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2019 Communications Training Cohort

Tuesday, January 1, 2019 - 2:00pm to Thursday, January 31, 2019 - 6:00pm PST
Northern California Grantmakers
160 Spear Street, Suite 360 | San Francisco, CA
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Are you a mid-career philanthropic communications professional? Are you also an NCG member looking to foster peer support, share best practices, and create long-lasting peer communication? You can now apply for NCG’s inaugural Communications Training Cohort.

In a survey of mid-career communications staff and their supervisors, we discovered that many feel isolated in their roles and eager to build their professional knowledge, skills and networks. In response, we are piloting a first-of-its-kind, six-month training program that convenes once a month in 2019 with a small cohort of applicants.

The cohort will be capped at 12 participants. Participants must commit at least five hours a month for six months to meet with cohort colleagues in person. Participants receive high-level training and networking, an intentional peer-learning experience and connections with new peer contacts, tools and templates to support programmatic and institutional communications and one hour of coaching a month. The cohort will run from January to June 2019. The fee is $3,000. 

We have designed this experience to foster professional development in philanthropy communications and skillful navigation of workplace dynamics along with peer support and best practices. We welcome “mid-career” professionals whose positions are neither entry-level nor senior-director-level, but somewhere in-between.

The Experience will Feature:

  • Six monthly trainings and a bonus intro session.
  • Expert faculty and coaching, access to tools and templates and peer learning.
  • A through-line to equity and social justice.

Training Agenda

These 7 sessions will take place over a six-month period, January-June 2019. Exact monthly dates TBD. 

Pre-session Welcome and Orientation: Join your cohort colleagues for an opportunity to meet each other and begin to establish the connections that will support learning and growth throughout the program. Review the training agenda and discuss expectations for the cohort.

Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace: As we advance in our careers, greater responsibilities bring us into close encounters with complex organizational dynamics. Skills we develop early in our professional lives for managing difference and gaining buy-in often prove inadequate for success at the next level. We are continuously growing into our next role. Keen emotional intelligence can drive professional development through self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management. In this module we will explore Daniel Goleman’s work in Emotional Intelligence (EQ) and the mindset shifts and practices required to level up your professional competence.


  • Knowledge of the Emotional Intelligence (EQ) framework.
  • Insight into deploying personal and social strengths.
  • Practice identifying and navigating blind spots.
  • Understanding of the influence of race and social equity on personal competence.

Strategic Social Sector Communications: The cornerstone of strategic communications is aligning organizational goals with communications planning through campaigns, messages, framing and media relations. This session focuses on honing and deepening core strategic communications practices to support the work of foundations and their grantees. Mid-career communications staff need strong knowledge of core strategies and tactics to help their foundations attain programmatic and institutional goals.  We will workshop tested templates and integrate lessons from the preceding session on emotional intelligence and self-awareness to support communications planning in our workplaces.


  • Working knowledge of strategic communications framework.
  • Tools for campaigns, messaging, framing and media relations.
  • Customized strategic communications template.
  • Integration of emotional intelligence into communications planning.

Navigating Relationships in the Workplace: Have you ever walked out of a meeting and wondered what just happened? As teams grow in size the complexity of relationships and communications increases multifold. Who you are in the workplace, influences the quality of your work and your impact.  In this module we will explore this complexity and build your awareness and skill in managing relationships in the workplace. Skillsets focus on exercising influence through managing up and managing expectations.


  • Awareness about social competence strengths and opportunities for skill development.
  • Understanding of the influence of race and social equity in social awareness and relationship management.
  • Practice skills in social awareness – recognizing triggers in interpersonal relationships, listening and inquiry, managing assumptions, influencing others, and managing difficult conversations.
  • Integrating high-level social awareness into every-day strategic communications workplace skills.

Racial and Social Equity in Communications: Social sector communications, at our best, simultaneously reflect and advance racial and social equity. This requires us to understand our own relationship to race, power and privilege.  Part one of this session focuses on your individual role. As mid-career professionals, how do you navigate power and privilege in your institution? How do you manage your own experience with the ways you are vulnerable and the ways you hold power. Part two, focuses on the ways you communicate racial and social equity through the voice of your foundation and its programs. We’ll include a deep dive into navigating white-led organizations.


  • Identifying and navigating obstacles to bringing your full and authentic self to the work.
  • Addressing equity from a communications perspective.
  • Communications models drawn from the #MeToo movement and other useful sources.
  • Practice using Emotional Intelligence (EQ) skillsets.

Crisis Communications: Communications staff are central to managing internal and external crises, which may harm the reputation, grantees, trustees or programmatic goals of their foundations. This session is devoted to anticipating, preparing for and managing crises with heightened risks in the current political and cultural environment. Particular attention will go to the creation of protocols, contingency statements and talking points for the foundation staff, trustees, and grantees. Hands-on workshopping will draw upon racial equity values and workplace emotional intelligence assets.


  • Sophisticated framework for crisis communications planning and response.
  • Hands-on practice creating protocols, statements, and talking points.
  • Knowledge of contemporary risk-management calibrated to the current political environment.
  • Integration of relationship management skills into crisis response planning and organizational buy-in.

Grantee Communications: Communications staff with expertise in institutional and programmatic communications will enhance the overall profile of a foundation and help it attain its policy goals.  Many communications staff have skills that can support the programmatic grantmaking of their foundations but lack the experience or know-how to bring those forward in a way that is aligned with the interests of program officers and grantees. Explore grantee and program communications as distinct from classic “institutional communications." Topics include communications capacity building investments for grantees, story collection, and grantee profiles.  Integrate lessons learned from the previous session on navigating the workplace to make you better advocates for your ideas in the area.


  • Assessment of communications needs of grantees, and recommendations for your foundation for responding to those needs.
  • Comparison of best practices in the philanthropic sector around grantee communications capacity building.
  • Identify and capture grantee stories, told in an authentic voice, to illuminate your foundation’s priorities.
  • Work effectively with grantees to create an echo chamber and impact the issue.

Closing and evaluation


The training curriculum features a combination of social sector communications skills, professional workplace skills, and networking time with peers. See the draft training agenda below. 

Robert Bray

Robert’s career spans more than two decades in the field of strategic communications and social justice. As Director of NEO Philanthropy’s Four Freedoms FundTM Strategic Communications Initiative, Robert helps create and fund strategies designed to shape the immigration debate locally and nationally. Prior to joining NEO Philanthropy, he was Director of Communications for the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund in San Francisco. In 1997, Robert founded the SPIN Project, a media training, coaching and strategizing non-profit for social change organizations. In the late 80s and 90s, he played a central role in increasing the media visibility of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, serving as the first Director of Communications for the Human Rights Campaign Fund, and later as Director of Communications for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. Robert is the author of several publications on communications including “SPIN Works” and “Winning Wages: A Guide to Living Wage Communications Campaigns.” Prior to his social justice career, he was a public relations executive for the IBM Corporation. Robert graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in journalism and public relations.

Vanice Dunn

Vanice hails from years of experience working directly with members of various non-profits, so she’s all about participation and collaboration. Vanice began to hone her skills in social justice advocacy in an organic way — as a young girl of color in a small southern town, her existence itself became a political statement.  Those experiences gave Vanice practice in being critical of assumptions, dissecting polarizing arguments, and ultimately standing strong in her convictions. Her passion led her to the Provoc team, where she strives to make an impact by building partnerships with visionary clients and serving as lead strategist for brand and communications projects. By rooting her work in a womanist lens, Vanice has a particular passion for projects that combat the ‘isms’ — including racism, classism, and sexism.


Emily Katz 

Emily directs communications which means finding the threads that bring foundations together with nonprofits, business, government and each other for greater good. She’s a big believer in joining forces for greater good and getting to spend her days furthering this mission makes her job a pleasure.

Emily landed her first job out of college at a non-profit start-up where she began in telemarketing and through her impressive tenacity left six years later as a senior vice president with quintupled budget, national honors and a half million square feet of warehousing.

At the Women’s Funding Network, Emily developed and implemented a four-year multi-million dollar scope of work building the communications capacity of members across the US, Canada and on every continent. 

She is proud to serve on the boards of Equal Rights Advocates and the Arab Film Festival, where she chairs communications and governance committees. Emily is also the lucky mother of overly intelligent twin tweens, and enjoys the moments when she doffs her parenting hat and gets to be a real person with them.

Chris Murchison

Chris Marcell Murchison is a passionate advocate for positive workplace cultures. In his broad career spanning the higher education, for-profit and not-for-profit fields he has focused his energy on developing creative means to building community at work and practices that support an employee experience of deep respect, connection, joy, and generative learning.

As the Vice President for Staff Development and Culture at HopeLab, Chris guided HopeLab’s efforts to create an organizational culture that values learning and innovation. Since joining HopeLab in 2005, he led a strategic staff expansion to support a portfolio of work focused on the support of resilience in everyday life. He also led the development of principles and practices that embedded HopeLab’s values into the everyday operations of the organization.

In 2014, Chris was named the first Visiting Leader at the Center for Positive Organizations at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, where he advises, connects and convenes faculty and students to explore practical applications of Positive Organizational Scholarship. Chris originally connected to the Center through his research on resilience in organizations and has since become a friend and fellow traveler.

Chris Punongbayan

Christopher Punongbayan is the Executive Director of California ChangeLawyers, a statewide foundation that invests in bright, diverse legal changemakers to ensure they have the opportunity to become tomorrow’s legal changemakers.

Over the last twenty years, Chris has gained deep experience in social justice issues. He profoundly believes in giving voice to the unheard, breaking down barriers, and creating strategic alliances to advance equity. Prior to joining the California ChangeLawyers, Chris was the executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Asian Law Caucus and held positions at Northern California Grantmakers, Positive Resource Center, and Filipino Advocates for Justice.

Currently, Chris serves on the California Commission on Asian American and Pacific Islander Affairs, KQED's Community Advisory Panel, and is the Treasurer of the Mobilize the Immigrant Vote Action Fund. A native of Massachusetts and the son of immigrants from the Philippines, Chris graduated cum laude from Brown University with a degree in Asian American Studies and UCLA School of Law where he completed the Critical Race Studies concentration and the Epstein Program in Public Interest Law and Policy.

In 2003, Chris received a scholarship from California ChangeLawyers, which first set him on his social justice path in California. He has never looked back. Since then, Chris' accomplishments have earned him recognition from the New Voices Fellowship, the Gerbode Foundation, and the Levi Strauss Foundation, which named him a Pioneer in Justice.

To Apply

Below are the easy steps to applying for the cohort. 

To apply, please click on the "Register Now" button on the top right of this page. You will check out with your cart at a price of $0.00 and be prompted to fill out a short application, helping us know a bit more about you. Once we receive your application, our coaches will review and be in touch within two weeks. If you are accepted, you will then be sent a link to pay your invoice. 


Wondering if mid-career applies to you? Other questions about the cohort? Contact Emily Katz at

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