Our Instructors

Forefront’s stable of instructors for our workshops and programs is one of the most impressive in the state, featuring former and current leaders of nonprofits, foundations, and advisor groups. Highly vetted and hailing from throughout Illinois, our instructors provide insight and guidance on everything from Grantmaking 101, to high-level donor cultivation, to creating structures to ensure diversity and equity in your organization or grantees. See our list of instructors below, and contact Emily Long, Manager of Education, at elong@myforefront.org with questions.

Rosie Drumgoole

Volunteer Management 101, Volunteer Management 201

Rosie Drumgoole joined the Chicago Cares staff in May of 2010 and is their Director of Ongoing Volunteer Programming. She currently manages the team who puts together all of Chicago Cares’ calendar programming. Prior to coming to Chicago Cares, Rosie was an AmeriCorps VISTA at the Area Agency on Aging for Suburban Cook County-AgeOptions where she provided training and developed easy to use resources for the seniors and senior service providers in Suburban Cook County on the topics of Medicare, Social Security, and cost saving programs. Rosie holds a B.A. in print journalism and public relations from Northern Illinois University.

Debra A. Hass

Introduction to Proposal Writing, Advanced Proposal Writing

Debra A. Hass’s consulting practice emphasizes proposal review, program development and management, board engagement, evaluation, research, and writing. Deb brings over 25 years of professional and volunteer experience to Chicago-based foundations where she provides proposal review and evaluation services, as well as to nonprofit advocacy, service and membership organizations. Her consulting practice emphasizes program development and management, evaluation, research, and writing. She served as a Senior Policy Associate at the Women Employed Institute and has extensive experience in the areas of education and employment. She has also worked as a Program Officer at The Harris Foundation, as an adult education instructor, as coordinator of a homeless literacy program, and as a college fundraising and alumni affairs officer. Deb earned a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations and Spanish from Beloit College and a Master’s degree in Public Policy from the University of Chicago. She is currently President of the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights, housed at the University of Chicago Law School, and an adjunct instructor at the University of Chicago’s School of Service Administration, teaching Evaluation of Social Welfare Policies and Programs. Deb has served on the Board and as Co-chair of Chicago Women in Philanthropy and was a Co-chair of the Poverty Task Force of Donors Forum.

Zoe Magierek

Introduction to Prospect Research: Finding Grants, Introduction to Prospect Research: Individual Donors

As a Forefront librarian, Zoe Magierek aids both Members and the general public in conducting research and utilizing the library’s databases. In addition, she oversees the Library’s catalog as well as conducts workshops on topics such as grant prospecting and library resources. Prior experience includes serving as a librarian at Pacific College of Oriental Medicine and in a library research capacity with medical professionals. Zoe has a bachelor’s in Sociology from the University of Chicago and a master’s degree in library and information science from Dominican University. Zoe actively volunteers with children and animals and has served on the board of the Chicago Herpetological Society.

Rena Henderson Mason 

Building Your Best Board: Recruiting, Structure, and Process, Performance and Culture, Developing Effective Advocates

Rena Henderson Mason leads Bold Agenda and is a trusted advisor to mission-driven board and staff leaders, helping them shape their boards and leaders for high performance and tell their unique stories. Her specialty is empowering board and staff leaders to embrace change, push bold ideas, and build great teams. She has coached Board Chairs and Executive Directors/CEOs through a range of organizational challenges including growth, leadership transitions, strategic alliances, restructuring, turnarounds, and crises. Prior to launching Bold Agenda, Rena spent over 20 years helping scale businesses through new product development, strategic planning, and capital raising in the food, commercial real estate, publishing, and investment banking industries. Rena has an MBA from Harvard Business School and Bachelor’s in Finance/International Management from Georgetown University. She is a ICF-Certified coach and BoardSource Certified Governance Trainer with extensive training in high-performance coaching, board development, and group process facilitation. Currently, Rena is the Board Development Chair of the Arts Alliance Illinois. @boldagenda

Dominica McBride, PhD

Culturally Responsive Evaluation

Dr. Dominica McBride is Founder/CEO of Become, Inc. She has conducted domestic and international program development and evaluation projects with diverse communities, including rural communities in Tanzania, African American, Hispanic, and Native American communities, and women. Dr. McBride has designed and implemented workshops nationally, including trainings on cultural competence, program evaluation, leadership, teambuilding, wellness, and social and emotional intelligence for audiences including Goodwill Industries International, Inc., prevention specialists, lawyers, mental health professionals, government employees, teachers, and community members. Dr. McBride has also worked on the ground providing substance abuse counseling and clinical therapy to individuals, youth, and families. She also is an adjunct professor at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology and teaches Diversity and Program Evaluation. She has received awards from the American Evaluation Association, the ARK of St. Sabina, and Bright Promises Foundation for her evaluation and development work. She has her PhD in Counseling Psychology with a specialization in Consultation from Arizona State University.

Headshot of Marianne Philbin.

Marianne Philbin

Grantmakers Institute, Fundamentals of Grantmaking, Reviewing Proposals with the Board in Mind

Marianne Philbin is Co-Executive Director of the Pierce Family Foundation along with Heather Parish, and continues to serve on occasion as a consultant to other foundations and nonprofit organizations. She has more than 25 years of experience working with foundations and nonprofit organizations on issues related to grantmaking, evaluation, strategic planning, and nonprofit organizational development. She is co-author with Marcia Festen of the book Level Best: How Grassroots Organizations Can Tackle Evaluation and Talk Results (Wiley Publishing) and also co-author of How Effective Nonprofits Work: A Guide for Donors, Board Members and Foundation Officers (Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers). In the past she served as Development Director for the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, which was part of the Annenberg Foundation’s national effort to improve public education, and Executive Director of the Chicago Foundation for Women . She has served on nonprofit boards including Amnesty International, Chicago Women in Philanthropy, and Project Exploration.

Susannah Quern Pratt

Creating a Theory of Change, Activating Your Theory of Change, Moving into Measurement 

Susie Quern Pratt, Principal and Co-founder of Pratt Richards Group, leads consultation and training services focused on strategic planning and evaluation. Her consulting work has focused on a variety of issue areas, including civic engagement, theological education, youth development, and human services. These engagements have taken the form of coaching and capacity building, as well as external evaluation. Susie’s formal evaluation career began as the Coordinator of Evaluation for the Religion Division of Lilly Endowment, Inc., where she designed an evaluation coaching program to build the capacity of grantee organizations. Prior to that, she was a program officer at the Field Foundation of Illinois, Inc., a research assistant for the Chapin Hall Center for Children at the University of Chicago, and a program associate for The Alford Group, Inc., a fundraising consulting firm. Susie holds a BA from Colgate University with Honors in English Literature and an AM from the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration. She is currently on the board of Family Matters and the Franklin Square Foundation.

Sarah Rice

Introduction to Prospect Researching: Finding Grants, Introduction to Prospect Research: Individual Donors

As a Forefront librarian, Sarah Rice aids both Members and the general public in conducting research and utilizing the Library’s databases. In addition, she creates tools and research guides for Forefront’s educational programming as well as conducts workshops on topics such as grant prospecting and library resources. Prior experience includes serving as Outreach and User Experience Librarian at Sullivan University, assisting with the teen department at Forest Park Public Library, and overseeing library services as the manager of Strayer University’s Learning Resource Center. Sarah has a bachelor’s in English from the University of Louisville and a master’s degree in library science from the University of Kentucky. Sarah volunteers with the Animal Care League, helping stray and abandoned animals find new homes.

David Schreier

Dealing with Conflict and Difficult Conversations, Creating a Culture of “No Blame”

David Schreier is President of David Schreier Associates LLC, a professional services firm founded in 2009 which assists nonprofit organizations with capacity building – resource development, planning & evaluation, collaboration strategies, leadership development, organization talent, marketing, and communications. David’s broad-based history of working for and with local, regional, and national organizations across the nonprofit sector offers him a unique perspective on nonprofit trends and innovative thinking. He has consulted to organizations with budgets ranging from under $100,000 to over $1 billion in the areas of arts, human service, education, healthcare, foundations, associations, and religion. He received a bachelor of arts degree in English (with honors and distinction) from the University of Illinois, a certificate degree in direct marketing from DePaul University, and was later awarded a master of science degree in Public Administration from DePaul University.

Lisa May Simpson

Lead Right Now

Lisa oversees Forefront’s Member Engagement programming to ensure it is designed to meet the needs of Illinois grantmakers, nonprofits, and advisors. She joined Forefront in 2012 as Member Services Manager, was promoted in 2016 to Director of Education, and now serves as Vice President of Learning & Engagement. Lisa has served as an independent coach, facilitator, and consultant for a variety of individuals and organizations including Chicago Women in Philanthropy, the Chicago Arts Learning Initiative (CALI), and Ingenuity, Inc. Prior to her work as a coach and consultant, she held the role of Deputy Director at Arts Alliance Illinois. Lisa currently serves on the board of Thousand Waves Martial Arts and Self-Defense Center and the Leadership Council of Barrel of Monkeys. She previously served on the boards of Creating Pride, The Hypocrites, and HealthConnect One. Lisa has trained as a facilitator and educator with Kansas Leadership Center, Interaction Institute for Social Change, and the Institute of Cultural Affairs in the U.S.A.. She holds a BA in theater from Western Washington University.

Deidra Somerville, Phd, MSW

Fundraising in Communities of Color 

Ms. Deidra Somerville, PhD, MSW, has worked for more than 25 years as a fundraiser, organizer, strategic planner, advocate, and administrator. She has served as a research administrator, development officer, grant writer, and major gifts officer for public and private organizations serving communities in public housing, youth development and workforce development. She has also worked to expand professional development opportunities for nonprofits serving diverse communities as a member of the planning committee of the Breakin It Down Conference, the longest-running volunteer-run professional development conference serving small and emerging nonprofits in the region. Deidra has presented on nonprofit leadership and community change, and as a CFRE trainer for more than 10 years. She is also a clinically trained social worker and certified trainer and works to address the lack of access to trauma trained professionals in the African American community.

Gretchen Upholt, MPA

Understanding Your Organization’s Financial Health, Budgeting For True Costs, Managing Financial Performance, Operational Excellence

Gretchen is responsible for the business development and growth strategy of FMA’s Midwest region, while playing an active role as trainer, coach, and curriculum developer for FMA’s cohort training initiatives. As consultant to nonprofit clients across the country, she helps nonprofit leaders improve their financial management skills and processes. An experienced staff and program manager, Gretchen has additional expertise in capacity building, research, and program and volunteer management. Prior to FMA, Gretchen spent 5 years in international development, first as a Community Development Consultant for the Peace Corps in Ukraine, then as head of the Volunteer Department at the Thabyay Education Network in Thailand. Gretchen’s diverse experience includes working in corporate citizenship, housing and homelessness and the arts. She holds an MPA from NYU’s Wagner School of Public Service and her BA and MA in Arts and Cultural Management from American University in Washington, DC.

Juan Calixto, CFRE

Introduction to Individual Giving, Cultivating Major Gifts

Juan Calixto is the Vice President of External Relations for Chicago Community Loan Fund where he manages the organization’s fundraising, marketing and communications and public policy activities. He has 30 years of nonprofit experience working in various leadership positions including top fundraising positions at Mujeres Latinas en Acción and the National Latino Education Institute securing funding from foundations, corporations, and government entities and raising funds from individuals and through special events. He is a Certified Fundraising Executive and a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals where he received the Chicago Chapter’s President’s Award for service to the field of philanthropy. Juan holds a Masters in Public Administration from Roosevelt University and a BS from Northern Illinois University.

Mary Ellen Ball

Dealing With the Most Difficult Folks

Mary Ellen Ball is an executive leader with almost 20 years of dynamic leadership, strategic planning, speaking, moderating, and executive coaching experience. She is currently the Executive Director of Open Communities and the Founder of the Open Delta group. Open Communities is dedicated to promoting inclusive and just communities in north suburban Cook county by protecting homeowners from foreclosure, tenants from predatory landlords, and everyone from housing discrimination. Alongside her passion for all things housing, Mary Ellen created the Open Delta Group to partner with people looking to clarify their purpose and develop steadfast courage in line with those values. She is infectiously optimistic, abundantly energetic and believes she has found her calling coaching organizations leaders discover the power of leading from a place of shared human experiences and showing up as our whole selves every day.

David Gee

Prioritizing for Impact: Strategies for Small Shop & Solo Fundraisers

David Gee is a Vice President at the non-profit consulting firm HUB Philanthropic Solutions (HPS).  David started his career in the social impact sector 14 years ago.  He is an experienced development professional with particular expertise in capital campaigns, major gifts, Board development and donor stewardship.  Prior to joining HPS, David served as the Director of Development at The Chicago Bar Foundation (CBF).  Prior to his second career in philanthropy, David put his BFA from Illinois Wesleyan University to use, enjoying 18 successful years as a professional actor in Chicago.  David currently serves on Forefront’s Development, Membership and Communications Committee, on the Resource Development Committee for All Chicago, and he’s volunteering with Young Chicago Authors and The Ability Center (Milwaukee) to help them advance their mission.  Among many other volunteer activities, he is a founder and past Chair of Ravenswood Community Services.  David lives with his wife on Chicago’s northwest side and is the proud father of their two boys.

Jessica Bullock

Disruptive Fundraising: Leading Development Through Organizational Change

Jessica A. Bullock is a principal consultant of AltruNext, Inc., a professional services firm focused on the financial development needs of not-for-profit organizations. Jessica has invested the last twenty years in facilitating large-scale initiatives for organizations. Her extensive experience in creating a vision, building team consensus, and executing results has led to the successful implementation of multimillion-dollar initiatives for non-profit and healthcare organizations. Jessica is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP), a certified ScrumMaster (CSM), and a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt. She is also the author of Making Project Teams Work: A Quick Guide, a practical guide to improving team performance.

Janine Hill, MPH, PhD(c), CPCC

Striving for Racial Equity: A Nonprofit Imperative, Addressing Implicit Bias in Your Nonprofit

Janine is the President of Soar Strategies, a coaching and consulting firm focused on the program, policy, and organizational development of the social good sector. For over 20 years, she has worked in and with nonprofit organizations, of varying sizes and budgets. In her six-year tenure as the executive director of EverThrive Illinois, a maternal and child health nonprofit organization, the organization more than doubled its revenues, underwent a rebranding initiative, and strengthened private/public partnerships. Prior to her tenure at EverThrive IL, Janine worked as an independent consultant, providing strategic planning and group facilitation services to the Illinois African-American Coalition for Prevention, the Illinois Network of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies, and others. Janine is a PhD candidate at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) School of Public Health, is a Certified Professional Co-Active coach, and has a Certificate of Professional Achievement in Nonprofit Management from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University (NU).

Kristen Raack

Introduction to Donor-Advised Funds

Kristin Raack is the CEO and a principal consultant of AltruNext, a professional services firm focused on helping nonprofits achieve their missions and advance the greater good. AltruNext not only partners with organizations to create strategies grounded in best practices, but also joins staff in the trenches to implement those plans. Kristin engages with clients through organizational assessments, strategic and fund development planning, grant writing, implementing individual giving programs, executive and staff coaching, and board training. She has 20 years of experience in the nonprofit sector.

Carol White

Marketing With Meaning: How to Talk (Clearly) About Your Organization

Carol founded CBWhite to guide nonprofits toward their destinations through the art and science of market research. The idea: Gather information from outside of an organization to guide decision-making processes. CBWhite projects involve conducting market research on the preferences and needs of a nonprofit’s constituents – current/prospective users of services, community partners, donors, volunteers – via surveys, focus groups, and interviews. Insightful and objective analysis provides a solid foundation for marketing plans, programming decisions, and strategic priorities. Carol and her team work in partnership with each client to ensure results are integrated into decisions and actions. Carol earned a BA in Economics from the University of Michigan and an MBA in Marketing from the University of Chicago.


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