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Unicorns Unite: Building Epic Partnerships for a Better Iowa

August 22, 2019 @ 10:00 am - 5:00 pm


Have you dedicated your career to making the community a better place? Improving people’s lives? Sitting in a broken desk chair so there’s more funding available for programs?  You’re a Unicorn! What’s a unicorn? Other than a mythical horse-creature, it’s also a way of describing the amazing people who make up the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors. Whether you’re from a nonprofit, the government, a foundation, higher education, AmeriCorps, or some funky mix of these we need you to Unite with your fellow Unicorns on August 22nd at Franklin Jr. High in Des Moines.

Attendees will have the opportunity to hear from keynote speaker Vu Le on his ideas for epic partnerships and new ways of working together and then spend the day in fun and interactive activities designed to spur relationships, challenge thinking, and launch a new era of collaboration for Iowa’s future.

In his recent book “Unicorns Unite: How Nonprofits and Foundations Can Build Epic Partnerships,” Vu Le and co-authors Jessamyn Shams-Lau and Jane Leu call for the nonprofit sector to “discuss and reject division.” They add, “Now more than ever, we need ways to work together that are fast, equal and efficient” and call for rejecting “the constraints of ‘business as usual’ and envisioning the future as ‘nonprofit as extraordinary.”

Event partners Iowa Campus Compact, the Iowa Council of Foundations, the Iowa Nonprofit Resource Center, Cedar Valley Nonprofit Association, Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines, the Des Moines Art Center, and  the Des Moines Young Nonprofit Professionals Network are calling on Iowa’s unicorns to unite for a day of re-imagining our work and ourselves. We invite leaders, staff, and others from across sectors contributing to the public good to come together for new connections, new ideas, and inspiration.

Schedule Overview

9:00 am Registration

10:00 am Keynote Presentation with Vu Le

*The keynote session will also be live-streamed

11:30 am Art Sessions and Lunch

1:00 pm Innovation and Collaboration Sessions

4:00 pm Closing Reception


Thank you to event sponsors Alliant Energy, Mid-Iowa Health Foundation, and Telligen Community Initiative!

We are currently seeking sponsors for the event. Contact Emily Shields for more information.

About the Keynote

Vu Le (“voo lay”) is a writer, speaker, vegan, Pisces, and the Executive Director of Rainier Valley Corps, a nonprofit in Seattle that promotes social justice by developing leaders of color, strengthening organizations led by communities of color, and fostering collaboration between diverse communities.

Vu’s passion to make the world better, combined with a low score on the Law School Admission Test, drove him into the field of nonprofit work, where he learned that we should take the work seriously, but not ourselves. There’s tons of humor in the nonprofit world, and someone needs to document it. He is going to do that, with the hope that one day, a TV producer will see how cool and interesting our field is and make a show about nonprofit work, featuring attractive actors attending strategic planning meetings and filing 990 tax forms.

Known for his no-BS approach, irreverent sense of humor, and love of unicorns, Vu has been featured in dozens, if not hundreds, of his own blog posts at NonprofitAF.com.


August 22, 2019
10:00 am - 5:00 pm
Event Category:


Iowa Campus Compact
(515) 207-0049


Franklin Junior High School
4801 Franklin Ave.
Des Moines, IA 50310 United States
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