Special format: Talk show panel

Topic: Building Sector Sustainability 

  • Partnerships: Mergers, acquisitions and alternatives

Join a candid discussion on the benefits and challenges of strategic partnerships including nonprofit mergers, acquisitions, back office collaborations, and permanent program partnerships. A panel of experts will discuss their experiences with strategic partnerships and provide helpful insight on the exploration and implementation of partnerships including what national and regional resources available to nonprofits.

In addition to the panelists, the workshop will feature:

  • A Chicago-area foundation leader who is a member of the Mission Sustainability Initiative’s Funders Committee and whose foundation funds nonprofit partnerships and capacity building
  • A representative from a data benchmarking collaborative

The panel will be moderated by the Genita C. Robinson, director of the Mission Sustainability initiative (MSI) at Forefront. The MSI creates a neutral space to help Chicago-area nonprofits evaluate possible benefits of a strategic restructuring, get the help they need to design their new partnership, negotiate and implement their partnership, and access funding to help support the process.

Learning Objectives

  • The need to put mission first and foremost in any discussions about partnerships
  • How partnerships can expand a nonprofit’s impact on the clients that they serve
  • How to approach funder(s) about a potential partnership
  • The benefits of using a consultant in exploring and implementing a partnership
  • Communicating with boards, staff, and other stakeholders when exploring a partnership


  • Genita C. Robinson, director of the mission sustainability initiative, Forefront (@genitarobinson @MyForefront)
  • Makiyah Moody, senior consultant, La Piana (@LaPianaConsult)
  • Laura Zumdahl, CEO, New Moms (@LauraZumdahl)
  • Mark Murray, vice president of programs and administration, The Field Foundation of Illinois

Genita C. Robinson
Director of the Mission Sustainability Initiative

Genita Robinson began working with Forefront in March 2017 as director of the Mission Sustainability initiative. Robinson is a lawyer by training, having graduated from the University of Chicago Law School and practiced commercial litigation at Sachnoff & Weaver, now Reed Smith LLP. She has always been drawn to mission-driven work. Robinson served for four years under the leadership of Arne Duncan at the Chicago Public Schools, and for seven years, she led Lawyers Lend-A-Hand to Youth, which provides cash and in-kind support to community-based mentoring programs. Robinson’s volunteer work has included service on the boards of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and Cook County Justice for Children, a juvenile justice and child welfare advocacy organization. Robinson also was appointed to the Serve Illinois Commission on Volunteerism and Community Service. Robinson is a native Chicagoan, born on the South Side, and while she oscillated between Chicago and Washington, D.C. for several years, she has called the South Loop home for almost two decades.

Makiyah Moody
Senior Consultant
La Piana

As a senior consultant with La Piana Consulting, Makiyah Moody brings deep experience and creativity in helping organizations effectively lead and manage teams, forge partnerships, and think and act strategically. With a proven track record as a nonprofit leader and trainer, particularly in program design and management and board development, Moody has consulted with a wide range of clients including Association of Zoos and Aquariums, Camp Fire USA, Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg, Girls Inc., Outward Bound USA, and Race Forward.

Moody’s career spans multiple educational nonprofits aimed at ensuring access and equity such as Leadership for Quality Education, Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools (LAPCS), and the KIPP Foundation. Prior to joining La Piana Consulting, she directed governance initiatives for LAPCS, led a consultancy, and was the founding executive director of Leading Educators, Greater New Orleans.

Moody has a master’s in humanities from the University of Chicago and a bachelor’s in Hispanic studies from Wheaton College in Massachusetts, where she graduated magna cum laude and currently serves as a trustee. She is a BoardSource Certified Governance Trainer and received a Certificate of Professional Achievement in Nonprofit Management from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.

Mark Murray
Vice President of Programs and Administration
The Field Foundation of Illinois

Mark Murray is vice president of programs and administration with The Field Foundation of Illinois. Throughout his career he has worked on issues ranging from establishing community schools to supporting violence prevention to promoting arts education. He manages a team of grant makers that is dedicated to supporting community empowerment through support of justice, art, and leadership investment in Chicago.

Prior to working at The Field Foundation, Murray held multiple roles at the Illinois Arts Council, where he worked to expand the connection of art and community throughout Illinois. In addition to his career in philanthropy, he is an award-winning educator and academic advisor, and he currently teaches a course on Nonprofit Career Development at DePaul University. He has exhibited his art in New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago. He holds a master's in fine arts from the University of Pennsylvania, a master's from DePaul University, and a bachelor's from the University of Dayton. In 2016, Murray was awarded a U.S. patent for a household safety device and is a 2018 Leadership Greater Chicago Fellow. He lives in Woodstock, Illinois, where the Bill Murray (no relation) movie Groundhog Day was filmed, with his wife, two sons and a rescue dog named Bernie.

Laura Zumdahl
New Moms

Laura Zumdahl is the President and CEO of New Moms, a nonprofit organization serving homeless and at-risk young moms and their children in Chicago. She also serves as CEO of New Moms’ social enterprise, Bright Endeavors, a soy candle company that provides paid transitional jobs to young women in New Moms’ workforce development program.

Zumdahl’s career has been focused on growing and developing effective nonprofit organizations. She’s served in a variety of leadership roles in the nonprofit sector in capacity building, legal aid, higher education, and child welfare.

Zumdahl was named an Emerging Nonprofit Leadership Fellow by the Chicago Community Trust in 2010 and received a 40 Under 40 Award from the Association Forum of Chicagoland in 2013. She serves as a board member for Chicago Jobs Council and Trinity Christian College.

Zumdahl earned a bachelor’s in sociology from Trinity Christian College, a master’s in social work from the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration, and a doctorate in leadership from Cardinal Stritch University.