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April 13 @ 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm


Spokes Symposium 2021 brings together experts in the field and regional nonprofit leaders to discuss taking stock, pivoting, and building collaborations to survive and thrive during times of great change. 

The virtual event will take place from 12 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. on three consecutive Thursdays, April 13, 20, and 27.

Topics in this three-part webinar series include:

• Taking stock of your financial health and viability
• Collaboration for long-term success
• Nuts and bolts of forming collaborations

Session 1

Taking Stock of Your Financial Health and Viability

This first part of this series will address the simple steps every organization should do to evaluate their financial situation and plan in the face of an extended economic downturn and disruption of normal operations. 

Keynote: Doug Green

Senior Manager, La Piana Consulting

Doug will be our keynote speaker for both Session 1 and Session 2. Doug works with nonprofit leaders to help them do their good work more effectively. His consulting is informed by diverse experiences with nonprofits and organizations in times of great change. In the 1980s S&L crisis, he supported the first modern interstate banking mergers with financial analysis. He also led an AIDS services organization during the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and has been a consultant to nonprofits during the Great Recession and its uneven recovery. His past clients include Lotusland, the Santa Maria Valley Discovery Museum, the California Network of Family Strengthening Networks, Kids and Families Together, San Diego Natural History Museum, and Surfrider Foundation.


Each of our panelists leads an organization that has faced major COVID-related challenges yet found creative, effective ways to adapt. Learn about their struggles and successes.

Wendy Lewis is the President and CEO of the El Camino Homeless Organization (ECHO). The organization has seen a dramatic increase in need for services since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Wendy will share her insights on how they met the challenge. In her three years with ECHO she has helped expand the organization’s reach, from 50 beds at one facility to 140 at three facilities. Before ECHO, Wendy worked at the Food Bank Coalition for 10 years and led the building of their 20,000 square foot headquarters. Wendy grew up in Lompoc, attended Cal Poly, and resides in Atascadero with her family.

Kevin Harris is the Managing Artistic Director of San Luis Obispo Repertory Theatre (SLO REP). Kevin will showcase how SLO REP, like many other performing arts organizations nationwide, has adjusted to a new reality of providing programming during the pandemic. He served as the Artistic Director of Centerpoint Theatre Group in San Luis Obispo and co-wrote and directed an original play with Ashtar Theatre in Palestine. Kevin has taught at the University of Iowa, University of Chicago, and has led dozens of workshops on A Practical Handbook for the Actor across the country. He is very happy to be here on the Central Coast with his two beautiful children, Dominick and Ella.

Bettina Swigger serves as the Chief Executive Officer of Downtown SLO. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a dramatic impact on downtown SLO businesses and hindered most regular events. Bettina will share how the organization has adapted to help their members in crisis and continue to attract visitors to Downtown SLO. She served as the executive director of Festival Mozaic for 7 years and was voted one of the Top 20 under 40 by the SLO Tribune in 2012. Bettina is interested in creative place-making, bringing people together in public spaces, surprising and delighting visitors and residents, and having a great time with a fantastic team while doing so.

Why should I attend?

  • Different challenges
    The COVID crisis has affected our area nonprofits differently. Many are struggling to maintain basic services. Some, such as performing arts venues, cannot operate at all. For nonprofits in these circumstances, the challenge is to stay solvent. For some fortunate others, the financial resources are there, but the challenge is finding the “bandwidth” to ramp up and add programs in response to new demands posed by the crisis.
  • Taking Stock
    Regardless of the challenges your organization faces, the Symposium offers help and guidance. No matter your financial situation, setting aside time to take a hard, informed look at your business plan is crucial to your long-term viability. Session 1 will prepare you to do that.
  • Is it smart to go it alone?
    In times of crisis, perhaps not. There are various ways organizations can support and complement one another. It may be something as simple as sharing space or staff. It could be the services offered by your highly specialized nonprofit would be more sustainable as a program under the umbrella of a larger organization. On the flip side, if your organization is experiencing growing pains, there may be a nonprofit out there already offering a program much like what you want to offer yourself. What kind of partnership might work to everyone’s advantage? Find out in Session 2.
  • Nuts and Bolts
    Intrigued by ideas from Session 2 but you don’t know where to begin? Whether it’s sharing resources, forming alliances, acquiring programs, merging, or simply winding down your nonprofit, Session 3 will provide expert and experienced guidance.

Session 2

April 20, 2021 12 – 1:30 PM

Collaboration for Long-Term Success

During this part of the series, Spokes will invite an expert in the field to discuss the many types of partnerships and why they can benefit an organization’s operations. Participants will also hear directly from organizations that have undergone a substantial partnership or merger about the pros and cons of that decision.   

Session 3

April 27, 2021 12 – 1:30 PM

Nuts and Bolts of Forming Collaborations

This part will cover the important “how to” information to consider. Participants will hear from an attorney, CPA, HR professional, and insurance representative on the factors to consider when preparing to partner with another entity or merge two organizations.   

Save the dates now and sign up for our Spokes newsletter to get updates on Symposium speakers, the registration process, and other details. Bookmark this page as it will also be updated regularly.


April 13
12:00 pm - 1:30 pm
Event Category: