May 3 to May 5 in Chicago

The Awesome Summit of 2019 brought together 75 of our global members to enhance and support our giving network.

REVISIT THE Awesome Summit 2019

Awesome Summit 2019 Highlights

Day 1

On Friday, we explored the city of Chicago, including the Cultural Museum, the Art Museum, and a karaoke bar.

Day 2

On Saturday, we met for a full day of keynote presentations and breakout work sessions, and ended with a panel discussion from grant winners.

Day 3

On Saturday, we continued with keynote presentations and breakout work sessions, and included a show with an illusionist.

Extra credit

Throughout the Summit, we offered extra curricular opportunities for boat tours, karaoke, parties, dinners, and art walks.

Awesome Summit 2019 Sponsors

The 2019 AweSummit has been made possible by our awesome sponsors: Two Sigma, Busy Beaver Button Company, Colossal, VMLY&R, Spantree, CH Distillery, Lagunitas, and Piece Pizza & Brewery.


The 2019 Awesome Summit was a three-day opportunity for the global community to connect, with optional events on Thursday and Monday for those craving more from their travels.


10:30 AM to 4 PM - Pre-summit tourist activities

Meet at the bull at the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E Washington St. After visiting, we'll have lunch nearby, then around 1 PM walk around the big public art around The Loop. At about 2 PM, we'll hop on Divvy bikes (approx. $5) and make our way to the beautiful lake-front trail to the museum campus. We'll split up there, with some visiting the Field Museum, Adler Planetarium, and/or Shedd Aquarium (approx. $30) and others continuing their rides.

Friday 6 PM to Midnight - Summit kick-off party with Pop-Up Karaoke

Appetizers will be served

Day 2: Saturday May 4

9 AM - Breakfast and coffee

10 AM - Welcome and opening

  • What do we mean by awesome?

  • State of the Awesome

12:00 PM - Lunch

12:45 PM - Lightning talks

  • What's Awesome? How to A.C.E. awesomeness: Project = Adventure | Creative | Eclectic – Domino Ireland

  • Women behind velvet – Lucineh Kassarjian

  • Brumadinho chapter: Using the Awesome Foundation structure for rebuilding a place after disaster strikes – Renato Orozco

  • Glasgow: the good, the bad, and the awesome – Stephen Sloane

  • How the Awesome Foundation Disability chapter succeeds in radical philanthropy without even trying (How does your chapter flip the script in philanthropy?) – Ingrid Tischer

  • What awesome can learn from non-profits and vice-versa – Erin Watson

  • How Sydneysiders are awesome – Theresa Winters

  • Removing barriers for trustee participation – Erin Wyatt

1:30 PM - Breakout sessions

  • What’s your grant-making process? – Patrick Dunn

  • Awesome equity: driving diverse grant applications and selection – Pickett Slater Harrington and David Stanford

  • for users – Jesse Chan-Norris

  • Social media and digital marketing – Claudia Loya-Duran

2:45 PM - Breakout sessions

  • The right people around the table: recruiting and retaining trustees for your chapter – Beth Harvey

  • So you want to throw a grant party – Doug Hanke, Cat Rayburn, and Leslie Rodgers

  • Curating our shared resources – Jesse Chan-Norris

  • Cheap, easy, guerrilla marketing – James Smeaton

4 PM - Panel: Learning from Chicago grant winners

  • Moderated by Erin Watson, with Jeremiah Hulsebos-Spofford, Shawn Lent, Jamie Caitlin Lovell, Billy McGuinness, and Rhoda Rosen

5 PM - Free time and dinner

Group reservations have been made at a number of restaurants

8 PM - Midnight - Awesome Summit Party

Light appetizers will be served. Bringing a local friend or +1? Please let us know.

Day 3: Sunday May 5

9 AM - Breakfast and coffee

10 AM - Origins of the Awesome Foundation

10:30 AM - Breakout sessions

  • Awesome partnerships: creative collaborations with community organizations and your trustees – Domino Ireland

  • Unfunded grants: alternative solutions and opportunities – Josh Finnell

  • Growing the Awesome Foundation – Avi Caplan and Renato Orozco

  • Stimulating your audience with accessibility – Kali Wasenko

11:30 AM - Interview and Performance with Jeanette Andrews

An intimate interview with Chicago grant winner and sensory illusionist Jeanette Andrews on the impact $1,000 had on her artistic career. A brief performance of her work will follow.

12:15 PM - Lunch

12:45 PM - Panel: Thematic chapters in the Awesome Foundation ecosystem, how do they work, and what can we learn from them?

  • Moderated by Avi Caplan, with Stephen Calnan, Josh Finnell, and Tiffany Yu

1:45 PM - Breakout sessions

  • Working together as a global community – Avi Caplan, Molly Marshall, and Will Sullivan

  • Let’s talk swag – Christen Carter

  • Awesome tips and tools to help your applicants explain their ideas – Michelle Melin-Rogovin

  • …and other sessions as proposed

3 PM - Closing session

4 PM - Departures / free time

6 PM - Dinner and evening activity for stragglers

Beermiscuous, 2812 N Lincoln Ave.


Thursday Evening: Boat Tour of Chicago River

Monday Morning: Art Mural Walk around the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago


Chicago is a great city to explore. Look here for information on how to get here, how to get around, where to stay, and what to do.

How to get here

Chicago is a highly-accessible city. If you want to arrive by plane, it's easiest to land at either O'Hare (on the CTA Blue Line) or Midway (on the CTA Orange Line). Both train lines will lead you to the Loop. If you are arriving by Amtrak, your last stop will be Union Station. The city is also a destination on Greyhound and Megabus routes.

SUmmit location

The Summit location is at VMLY&R, 233 N Michigan Ave, Ste 1600, Chicago IL 60601.

Traveling around

Chicago has a robust train and bus system, plus bikeshare, taxis, and Uber/Lyft. You can even travel by water taxi to the venue if you'd like!

where to stay

Chicago has many lodging options, including hotels, hostels, and Airbnb. It's recommended to pick something near a Red or Blue Line CTA stop, as those train lines run 24/7. We will be offering opportunities to lodge with Chicago trustees, as available. You can also find lodging at Airbnb and hotels within the Loop or West Loop.