National Training Conference opens virtually

Jul 15, 2020

For the first time in the conference’s 21-year history, the Wipfli National Training Conference opened online Tuesday with a new, expanded virtual training experience devoted to helping organizations emerge stronger to serve.

The conference kicked off July 14 using video conferencing capabilities and pre-recorded messages. Over 40 training sessions will be held virtually on Tuesdays and Thursdays through October 13. An in-person training experience is scheduled for Oct. 11-16 in Las Vegas.

Attendees can earn continuing professional education credits (up to 90 hours in total) for many of the sessions by participating in virtual poll questions during the live events. In a pre-recorded message, Wipfli partner Denes Tobie said this format may allow participants to attend more sessions than they could in person.

Wipfli principal Brian Gaumont highlighted other benefits of the virtual conference format. Without travel, attendees can dive into strong content for their agencies, then reengage in their normal days without a five-day backlog of emails, he said. The dress code was also lighter; Wipfli principal Steve Lipton joked about being able to speak to hundreds of attendees while wearing shorts, and keynote speaker Dr. Bertha Proctor said she ditched her shoes to move more freely during her speech.

Conference favorites like Wipfli dollars will still be available, and conference sponsor Sage Intacct promised a sweet surprise for attendees. Conference announcements will be shared via an app or by following #wipfliconf on social media.

Impact today

At the opening session, Lipton called 2020 a “year of disruption” and applauded leaders for their efforts leading through a trifecta of change: the COVID-19 viral pandemic; a social pandemic brought to the forefront by injustices to George Floyd and others; and a surge of stimulus money.

In this environment, Lipton said leaders have to think differently about how to manage issues, deliver services and distribute funding, but it also presents their greatest opportunity to succeed. “What we do, our missions, and the outcomes we want have not changed,” Lipton said. “How we do it has changed, and faster than we ever thought possible.” Lipton said it’s up to leaders to embrace the “new how.” 

By video, Denise Harlow, CEO of Community Action Partnership, stressed the importance of training and accountability. Over the past few months, many agencies have deployed entirely new systems or ways of working to connect with families. She said the next few months will be critical.

“The reason (community action agencies) have been trusted with CARES Act dollars is because we perform well and are highly accountable. We’re going to be tested again,” she said.

Harlow encouraged attendees to connect to support, stay “in the moment” during virtual training and ask hard questions during the sessions.

Spark tomorrow

Dr. Bertha Proctor, CEO of Pace Community Action Agency in Vincennes, Indiana, delivered an energetic virtual keynote address, encouraging leaders to be strong, resilient and quick to recover. Quoting John C. Maxwell, she said “Leadership is influence — nothing more, nothing less” and insisted that everyone carries the responsibility to lead and positively impact others.

As leaders, she said everyone will do three things: mess up, have to apologize and gather information. Sharing errors and mistakes is courageous, she said, and encourages learning and improvement.

Proctor compared organizations to ships facing rocky shores and other battles. She said it’s time for everyone to “get their ship together” to ride out the waves and emerge strong and durable. “Not one person can fix the ship,” she said. It takes teamwork, collaboration, continuous improvement — and everybody on the team.

Dr. Proctor encouraged attendees to lead with courage and to be anti-racist — to take action against social injustice and not a stance of apathy.

“You are the spark,” she said. “Leadership and learning can spark innovations for tomorrow. And a little spark can light a fire.

Wipfli National Training Conference virtual training experience

Wipfli’s 21st annual Wipfli National Training Conference virtual training experience includes access to 40 sessions from July 14 to October 8. The event features bi-weekly live/interactive sessions, that will also be available for on-demand viewing.

Session span topics such as understanding Form 990, how to engage volunteers, how to turn strategy into action and preparing for audits. To learn more, see our schedule online and register.

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