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.

Rodney Christopher

Understanding and Supporting Grantees’ Financial Resilience 

Rodney is a Senior Consultant with Fiscal Management Associates (FMA), providing training, consulting, and coaching for the firm’s Philanthropic Advisory Services. With more than 20 years of experience in the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors, Rodney specializes in stimulating and facilitating productive conversations between nonprofits and their funders, enabling nonprofits to achieve long-term impact from a position of strength while giving grantmakers confidence their dollars are going to capable, well-managed organizations. Previously, Rodney spent five years as a Director on the Integrated Capitals team at Heron Foundation, and 15 years developing the consulting practice at Nonprofit Finance Fund, serving as a trainer and consultant to more than 400 nonprofits and 80 grantmaking foundations in 30 states and across subsectors including human services, arts & culture, education, and community development. Rodney holds an M.S. in urban policy analysis and management from The New School and a B.A. in social sciences from Bard College at Simon’s Rock. He currently serves on the board of Bard College at Simon’s Rock and is a member of the GuideStar Advisory Council.

Greg Crawford

HR Basics: Managing Performance Improvements and Exits

Greg Crawford brings more than 30 years of human resources management experience to his current position as Vice President, Human Capital Management. He is a certified professional in human resources and has held leadership positions that include Director of Employment, Empire BlueCross BlueShield of New York; Director of Compensation and Benefits, BlueCross BlueShield Associations; Director of Human resources for the start-up operations of National Futures Association and Manager of Human Resources for the Chicago Board of Trade.

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 more than 25 years of professional and volunteer experience in the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors to her clients. 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.

Noah Temaner Jenkins

Working on Evaluation with Grantees Ethically and Effectively, Evaluating Impact: Current Practices & Methodologies

Noah Temaner Jenkins is a consultant who assists in developing the capacity of nonprofit organizations through program evaluation, fundraising, board development, strategic planning, and community research. Clients include community-based organizations, universities, and citywide nonprofits providing human services, advocacy, arts, housing, and education. Since 2002, Noah has helped clients to raise more than $12 million from private and government sources. She has served as an evaluator for national, statewide, and community-based programs. She recently designed and completed the Year 1 evaluation of the Robert R. McCormick Foundation’s Little Village Nonprofit Learning Community. She served as evaluator for the three-year, $1.5 million Illinois ResourceNet program at the University of Illinois, multiple nonprofit programs, Chicago Jobs Council’s Statewide Outreach and Public Information Initiative, and a university-based national evaluation of the federal Empowerment Zone program. She teaches online courses, face-to-face workshops, and academic courses in program design and evaluation and grant writing. She is adjunct faculty at UIC’s College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs. She is published by Sage Publications and holds a master’s of Urban Planning and Policy from the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa.

Holly Lewandowski

Working on Evaluation with Grantees Ethically and Effectively, Evaluating Impact: Current Practices and Methodologies

Holly Lewandowski, President of Evaluation for Change, Inc. has worked as an evaluation consultant for the past 10 years on many education evaluations, spanning early childhood to post-secondary, with institutions such as the Ounce of Prevention Fund, Illinois Education Research Council, City Colleges of Chicago, Westat, Roosevelt University, and University of Illinois at Chicago. She has also provided nonprofits with capacity building around creating evaluation systems. Additionally, she has held positions in evaluation and research at both DePaul and Northwestern Universities. She earned her MA in Sociology at DePaul University and BA in Anthropology at Antioch College.

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 serves on the Boards of the Arts Alliance Illinois and National Association of Women Business Owners – Chicago Chapter. @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.

Jenny Ellis Richards

Jenny Ellis Richards, Principal and Co-founder of Pratt Richards Group, has provided evaluation and planning services to a wide range of nonprofits and foundations across the country. With nearly twenty years of experience in the sector, she has advised organizations on how to measure and communicate their impact, and develop robust evaluation systems that foster organizational learning and growth. Prior to founding PRG, Jenny led consulting engagements with TCC Group, Civic Consulting Alliance, and B2P Commerce. She began her career teaching in Ecuador, running a college readiness program for urban youth in San Francisco, and leading an international development effort at Harvard University. Jenny holds a BA in Spanish from Dartmouth College and a master’s of Public Policy from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. She sits on the board of James B. Moran Center for Youth Advocacy, Camp Manito-Wish YMCA, and the Crysdahl Foundation.

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, MSW, CFRE

Fundraising in Communities of Color 

Deidra is the Director of Research and Sponsored Programs at Roosevelt University. Most recently she worked as Director of Development for Corporate and Foundation Relations for Roosevelt University. Prior to her tenure at Roosevelt, she worked as Senior Grant Developer for the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA), where she was responsible for leading the grant development team to secure resources from corporations, foundations, and public sector funding sources to benefit residents of public and assisted housing. Ms. Somerville obtained her license as a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) in 2009 and has worked on behalf of Chicago area municipal and nonprofit organizations in fundraising and program management since her arrival to the Windy City in 1998. She graduated from the University of California at Santa Cruz with a double bachelor of arts with honors in sociology and political science, and has her MSW in human resources management from the Boston University School of Social Work.

Kris Torkelson

HR Basics: Hiring Staff,  HR Basics: Managing Performance Improvements and Terminations, Becoming a Super Supervisor

Kris Torkelson is President, Torkelson Consulting, Inc. Kris began consulting full-time in 2007 after 27 years of development, operations, and HR experience in social justice nonprofits. Previous to owning Torkelson Consulting Inc. Kris held positions as VP of Operations at the Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust, Deputy Director positions at both Project Exploration and Urban Gateways: Center for Arts Education, and Director of Development and Communications positions and both at Community Renewal Society and the Chicago Foundation for Women.

Meico Marquette Whitlock

Mastering the Art of “Work-Life Balance” in a Digital World

Meico Marquette Whitlock is a speaker and trainer on mindfulness, technology, and productivity and the Founder and CEO of Mindful Techie, an organization that helps purpose-driven high achievers and organizations have an impact without burning out and being distracted by technology through talks, workshops, and coaching. Meico helps busy professionals and organizations integrate purpose, intention, and mindfulness into their day-to-day work in order to increase employee satisfaction, productivity, and work-­life balance. He is the creator of the Intention Planner and has been a featured speaker on ABC News, Fox 5, Radio One, and on the main stage at events such as the Nonprofit Technology Conference. @amindfultechie


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