Learning Lab: Rebooting Your Strategic Plan (Webinar) @ Webinar
May 11 @ 11:30 am – 1:00 pm

The COVID-19 crisis has taken a huge toll on nonprofit arts, cultural, and creative organizations. Many have faced canceled programs, staff reductions, and financial loss; and have been forced to put their strategic plans to the side. Although we don’t know when or if our organizations will operate in the way they used to, this webinar will outline tools to help organizations reboot their strategic plans in a way that is responsive to our new environment and find pathways to move forward. 

In this webinar we will discuss: 

  • Clarifying your commitments to yourorganization, audiences, donors, and community constituents. 
  • Assessing the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on your organization. 
  • Generating ideas to address the most important gaps you now face.   
  • Identifying new opportunities in your business and artistic production with the changed world we now live in. 
  • Embracing an iterative mindset to reboot your strategic plan while the world continues to evolve. 

Presenter: Cris Beilstein / Elevation Collaborative

Meet the Presenter!

Registration: Pay-What-You-Can

Even $5 makes a difference! If you have a stable income, please consider making a contribution towards this webinar. All dollars earned from this Learning Lab will go directly toward our efforts to creatively and accessibly provide support and lend expertise to nonprofit organizations during the COVID-19 crisis.

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With over two decades of business leadership experience in innovation, product development, training, and coaching, Cris is known for her ability to see new possibilities in challenging situations and for her coaching skills that bring out the best in people.  She has an open and inclusive style, and her fusion of creative curiosity and technical practicality benefits clients as she guides them from thinking big to strategic planning and action.


Learning Lab: Marketing Your Mission in a Post-Pandemic World @ Webinar
Jul 22 @ 11:30 am – 1:00 pm

Arts and cultural programming has drastically changed due to COVID-19 – maybe for good. As organizations rethink and reinvent their services and programs to respond to emerging challenges, they will need to move from project-based marketing to holistic, brand-driven “institutional marketing.” Strong missions and brands will help organizations engage audiences, maintain loyal donors, and recruit effective board members. By transforming the challenges of the pandemic into creative opportunities, organizations can find new strategies to meet their audiences where they are and emerge as arts leaders in an increasingly competitive landscape.

In this session we will discuss:

  • Definitions of project-based marketing and institutional marketing – and their challenges and benefits;
  • The mechanics of a clear and compelling mission;
  • Communicating a cohesive brand that represents your new and adapted program models;
  • And strategies for staying relevant and present.

Presenter: Ben van Loon / Communications Director / AFIRE

Registration: $25

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Learning Lab: Crafting a Thoughtful Fundraising Approach During COVID-19 @ Webinar
Sep 16 @ 11:30 am – 1:00 pm

Everyone can fundraise – even you! Although our environments have been reshaped by the global COVID-19 pandemic and the important calls for social justice by the Black Lives Matter movement, arts and cultural organizations can still find success by developing thoughtful strategies with donor cultivation at top of mind. Whether it’s a full annual plan or a shorter-term initiative, the current moment has taught the nonprofit sector that we must be ready to meet future challenges. Building clear fundraising plans with well-timed tactics can help us do just that.

In this session we will discuss:

  • An analysis of the current fundraising landscape for arts, cultural, and creative nonprofit organizations;
  • What you need to know to develop a successful fundraising strategy;
  • A deeper dive into important fund development tactics like matching gifts and targeted email campaigns;
  • And the fundraising steps your organization can take to thrive during COVID-19

Presenters: Christine Grodecki / Consultant / CCS Fundraising
                        Laura Aikens / Senior Vice President / CCS Fundraising

Registration: $25

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Learning Lab: Partnering for Impact During Uncertain Times @ Webinar
Nov 18 @ 11:30 am – 1:00 pm

During times of great uncertainty, it’s natural for nonprofits to seek out efficiencies – particularly in the form of organizational partnerships. In this Learning Lab, we will explore two types of nonprofit partnerships; the Collective Impact Model and shared staffing collaborations. Whether you are looking to increase your demonstrated impact by aligning your evaluation metrics with like-mission organizations or offload administrative tasks from your program staff, the practices in this Learning Lab will help you build capacity and productivity with organizations with a common agenda.

In this session we will discuss:

  • Five conditions for success in building nonprofit partnerships for collaborative impact
  • Practical steps you can take to select an appropriate partner for your mission and needs during times of uncertainty
  • A case study of ArtCore – a nonprofit shared staffing collaboration
  • How shared staffing and back office support can promote cost savings and less “job suck” for organizations
  • Partnerships as a reliable way to continue critical work during the COVID-19 pandemic

Presenters: Kaitlyn Childs / Ph.D. Candidate / Network for Nonprofit and Social Impact at Northwestern University
                       Ivonne Romo / Director of Finance and Operations / ArtCore

Registration: $25

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Learning Lab: It’s Not All About the Give/Get @ Webinar
Dec 7 @ 6:00 pm – 7:30 pm

A superb board member brings a combination of time, treasure, and talent to an organization. So why do we continue to evaluate and prospect board members strictly on financial capacity? If a board of directors is to reflect the community it serves, the sector must consider more equitable models of assessment.

By recognizing the entire scope of what an organization’s board of directors contributes in a year, organizations can ignite a sense of self-governance that increases committee participation and reduces stress on the Executive Director – all while meeting or exceeding board contribution goals.

In this session we will discuss:

  • Streamlining your board of directors’ roles and responsibilities in the organization’s annual work plan
  • Reducing board anxiety around giving capacities and prospecting new donors in their networks
  • Creating a framework for an equitable board of directors that is welcoming to marginalized groups (socioeconomic, gender identity, race, accessibility, etc.)
  • Designing a points-based assessment model that’s not all about the give / get

Presenters: Kristin Larsen / Executive Director / Arts & Business Council of Chicago

Registration: $25

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Ask CI Anything @ Webinar
Mar 8 @ 3:00 pm – 4:00 pm

What is the real impact of the pandemic on arts marketers? Erik Gensler, president and founder of Capacity Interactive, and CI team members will lead an interactive group discussion with Arts & Business Council of Chicago, See Chicago Dance, and The Chicago Cultural Alliance.

Date: March 8, 2021

Time: 3:00 P.M. – 4:00 P.M. CST

About: You’ll dive into key takeaways from the Arts Industry Data Analysis: Pandemic Response and have an opportunity to ask the Capacity Interactive experts all of your digital marketing and research-related questions.


What is the Arts Industry Data Analysis: Pandemic Response?

This livestream, aired on 2/25, explores evolutions within the broader digital and media landscape and the impact on the arts. You’ll also learn about research and frameworks help you build stronger and healthier teams. Watch the full recording here.

Learning Lab: Marketing Your Mission for the New Normal @ Webinar
Mar 31 @ 11:30 am – 1:00 pm

More than a year after the pandemic was declared, arts and cultural programming has been drastically changed. And as the worst of the crisis is now (hopefully) in the rear-view mirror, arts organizations have the opportunity to re-emerge into the world and even help define the “new normal.” To do this, organizations will need to move from project-based marketing to holistic, brand-driven institutional marketing, focused on concrete values and meeting audiences where they are right now. As various sectors of the economy come back online into 2021 and beyond, what are the marketing, branding, and other strategic tools organizations need to thrive as leaders—and healers—in a challenging competitive landscape?

In this session we will discuss:

  • Definitions of project-based marketing and institutional marketing, including challenges and benefits
  • The mechanics of a clear and compelling mission
  • Articulating the values that define your vision and speak to your audiences
  • Strategies for creative relevance in the post-pandemic world

Presenter: Ben van Loon / Communications Director / AFIRE

Registration: $35

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Learning Lab: Back to Budgeting Basics @ Webinar
May 26 @ 11:30 am – 1:00 pm

Simply put, a budget is a document that reflects the priorities of an organization. 2020 saw major shifts in organizational priorities, which means we need to get back to the basics of budgeting. In this Learning Lab, we will dive into the importance of approaching the budgeting process with new assumptions rather than relying on the old form. As many of us will hang on to virtual programs, accessible pricing models, adapted staff structures, and remote work in the future, it is important to use our budgets to help us achieve our missions through the lens of finance.

In this session we will discuss:

  • Diagramming your programs to better understand who they benefit, what they do, and how much they cost
  • Building a budget model that supports your new assumptions about programs, funding sources, and overhead
  • Budget scenario planning to help you think about scale you can support in the future
  • Connecting your program evaluation to your budget with key performance indicators

Presenter: Corrigan Nadon-Nichols, CMA / Corrigan Consulting Services

Registration: $35

Learning Lab: Media Power & Equity – Using Digital Storytelling to Support Your Mission @ Webinar
Jul 14 @ 11:30 am – 1:00 pm

Throughout 2020, about 72% of  U.S. arts and cultural organizations indicated that they would be transitioning some or all of their programming online. As arts organizations continue to increase our online and digital presence, it’s important that digital content has a strong, equitable understanding of how stories are shaped. This participatory workshop focuses on effectively utilizing film, media, and art to implement better digital programming and outreach. We’ll discuss how storytelling frameworks and media literacy are important guides in understanding institutional systems of oppression and current social justice issues. Participants will learn practical tools and best practices in the communication strategies that best serve their organization and their communities.

In this Learning Lab we will discuss:

  • Understanding film, media, and art as necessary branding tools in the digital age
  • Developing your media literacy within the context of systemic power, oppression, and privilege
  • Moving from micro to macro: how to utilize storytelling to better understand your organization within the context of emerging issues in the non-profit field
  • Implementing digital programming, outreach, and for your unique constituency and funders
  • Storytelling Frameworks 101: logistics, best practices, & common themes

Presenters: Caullen Hudson / Founder & Executive Director / SoapBox Productions and Organizing
David A. Moran / Multimedia Director / SoapBox Productions and Organizing

Registration: $35

Learning Lab: Generating Revenue by Creating Operational Efficiencies @ Webinar
Nov 10 @ 11:30 am – 1:00 pm

With limited ability to generate NEW revenue, can you find a greater margin of profit by creating operational efficiencies?

Join us for this participatory workshop focusing on creative and innovative solutions for your business or organization to generate more earned revenue by maximizing operational efficiencies.

Topics Include:

  • Conducting an operational audit – assessing income and expense to ensure sustainability and growth
  • The role of values and organization culture in operational efficiency
  • Service areas that can be outsourced or shared to minimize expenses
  • Building Consensus and Change Management

Even before the pandemic, organizations struggled with maximizing operational efficiencies. The economic setbacks from COVID-19 including restrictions on gatherings, changes in consumer behavior (voluntary or otherwise), and severe unemployment have taken a devastating toll on our sector- further impacting earned revenue which has now made it even more imperative to revisit operations efficiencies for organizations.

Presenter: Rashmi Narsana- Founder & CEO of CGT Strategy. Rashmi is an A&BC smARTscope consultant and has 18 years of nonprofit experience in management and leadership roles. She leads capacity building strategy projects that help organizations create well-developed plans to achieve their goals through a research-informed and data-based process. Rashmi also serves as adjunct faculty at the University of Vermont, where she teaches Nonprofit Management, and Fundraising and Development.

Learning Lab: Navigating Your Journey at Work in the New Normal @ webinar
Feb 2 @ 9:30 am – 11:00 am

Who should attend:  Staff members and emerging leaders

During the great reshuffling and great resignation, many staff members are truly fatigued, while new hires show up energized.

How do you work alongside each other? How do you accomplish your goals or set goals when the future is unknown?

Our Content Expert Myla Skinner will explore team dynamics, empowering staff members to get what they need in a time of great flux, and help you get on the same page so that you can build resilience and re-engage with your mission.

After attending this session, you will have several tools to invigorate your work and team’s effectiveness.

Content Expert: Myla Skinner, Managing Partner, Quarter Five Consulting

Learning Lab 2022: Creating Cultures of Belonging in Arts Organizations @ Online
Nov 29 @ 10:00 am – 11:00 am


At the Arts & Business Council of Chicago, we are creating a world where creativity is universally valued as a resource with limitless potential for social and economic impact. We are an arts service organization focused on serving Chicago’s cultural workers and enterprises through consulting, programming, and mentorship to ensure community vitality and an equitable creative economy. 

One of the ways in which we fulfill our mission is through our Learning Labs Program. Learning Labs provide opportunities to start new conversations about non-profit management with a particular focus on arts + culture. The goal of this program is to continue discussing solutions for challenges faced across the sector. 


About Learning Lab: Creating a Culture of Belonging in Arts Organizations

Learn to create cultures of belonging within your organizations, board, and communities. The session will include the most impactful recommendations for fostering belonging according to the R2P2 (Recruiting, Retention, Promotion, and Protection) model, with a special focus on the unique needs of arts organizations. Content Expert, Alida Miranda-Wolff, will leverage her experience working with institutions like the Poetry Foundation, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Hyde Park Art Center, and Steppenwolf Theater Company to provide tailored guidance to attendees on any and all of their diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging questions. 

Topics covered during the session:

  • The Intersectional Issues Arts Organizations Face in Achieving Belonging
  • Why Culture, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging Matter
  • How to Diagnose Your Organization’s Inclusiveness 
  • R2P2 (Recruiting, Retention, Promotion, and Protection) Best Practices for Your Staff and Community Members
  • How to Measure the Impact of Initiatives

Price: $30

Register here

Content Expert: 

Alida Miranda-Wolff (she/her/ella) is the CEO and Founder of Ethos and author of the book Cultures of Belonging: Building Inclusive Organizations that Last, released on February 15, 2022. Alida received her certification in diversity, equity, and inclusion from Georgetown University and has eight years of practitioner experience. In 2021, Alida was a recipient of the University of Chicago’s Early Career Achievement Award.By helping organizations and the people inside of them understand their relationships with power, how to use their power responsibly, and how to share their power, she helps create the conditions for everyone to thrive at work.


Questions about this event? 

Email Constanza Mendoza, A&BC’s Director of Programs, at 

Learning Lab 2023: Deep Listening. Human-Centered Design Tools @ Online
Feb 22 @ 10:00 am – 11:30 am

Learning Lab: How Human-Centered Design Can Help You Listen to What Your Community Needs 

George Aye, Co-Founder and Director of Innovation at Greater Good Studio, will lead participants in a deep listening session. This method is one of several being practiced during an overview of human-centered design. This session will feature a video that Greater Good Studio produced as a teaching tool for sharing how to learn design research. The behaviors modeled during the video gives learners a rich sense for how to show up and honor the lived experiences of research participants that we’re ultimately learning from. 

Content Expert: George Aye, Co-Founder and Director of Innovation at Greater Good Studio

George Aye believes that design can lead to positive behavior change. Before co-founding Greater Good Studio, he spent seven years at global innovation firm IDEO before being hired as the first human-centered designer at the Chicago Transit Authority. Since founding Greater Good, he has worked across multiple social issues, including autism, criminal justice, education, public health, and health care. He has facilitated discussions with small executive leadership teams and workshops with 150+ participants to help uncover hidden opportunities for innovation. George is an adjunct full professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Price: Pay What You Can ($15-$35)

Learning Lab 2023: Brand Strategy & Storytelling For Arts Nonprofits @ Online
Apr 26 @ 10:00 am – 11:00 am

Learning Lab: Brand Strategy And Storytelling for Arts + Culture Nonprofits 

Brand strategy is no longer optional for the arts.   

Mission statements are aspirational, yet they are not enough – they are not decision-making tools and are rarely unique or memorable. In this session, we will make a case for articulating an organizational purpose that can help you make big and small decisions, create team alignment, make your funders understand why you are unique, and communicate to your audiences what they can expect from you. 

Content Expert: Jennifer Martindale, Marketing and Branding Professional

Jennifer has worked with global brands, innovative nonprofits, and founder-led companies. Her expertise includes consumer goods, multi-unit retail & restaurants, arts & entertainment, automotive, government, and professional sports. She believes brands can use their platform to help shift culture. She worked at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Leo Burnett, and Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, before joining the Chicago Cubs as Senior Vice President of Marketing

Learning Lab 2023: Roadmap to Enacting Pay Equity and Transparency in Nonprofits @ Online
Aug 30 @ 10:00 am – 11:00 am

Learning Lab: Roadmap To Enacting Pay Equity and Transparency in Nonprofits

Enacting pay equity is not as expensive as it appears. From posting salaries in job offers and creating organizational policies to talking about money and fair compensation from a place of justice, this Learning Lab will tackle crucial aspects of understanding and navigating pay equity and transparency. 


Price: Pay What You Can ($15 – $35)

Content Expert: Elsa Hiltner, Organizer and Consultant for Pay Equity & Associate Director of Programs at Lawyers for the Creative Arts.

Elsa Hiltner has worked for over 15 years as a freelance artist and arts non-profit administrator, including as director of development for Collaboraction Theatre Company and as Associate Director of Programs at Lawyers for the Creative Arts. Her essays on labor and pay equity have inspired systemic change in the theatre industry. Her Theatrical Designer Pay Resource has been used nationwide to promote pay transparency and start conversations around pay equity. She is a co-founder of On Our Team, which successfully organized pay transparency on the job sites of Playbill, BroadwayWorld, and the League of Chicago Theatres.

Learning Lab 2023: Proposal/Grant Writing, Building a Successful Case @ Online
Oct 25 @ 10:00 am – 11:30 am

At the Arts & Business Council of Chicago, we are creating a world where creativity is universally valued as a resource with limitless potential for social and economic impact. We are an arts service organization focused on serving Chicago’s cultural workers and enterprises through consulting, programming, and mentorship to ensure community vitality and an equitable creative economy. 

One of the ways in which we fulfill our mission is through our Learning Labs Program. Learning Labs provide opportunities to start new conversations about non-profit management with a particular focus on arts + culture. The goal of this program is to continue discussing solutions for challenges faced across the sector. 

About Learning Lab: Grant Writing, Building a Successful Case for your Project

Support for nonprofit arts organizations and art makers in Chicagoland drastically increased last year and is expected to continue growing until the end of this year. Grant amounts from the city and state are larger, their terms are more flexible, and the application process is less rigid. When it comes to private foundations, a similar case is happening. 

However, even if there are more funding opportunities, the chances of getting funds will largely depend on the applicant’s ability to effectively build their case and present a successful grant application. 

In view of this exciting scenario, the Arts & Business Council offers a Learning Lab on Grant Writing where participants will gain insights into communicating effectively with prospective funders.  

During this workshop, attendees will get tailored advice on building a case for their project or organization. This session focuses on philanthropic foundation and government grants for arts organizations, although some underlying principles around proposal writing apply to individuals.  

Content Expert: TBD

Topics covered during the session 

  • Brief History of Nonprofit Funding 
  • Anatomy of a Grant Application, with a focus on narrative, timeline, budget, and impact/evaluation 
  • Case Studies: Critically Examining Writing Samples 
  • Creating Your Case: Share your Elevator Pitch  

Topics not covered 

  • Identifying relevant government and private foundation funders 
  • Types of foundations and other funders 
  • Types of proposals and submissions
  • Application for research grants 


We encourage participants to prepare a one-paragraph pitch for a project they want to get funded.  


Price: Pay What You Can ($20-$35)

Content Expert: TBD


Questions about this event? 

Email Constanza Mendoza, A&BC’s Director of Programs, at