Skip to main content
Home2023 Conference Breakout Sessions

Breakout Session Descriptions

  To access the sessions, click here to get Whova, our Conference Platform!


MAVA is excited to present the following breakout sessions at our conference. Virtual participants will have access to all large-group sessions, and one live hybrid workshop per time slot. We are calling those sessions the Virtual Track. In-person participants will choose between four breakout sessions, including the (hybrid) Virtual Track sessions.  Conference sessions are subject to change.

Type of registration

Large-group Sessions

Virtual Track Session 1

In-person Session 2

In-person Session 3

In-person Session 4










Wednesday, July 19, 2023 
11:00 AM-12:30 PM Breakouts

Virtual Track (hybrid) Session 1 / GRANDSTAND

Past/Present/Future Volunteer Engagement: Practical Lessons and Re-Engagement Tips

Sammy Feilchenfeld and Kasandra James (virtual facilitators)

As Volunteer Toronto celebrates its 50th anniversary as Canada's largest volunteer center, this session will explore the past, present and future of volunteer engagement through our unique lens. With a focus on where we go next, participants will leave this session with:
• An understanding of the context and experiences that have led to today’s volunteer engagement challenges across North America
• Practical volunteer re-engagement tips at all levels of the organization
• Tools to identify and advocate for what you need to successfully engage volunteers into the future.

In-person, Session 2 / ROLLER COASTER ROOM

Approaching Difficult Conversations with Curiosity

Terri Allred

Conflict is an inevitable part of all organizations and can be an important growth opportunity for individuals and teams. Because organizations are so dependent upon volunteers, they may shy away from difficult communication and conflict out of fear of losing this valuable resource. Join Terri to learn how to approach difficult conversations with curiosity to maintain and strengthen relationships.

In-person, Session 3 / CAROUSEL ROOM

From ADA-Compliant to Disability-Confirming
Bex Takacs-Britz
1 in 4 Americans have a disability, and yet many organizations struggle to fully include our disabled neighbors within our work. Disability access is just one facet of creating an accessible and inclusive volunteer experience, but it is an area where even a few minutes of forethought can create lasting, impactful, and meaningful change in our work. Come join Bex, a disabled queer nonprofit professional, for some tips and tricks you can immediately implement in your work to help create more vibrant, inclusive volunteer communities in a quest to go from ADA-compliant to ADA-friendly.

In-person, Session 4 / GIANT SLIDE ROOM

Recognizing and Retaining Volunteers on a Limited Budget
Betsy McFarland

In this session, we will explore innovative strategies that go beyond traditional methods like annual luncheons or years of service pins to provide comprehensive support and recognition for volunteers. By fostering a "culture of appreciation," we can significantly enhance retention rates, improve work quality, and cultivate a pleasant work environment for both volunteers and employees. Through effective support systems, organizations can tap into the valuable potential of volunteers, enabling them to make meaningful contributions to the mission while avoiding the costly cycle of high turnover. This session will delve into methods for nurturing and recognizing volunteers, preventing burnout, and establishing an inspiring and sustaining environment that fuels motivation and commitment for both volunteers and staff. Join us to discover how to create a truly rewarding experience that consistently engages volunteers, fosters dedication, and encourages their enthusiastic return!

Wednesday, July 19, 2023 
1:30 PM-3:00 PM Breakouts

Virtual Track (hybrid) Session 1 / GRANDSTAND

Are you ready for equity? Self Reflections on the Way to Becoming Advocates for All
Faiza Venzant (virtual facilitator)
Implicit bias - the unconscious attitudes or stereotypes held towards certain groups of people - is present in our society, systems, and even in volunteering! This session will guide attendees through a series of exercises and self-reflections where they can explore their biases and determine what they need to notice, learn and unlearn about their own capacity to advocate for equity in their communities. Leaders of volunteers also will be introduced to how the principles of white supremacy culture show up in volunteerism and will be encouraged to reflect on their own motivations to volunteer and invite others to do the same.

In-person, Session 2 / ROLLER COASTER ROOM

Why Teens? Engaging Your Future Stakeholders

Morgan Green-Griffin

Learn why teen engagement is essential to the health and sustainability of your organization and how to make it happen effectively. This session covers challenging misconceptions about youth, gaining organizational buy-in, teen developmental and generational traits, best practices and the real return on investment of teen volunteerism. Ideal for individuals looking to enhance their current teen engagement strategies, revive an old program, or start from scratch.

In-person, Session 3 / CAROUSEL ROOM

Re-Igniting Your Fire: Rising from the Ashes of Burnout
Marcia Hale
The physical and emotional demands of our new realities in a post COVID world, are impacting people in dramatic ways, with burn out especially rampant. But the good news is: burnout happens to the best, the brightest, the high achievers! In this workshop we’ll learn how to rise from the ashes of burnout to empower ourselves to emerge even stronger than before. Practical, actionable steps will help you build a foundation propelling you forward once again.

In-person, Session 4 / GIANT SLIDE ROOM

Person-Centered Volunteering: A Conversation

Kelly Mortvedt and Bri Johnson

What would it look like to change the framework for how we think about volunteers? Join us for a discussion on moving the needle from transactional volunteerism to a person-centered partnership that goes beyond the volunteer shift. In this interactive session we will discuss: -Moving towards mutually beneficial volunteer opportunities
-The benefit of engaging volunteers deeper in your mission, exploring systematic issues, and promoting advocacy
-The positive impact of investing in all staff who interact with volunteers
- Step back from the day-to-day work to reimagine current practices together!

Wednesday, July 19, 2023 
3:30 PM-4:30 PM Breakouts

Virtual Track (hybrid) Session 1 / GRANDSTAND
Bring Out the Best in Your People with Supportive Environments for Effectiveness 
Kayla Paulson (in-person facilitator)
Imagine the possibilities when volunteers and staff have a strong understanding of your organization’s work, feel capable of sharing their best selves, and know what they do is meaningful. Together, we’ll explore how Supportive Environments for Effectiveness (SEE) Framework helps identify small changes to make effective and long-lasting improvements changing the status quo. With the introduction to SEE and our resources, you can replicate the process of viewing and addressing additional challenges in a new way. Join us to quickly learn the key concepts of the SEE Framework and workshop how to resolve a challenge at your organization.

In-person, Session 2 / ROLLER COASTER ROOM

Sacred Space for Visual, Spiritual and Emotional in Your Work Environments

Karen Naus

This is an offering that will introduce you to 3 contemplative tools to enhance your work/life balance. Centering Prayer (a practice of silence), hold my intention vision boards, and Emotional Release and reframing. You will be led in a 3-minute practice of silence, be given the steps to create your own vision boards and be taught how to tackle off guard moments and return to a space of active resolve.


In-person, Session 3 / CAROUSEL ROOM

Starting from Scratch: Designing a Thriving Volunteer Program

Gwendolen Nystrom and Nina Larson

Do you want to know how to create a new volunteer program or incorporate volunteers into your organization in a new way? Are you responsible for volunteer management...and a ton of other things? If so, this session is for you! Whether you want to start a new volunteer program or want to reinvigorate an existing program, attend this session to learn practical tools, resources, and tips for how to evaluate your organization’s capacity to engage volunteers, to create buy-in amongst staff at all levels, and to advocate for yourself, your program, and your values–all while juggling other responsibilities.

In-person, Session 4 / GIANT SLIDE ROOM

The Five V’s to Rebuilding a Volunteer Program

Matt Porth

Volunteer management roles have changed since the start of the pandemic. Remaining flexible and pivoting at a moment’s notice are necessary to keep our volunteer teams active, thriving, and safe. This presentation will focus on some of the strategies and training practices the Museum of Science and Industry used to set their program on the path to post pandemic success. The Five V’s to Rebuilding a Volunteer Program breaks down the hits, misses, ups, and downs that have been part of the reopening process. Explore what worked at one institution and come prepared to win a Blue Ribbon by sharing what has worked at yours.

Thursday, July 20, 2023 
11:30 AM-12:30 PM

Virtual Track (hybrid) Session 1 / GRANDSTAND
Hidden in Plain Sight – Gaining Funder and Nonprofit Executive Support for Strategic Volunteer Engagement

Betsy McFarland (in-person facilitator)

Strategic Volunteer Engagement (SVE) is the thoughtful and deliberate activation of volunteers to advance mission and accomplish goals. Historically, funders have not invested in SVE, and nonprofits have not requested it. To bridge this gap, the Initiative for Strategic Volunteer Engagement commissioned groundbreaking research to better understand how funders and nonprofit executives prioritize volunteer engagement. The new findings highlight the need for SVE and provide a roadmap to increase support for SVE nationwide. This session shares key learnings from the research and provides concrete steps nonprofits and funders can take to deepen the impact of volunteers.

In-person, Session 2 / ROLLER COASTER ROOM

Setting a Strategy for Your Volunteer Program

Adriane Lepage

If you ever feel like you're working hard to engage volunteers but not getting anywhere, consider these questionsDo you have a long-term strategy for your volunteer program? What is your vision for the program? What are your program's goals and how are you going to achieve them? In this session, you'll participate in strategic visioning exercises focused on the three E's - evaluate, envision, engage - to help you set the foundation for your strategy and leave with tools on how to bring that strategy to fruition.

In-person, Session 3 / CAROUSEL ROOM

Engaging Volunteers as Donors 
James Goalder, Bloomerang

Volunteers who believe in an organization’s mission are 80% more likely to donate and are more likely to donate 10x more money to charities than those who do not volunteer. Subsequently, donors who participate in at least one volunteer activity increase their donor retention rate by 2.5x. Volunteers and donors go hand-in-hand, and every nonprofit needs both.

In this session, we’ll focus on how you can turn your volunteers into loyal and engaged donors by understanding what motivates your volunteers and donors, tips for segmenting your volunteers, and how to double down on storytelling to connect with your audience.

Learning objectives:

  • Why donors and volunteers lapse

  • Donor segmentation strategies you can use to reach your target audience and engage them with your mission

  • How to use empathy and emotions to connect to your audience

  • The importance of segmenting your communications and employing the personal touch

In-person, Session 4 / GIANT SLIDE ROOM

Creating a Committed Volunteer Team: Enable! Encourage! Excite!

Joanne Telser-Frere and Karen Fredrickson

This workshop will show new volunteer coordinators/administrators how to enable their volunteers by setting up a fun and comprehensive pre-training program. We will share ideas on ongoing training, support, and activities that encourage volunteers to stay with the organization and even get more involved. We will discuss how to excite volunteers by celebrating their strengths and completion of their individual goals through formal and day-to-day recognition of accomplishments. Throughout the workshop, we will emphasize how to deal with the “new normal” of hybrid (online/in-person) interaction.


Thursday, July 20, 2023 
1:30-3:00 PM

Virtual Track (hybrid) Session 1 / GRANDSTAND

"On Your Side" Coaching: A Simple Approach to Volunteer Feedback
Becky Mares (in-person facilitator)

The goal of this session is to cultivate confidence and comfort in coaching volunteers, practice the art of giving (and receiving) feedback, and introduce tips for “on your side” conversations. Many volunteers want feedback, but staff can be hesitant to give it because they fear volunteers will be offended, feel like they don't have time, or aren't sure when and how to do so. Feedback isn't always easy, but investing in volunteer coaching helps increase retention, quality of volunteers, and better achievement of your mission!

In-person, Session 2 / ROLLER COASTER ROOM

Setting Volunteers Up for Success: Understanding the emotional journey of change and learning
Jennifer Bennett, VolunteerMatch

We've all been there - you've asked a volunteer to do something new or trained them on a new policy and now nothing is going as planned! Volunteers are pushing back, or keep forgetting (or "forgetting") to do things the new way. What's going on? This session will explore the emerging discoveries in brain science, how we can apply these discoveries to change management and training for our volunteers. By understanding the emotional stages of change - and the brain and body's response to it - we can be prepared, and prepare our volunteers, for this emotional journey. We'll build on that understanding and apply these principles, as well as current theories on adult education, to develop a curriculum that meets the learning needs for new volunteers as well as supports ongoing learning for existing volunteers. Attendees will leave with the tools to successfully navigate introducing and implementing a change management strategy and a plan for building a comprehensive and engaging training program for volunteers.

In-person, Session 3 / CAROUSEL ROOM

Towards More Meaningful Volunteer Impact
Sue Carter Kahl

In folk tales, when a gift is counted or priced, it loses its magic. What does that mean for our practice of reporting volunteer “value” by counting and pricing time? This facilitated discussion offers a space to explore how to shift the narrative about volunteer value. Bring your questions, ideas, and hopes for a future that embraces volunteer impact in all its diversity, complexity, power, and nuance. 

In-person, Session 4 / GIANT SLIDE ROOM

Empathy Jenga: Addressing Microaggressions with staff and volunteers
Femina Ajayi, Heather Stein, and Karen Caldwell
Like the game, we are collectively impacted by the social environment around us. Each jab to our self-esteem is the hollowness that is left behind when a brick is pushed out of our tower. Each time we collect ourselves and build ourselves back up by placing that brick on top, does not negate the hole that was left from before. Throughout this training we will use Jenga as a metaphor, as we play the Giant Jenga game! We will explore the connections between the game and empathy as we discuss the workplace interactions. We will work together to use practical tools to build each other back up after incidents that lack empathy.

Friday, July 21, 2023 
9:00-10:00 AM

Virtual Track (hybrid) Session 1 / GRANDSTAND

Showcase: Innovative Strategies 
Mackenzie Albrecht (in-person facilitator)

In this session, volunteer engagement leaders from Greater Minnesota will showcase their experiences of using innovative strategies to successfully engage volunteers in their communities. Come and learn from others and leave equipped with ideas and action items to take back to your organization!

In-person, Session 2 / ROLLER COASTER ROOM

Building Effective Multi-site Volunteer Engagement Standards & Best Practices

Todun Afolabi

Managing national volunteer programs and engaging with volunteers in different states can be challenging, standardizing and rolling out quality volunteer programs while maintaining site or field office autonomy can be daunting too especially when considering location fit and specific state demographics and requirements. What are the important factors to consider when building an effective multi-site volunteer engagement program? How can you maintain a standardized volunteer engagement program and ensure volunteers adequately equipped across the board? This session will cover best practices and lessons learned.

In-person, Session 3 / CAROUSEL ROOM

Disaster: Volunteers and Donations

Jeanne Rasmussen

When a disaster occurs, instinctively people want to help. However, coordination is key for efficiently and effectively responding in these situations. Proactively prepare yourself, employees, volunteers, and clients to respond in a disaster situation and learn of other ways to support disaster relief efforts.


In-person, Session 4 / GIANT SLIDE ROOM

Living Life a Quarter Mile at a Time: How to make career decisions when you don’t have a 10-year plan
Kelly Mortvedt
As volunteer engagement professionals, we’re no stranger to long-term strategic plans. It’s likely our day-to-day work is guided by organizational mission, vision and values. In the busyness of our work, our own professional development can be pushed to the side. 10 year career plan? I’m just trying to make it to tomorrow. If you feel like you’re living life a quarter mile at a time, come discuss strategies for making career decisions including:
-Personal values mapping
-Crafting a personal mission statement
-Resources for having hard conversations, navigating transition, and setting a sustainable work rhythm


Get our official event app,
For Blackberry or Windows Phone, Click here
For feature details, visit Whova