Plenary Sessions

Thread by Thread: Creating a Better World Together

Featuring Diana Aviv, William Bell, Rachael Chong

We live in a dynamic world that moves at lightning speed. If the social good space is to thrive in coming years, we must work together to transform today’s challenges into tomorrow’s opportunities. In 2015, Independent Sector launched a series of community dialogues called “Threads” to explore our collective ability to solve the world’s greatest problems in coming years. We not only examined trends shaping our work, but we discussed what’s holding us back and what’s working. In this session, we’re excited to share that journey with you. Buckle up as we travel coast to coast to hear from a diverse chorus of people from this amazingly talented community of ours. Their stories and our work together during this plenary will re-ignite the passion in your heart and the fire in your gut for making this crazy spinning world a more just, verdant place for all.

Red, White, and on the Brink

Featuring Alberto Ibargüen, Mariam Noland, Trevor Potter, Maria Elena Salinas, Judy Woodruff

How will the 2016 elections shape our future? This two-part plenary will take a critical look at the American election scene. First, a panel of distinguished experts will provide insight into how the 2016 election results, both state and federal could affect the country and the sector’s work in the coming years. Then, Trevor Potter, former chairman of the United States Federal Election Commission, will discuss the deep challenges in the electoral process, including shifts in campaign finance and demographic engagement, and what our sector can do to promote a healthier democracy.

John W. Gardner Leadership Award Luncheon

Honoring Michael Brown
Featuring Kyle Caldwell, Ron Kagan

Join Independent Sector at the John W. Gardner Leadership Award Luncheon. We’ll honor the change-making spirit of our founding chair, John W. Gardner, as we celebrate the transformative leadership of Michael Brown, co-founder and CEO of City Year, with our 2015 John W. Gardner Leadership Award. Brown will be honored for his leadership in the national service movement, his commitment to education and social justice, and his belief in the potential of every young person. His leadership in the movement has been most powerfully evidenced by his co-founding and leadership of City Year, a national service education organization whose dedicated corps members serve full-time for a year in schools in high-poverty communities.

Plenary Speakers


Trevor Potter

Trevor Potter heads the Political Law Practice at Caplin & Drysdale in Washington, D.C.. He is also the founding President and General Counsel of the Campaign Legal Center, a non-profit organization focused on improving the US campaign finance and election process, and is a Senior Advisor to Issue One, a new reform organization.

Mr. Potter is one of the country’s best-known and most experienced campaign and election lawyers. He is a former Commissioner (1991-1995) and Chairman (1994) of the Federal Election Commission. He advised the authors of the McCain-Feingold reform legislation and more recently served as legal counsel to Stephen Colbert’s SuperPAC “Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow”, which spotlighted the role of secret money in the 2012 election.

Mr. Potter has been described by the American Bar Association Journal as “hands-down one of the top lawyers in the country on the delicate intersection of politics, law and money.” He is a Nonresident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, and has published several books and articles in the field. Mr. Potter has taught campaign finance law at the University of Virginia School of Law and Oxford University. He is a member of the American Law Institute, and serves on its Members Consultative Group on Principles of Election Law, and has been a member or Chair of several American Bar Association election-law related Committees and Task Forces. He is a graduate of Harvard College and the University of Virginia School of Law.


María Elena Salinas

Called the “Voice of Hispanic America” by the New York Times, Maria Elena Salinas is one of the most recognized Hispanic female journalists in the United States. She is the co-anchor of the highly rated “Noticiero Univision” nightly network newscast and co-host of the news magazine “Aquí y Ahora” (Here and Now). Salinas has informed and empowered millions of viewers for more than three decades in the U.S., as well as in 18 Latin American countries. Her reputation as a serious and objective journalist has garnered her universal respect and allowed her to secure high profile interviews including Latin American heads of state, rebel leaders, dictators, and every U.S. president since Jimmy Carter.

She has earned several awards, including six Emmys. Most notably, she was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, making her the first Hispanic woman to receive this recognition.

She has been featured as one of the “Most Influential Hispanics” in the United States in several publications including Hispanic Magazine, People En Español and PODER, and was named one of the top 15 Most Influential Hispanics among Latino voters in a poll conducted by Hispanic Voter Trends.

In addition, Salinas is the official spokesperson for “Ya Es Hora” (It’s Time), a national citizenship and civic engagement campaign that received the Peabody Award for helping motivate Hispanics to participate in the American political dialogue.


Rachael Chong

Rachael Chong is the Founder and CEO of Catchafire, the world’s leading online skills-based volunteer platform. Catchafire helps nonprofits obtain critical expertise while creating high impact, transformational pro bono experiences for professionals. As a pioneer of the first scalable skills-based volunteer solution, Catchafire has unlocked an impactful way for foundations to offer capacity-building support and businesses to increase employee engagement. By building a better solution across sectors, Catchafire is amplifying not only social impact, but also professional satisfaction and growth. Rachael has been named one of the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders, one of Fast Company’s 100 Most Creative People in Business, and received the Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Award. She was born in Canberra, Australia and came to the US to attend Barnard College at Columbia University, after which she built her business skills at Goldman Sachs and UBS. She also holds a Masters of Public Policy from Duke University, where her thesis became the business plan for Catchafire. Prior to founding Catchafire, Rachael helped build BRAC USA, the US affiliate of the largest nonprofit in the world, by leveraging pro bono talent. She speaks regularly on innovative philanthropy, millennials in the workforce, women’s issues, and social entrepreneurship.


William C. Bell, Ph.D.

William C. Bell became president and chief executive officer of Casey Family Programs in January 2006. He chairs the Executive Team, and is ultimately responsible for the vision, mission, strategies and objectives of the foundation.

Dr. Bell has more than 30 years of experience in the human services field. Prior to becoming president and CEO of Casey Family Programs, he served as the foundation’s executive vice president for child and family services, providing strategic direction to nine field offices and leading a staff working directly with young people from the public child welfare system.

Prior to joining Casey, he served two-and-a-half years as commissioner of the New York City Administration for Children’s Services (ACS). There, he managed child welfare services – including child protection, foster care, child abuse prevention, day care and Head Start – with a staff of more than 7,000 and a budget of about $2.4 billion.

From 1996 to 2001, Dr. Bell was deputy commissioner of ACS’s Division of Child Protection. From 1994 to 1996, he was deputy commissioner of field services and contract agency case management for the New York City Human Resources Administration. In the early 1990s, Dr. Bell was associate executive director for Miracle Makers, a private sector minority-owned, not-for-profit child and family services organization in New York City.

Dr. Bell earned his Ph.D. in Social Welfare from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York – Hunter, his Master of Social Work degree from Hunter College School of Social Work, and his bachelor’s in Biology and Behavioral Science degree from Delta State University.


Diana Aviv

Diana Aviv is president and CEO of Independent Sector, the national leadership network for America’s nonprofits, foundations, and corporate giving programs. By representing tens of thousands of organizations across the country, Independent Sector advances the common good by leading, strengthening, and mobilizing the charitable community.

Diana is a frequent speaker on trends in and key issues for the sector. She has testified before Congress and has been featured in media outlets such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, NPR, and

Diana also served as executive director of the Panel on the Nonprofit Sector, convened by Independent Sector at the encouragement of the leadership of the Senate Finance Committee. This independent panel recommended actions to strengthen the governance, transparency, and accountability of public charities and private foundations, many of which were enacted into law. The Panel also issued the Principles for Good Governance and Ethical Practice: A Guide for Charities and Foundations. More than 150,000 have been distributed to members of the nonprofit community.

Diana came to Independent Sector in 2003 after spending nine years at the Jewish Federations of North America as their vice president for public policy and director of its Washington Action Office. Diana focused on federal legislation and regulations, particularly policies affecting health and human service organizations.

Diana was formerly associate executive vice chair at the Jewish Council of Public Affairs, director of programs for the National Council of Jewish Women, and director of a comprehensive program to serve battered women and their families. She had a private psychotherapy practice in New York and New Jersey and has served as an expert witness in capital cases in New Jersey.

In December 2010, President Obama appointed Diana to the White House Council for Community Solutions that mobilizes citizens, nonprofits, businesses, and government to solve community needs. A founding board member of the Outcomes and Effective Practices Portal, Diana serves on the board of governors of the Partnership for Public Service and the National Commission on Civic Investment in Public Education, as well as on the board of directors for the Southern Africa Legal Services Foundation. She is a member of the advisory boards of the Comptroller General’s at the Government Accountability Office, the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law, and the Centers on the Public Service of George Mason University.

She was previously a member of the Smithsonian Institution’s Board of Regents’ Committee on Governance, the board of directors for GuideStar and the National Council on Aging, and the advisory board for the National Center on Philanthropy and the Law. A native of South Africa, Diana graduated with a B.S.W. from the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg and received a master’s degree in social work at Columbia University.


Michael Brown

Michael Brown is CEO and Co-Founder of City Year, an education-focused nonprofit organization that mobilizes idealistic young people for a year of service in high-need schools.

This year 2,700 City Year corps members are helping to address the nation’s high school dropout crisis and turnaround low performing schools by serving as full-time tutors, mentors and role models in high-need schools in 25 U.S. cities. City Year also has affiliates in South Africa and the UK.

Through its national initiative, “In School and On Track: A National Challenge,” City Year aims to significantly increase the urban graduation pipeline in America.

City Year served as an inspiration for AmeriCorps, the federal initiative through which more than 800,000 Americans have served their country. City Year has more than 18,000 alumni who have contributed more than 29 million hours of service and earned access to $71 million in college scholarships through the AmeriCorps National Service Trust.

For his work developing City Year and advancing the national service movement, Michael has been awarded the Reebok Human Rights Award and several honorary degrees. He has been named one of America’s Best Leaders by US News & World Report and an Executive of the Year and a member of The Power and Influence Top 50 by The NonProfit Times.

Michael is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School, where he served as an editor of the Harvard Law Review. Prior to co-founding City Year, Michael served as a legislative assistant to then Congressman Leon Panetta and as a clerk for Federal Judge Stephen Breyer.


Alberto Ibargüen

Alberto Ibargüen is president & CEO of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. A former news executive, lawyer and Peace Corps volunteer, Alberto received Independent Sector’s 2014 John W. Gardner Leadership Award. He is the former publisher of The Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald. During his tenure, The Miami Herald won three Pulitzer Prizes and El Nuevo Herald won Spain’s Ortega y Gasset Prize for excellence in journalism. Ibargüen is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, serves on the Visiting Committee of the MediaLab at MIT and serves on the boards of PepsiCo, American Airlines and AOL. He graduated from Wesleyan University and the University of Pennsylvania Law School. Follow him on Twitter at @ibarguen.


Judy Woodruff

Broadcast journalist Judy Woodruff is the Co-Anchor and Managing Editor of the PBS NewsHour with Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff. She has covered politics and other news for more than three decades at CNN, NBC and PBS.

Woodruff is a founding co-chair of the International Women’s Media Foundation, an organization dedicated to promoting and encouraging women in communication industries worldwide. She serves on the boards of trustee of the Freedom Forum, the Newseum, The Duke Endowment and the Urban Institute.

She is the recent recipient of the Cine Lifetime Achievement award, a Duke Distinguished Alumni award, the Edward R. Murrow Lifetime Achievement Award in Broadcast Journalism/Television, the University of Southern California Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism, the Al Neuharth/University of South Dakota Award for Excellence in Journalism and the Gaylord Prize for Excellence in Journalism and Mass Communications from the University of Oklahoma, among others.


Mariam C. Noland

Mariam C. Noland became the first president of the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan in 1985. Mariam has many years of experience administering community foundations. She joined the staff of the Cleveland Foundation in 1975 where she served as program officer and secretary/treasurer. In 1981, she became vice president of the Saint Paul Foundation. Prior to her work in the foundation field, Mariam was on staff at Davidson College and Baldwin-Wallace College. She has served as a member of Independent Sector’s Board of Directors. She currently serves on the boards of the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, Downtown Detroit Partnership Inc., and CultureSource. Noland obtained her Ed.M. from Harvard University and a Bachelor of Science from Case Western Reserve University.


Kyle Caldwell

Kyle Caldwell is the Director of the Pathways to Opportunity program at the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation in Flint, Michigan. In this role Kyle helped to realign the Foundation’s anti-poverty grantmaking strategies in the areas of youth and education. Previous to this, he was the president and CEO of the Michigan Nonprofit Association (MNA), a statewide membership organization focused on serving nonprofits to advance their missions.

Prior to leading MNA, Kyle’s career spanned work in the private and public sectors including serving three Michigan Governors as the executive director and an appointee of the Michigan Community Service Commission. Kyle serves on a number of boards and committees including the National Council of Nonprofits, Independent Sector, Points of Light, Nonprofit Voter Engagement Network Leadership Council, and the Council of Michigan Foundations Public Policy Committee.

In July 2015, Kyle will begin serving as Executive Director of the Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy at Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, Michigan.


Ron Kagan

Ron has worked for several zoos and aquaria over the past 35 years and lectures at universities and conferences around the world. He is an advocate for compassionate conservation, animal welfare and the environment. He has authored numerous journal articles, entries in encyclopedias and book chapters. Ron created, co-wrote and co-produced 10 internationally award-winning wildlife documentaries and established both the Berman Academy for Humane Education and the Center for Zoo Animal Welfare.

Kagan has led the development of unique and award-winning facilities including a Gorilla Conservation Research Center, the “Wilds of Africa”, Wildlife Interpretive Gallery (exploring the relationship between humans and animals over time and in different cultures), the National Amphibian Conservation Center, the “Arctic Ring of Life” (largest polar bear facility in America), the Ford Education Center, the Wild Adventure Simulator (a motion-based cabin simulator that builds empathy for other species as people experience the world of animals through their eyes) and the Polk Penguin Conservation Center.

Among the other boards Ron serves/has served on are the Center for Zoo Animal Welfare (Chair), International Council of Museums (U.S.), American Association of Museums, Regents of Association of Zoos and Aquariums (Chair), the Association of Animal Sanctuaries, Detroit Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau (Chair), Greenways Initiative, Michigan Nature Conservancy, International Black Rhino Foundation, and the Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education Center (Democratic Republic of Congo).