What I Learned at the Collaborative by Classy conference!

Posted on May 30, 2024

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By Abbie Peterson

Recently, our Director of Business Development, Jillian Schranz, and I had the pleasure of attending the Collaborative by Classy conference here in Chicago. It was an inspiring and insightful two days, packed with powerful messages and innovative ideas that had me thinking about our beloved nonprofit sector long after I walked out of the conference. Here are the key takeaways I found to be especially great: 

Wisdom from Keynote Speaker Xavier Ramey 

The conference opened with a fantastic keynote by Xavier Ramey, CEO of Justice Informed. His speech was a masterclass in inspiration, and one quote stood out: “What it takes to solve something is one person who refuses not to.” I wrote it down immediately on a post it note at my desk. A great reminder for when our day-to-day work feels heavy! 

Xavier went on to emphasize the beauty in our distinctiveness and the strength found in resilience. He challenged us to let go of old habits and comforts that no longer serve our missions, urging us to stay rooted in the core objectives of our nonprofit work. His message was a poignant reminder that progress often requires us to embrace discomfort and change. 

What Does Community Actually Mean? 

The buzzword echoing through every session and keynote was “community.” This concept was dissected and discussed in depth: what it truly means, how to build it, nurture it and support it, with differing ideas coming from almost every speaker. My favorite tidbit: Your community is not your email list; that’s an audience! How do you bridge the gap from audience to community when participants arrive on event day? We know firsthand how well event experiences can engage and strengthen these ties, they’re key to building and nurturing community!

Overall, the consensus was clear: at the heart of every successful nonprofit initiative is a strong, engaged community. This sense of belonging and shared purpose is what fuels passion, drives action, and sustains momentum. Shout out to our friends at the Michael J. Fox Foundation for their presentation on Cultivating a Community-Driven Fundraising Strategy!  

Embracing Risk 

Another recurring theme was the importance of risk-taking in the nonprofit sector. The discussions highlighted that without venturing into new territories and trying innovative approaches, the needle of progress remains stagnant. Expanding our reach and experimenting with fresh ideas are crucial steps towards impactful change. It’s about pushing boundaries and continuously evolving to better serve our people who need it most. 

Ultimately, the Collaborative was a celebration of innovation, resilience, and hard work. Jillian and I returned with a wealth of knowledge and renewed enthusiasm for the work we do. It was a reminder that while the challenges in the nonprofit world are many, so are the opportunities for growth and impact. By fostering strong communities, embracing our unique strengths, and daring to take risks, we can continue to move mountains and make a difference. 


Abbie Peterson

Abbie is the Marketing and Social Media Manager and joined the Event 360 team in March 2022 after working on the Walk team for multiple nonprofits doing both fundraising and production. She now flexes her muscles on the Creative Services team, obsessing over all things social media and looking out for the next coolest marketing campaign. On event, you’ll find her hauling signage, tables, chairs and anything else. Her favorite workout!

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