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Schedule and Training Agenda: 2019 Communications Cohort

These 7 sessions will take place over a six-month period, January-June 2019. Breakfast and lunch will be provided.

When: 9:00 am - 2:30 pm 
Where: Northern California Grantmakers | 160 Spear Street, Suite 360 | San Francisco, CA


1. Pre-session Welcome and Orientation | Thursday, January 24, 2019 | 4:00 - 6:00 pm

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.

2. Managing Yourself in the Workplace | January 25, 2019 


As we grow in our careers, we increase our knowledge and experience but remain at our edge as we take on greater and broader responsibilities and face increasing complexity. The lesson here is that what was required of us at one stage of our career is not what is needed to succeed at the next level. We are constantly growing into our next.

Developing professionally is enhanced by keen emotional intelligence – a combination of self-awareness, self-management, and social awareness, and relationship management. In this module we will explore Daniel Goleman’s work in EQ and the mindset shifts and practices required to level up your professional competence.


  • Knowledge of the Emotional Intelligence framework
  • Greater self-awareness about personal and social strengths.
  • Ability to identify blocks to self-awareness and opportunities for improvement.
  • Understanding of the influence of race and social equity on personal competence.
  • Practice skills in self-management – noticing and managing blocks, practicing mindfulness, and amplifying self-expression.
  • Commitments made to implement experiments to increase personal emotional competence.


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3. Strategic Social Sector Communications | Feb. 22, 2019 

The cornerstone of strategic communications is aligning organizational goals with communications planning through campaigns, messages, framing and media relations. Mid-career communications staff need strong knowledge of core strategies and tactics to help their foundations and non-profits attain programmatic and institutional goals.  A strong grasp of how values-based messaging shapes the programmatic priorities and voice of their organizations is essential, as is what to do when those values are challenged or misaligned. This session focuses on honing and deepening core strategic communications practices to support the work of foundations and their grantees as well as non-profit social sector groups. We will practice creating communications plans and message “houses.”  Teachings and templates used are entirely adaptable to the work of both foundations and non-profit organizations. We will also focus on engaging colleagues and securing buy-in for our plans and messages, including senior and executive staff.  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

Goal: Learn effective but uncomplicated goal-driven strategic communications planning and messaging anchored in your foundation or organizational values and develop confidence in “selling” it to your colleagues.


  • 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.
  • Communicating values and messages that you believe in.

4. Racial and Social Equity in Communications | March 29, 2019

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 will include a deep dive into navigating white-led organizations.

Goal: Understand the ways in which race, power, and privilege are the context within which we live, move, and communicate. Learn ways to leverage this understanding to become more effective communicators.


  • Identifying and navigating obstacles to bringing your full and authentic self to the work.
  • Addressing equity from a communications perspective.
  • Communications models drawn from powerful movements, Race and Social Equity, and other useful sources.
  • Practice using skill sets learned in prior sessions in a race and social equity context.

5. Navigating Relationships in the Workplace | April 19, 2019 

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.

Goal: Develop your empathy and relationship-management skills to meet the demands of organizational leadership.


  • 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

6. Moving From Crisis to Opportunity | May 31, 2019

Communications staff are central to managing internal and external crises, which may threaten the reputation, grantees, boards or programmatic goals of their foundations or non-profit organizations. 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 organizational staff as well as trustees and grantees. Hands-on workshopping will draw upon racial equity values, #MeToo, and other topics.

Goals: Learn reactive and proactive strategies and tactics for responding to crisis, ranging from organizational to media, and how to reframe with your values.


  • 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.

7. Who Tells the Authentic Story? Spotlighting Grantee and Foundation Communications | June 21, 2019

Communications staff with expertise in institutional and programmatic communications will enhance the overall profile of a foundation and help it achieve its policy goals.  Non-profits that become better chroniclers and tellers of their stories and successes expand the conversation around their work, draw the attention of funders, and empower those most affected by the issue. Many communications staff have skills that can support the programmatic work of their agencies but lack the experience or know-how to bring those forward in a way that is aligned with the interests of program officers, grantees and colleagues. Explore grantee and program communications as distinct from classic “institutional communications." Topics include communications capacity building for grantees, story collection, grantee profiles and how communications can help impact an issue.  Integrate lessons learned from the previous session on navigating the workplace to make you better advocates for your ideas in the area.

Goal: Expand your value-added role as a communicator by identifying opportunities for strengthening the communications capacity of your grantees and member groups; learn the most effective and creative ways to lift up and promote wins, success stories and profiles especially connected to strategic policy or organizing priorities; and become sensitive to storytelling dynamics and protocols particularly involving survivors and champions.


  • 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 organization’s priorities.
  • Work effectively with non-profit partners to create an echo chamber and have an impact on the issue.
  • Capture your non-profit organization’s wins, stories, profiles and champions in ways that can be leveraged for fundraising and marketing and support policy/advocacy goals.

Closing and Evaluation

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