi there, thanks for the invitation so submit suggestions. With Donor Advised Funds as the #1 growing charitable tool, the funds of which benefit so many nonprofits, I would love to hear from/participate in a session on how orgs are thinking about new ways of engagement with donors. While it has historically been a very transactional tool for bigger financial services institutions, I think many in the field are thinking about how we can totally turn the engagement of community on its head vis a vis tools like DAFs, particularly around technology and being connectors both to other people but also to causes. Moreover, as we look into current and future generations of givers, particularly both Boomers and Millenials, we know that they want to know more about accountability measures and are generally more directly engaged with the act of social change than other generations. So it would be great to hear what others are doing at the intersection of the human element and the fastest growing charitable tool.

    • Katie Jones, Director of Sector Advancement and Convenings

      Hi Mandy, thank you for posting! I think creating a space for this type of conversation would be valuable. The deadline is midnight tonight (5/1) so I encourage you to submit a session!

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