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Introducing the Vela Strategy Team

Vela is a constellation. We are a group of consultants linked together by our shared purpose: helping our clients navigate their sea of possibility.  And, like a constellation, the value we offer is more than the sum of our parts.  Our distinct areas of skill and expertise, when linked, create a cohesive approach that positions the wind at your back.

It isn’t often that people get to work with a team full of people they truly admire. In preparing to launch Vela Strategy, the leaders that make up this constellation of support have brought wisdom, insight, creative thought and a critical eye to the evolution of our vision. We are humbled by the possibilities that continue to emerge from this highly collaborative group.

We are beyond excited to introduce the great people who make up the Vela team, who will work with us to offer a balance of practical, expert advise and creative insight & energy to Vela clients.

Senior Advisor: Dianne McCarthy

dianneDianne has been serving nonprofits for 40 years – as a development executive starting with The Nature Conservancy in 1974 and then the University of Minnesota, University of St. Thomas, and the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. For the past 18 years, she has served nonprofits as founding partner & principal of HBH Consultants. She has been a senior executive, fund development specialist, facilitator, mentor and marketing strategist and has successfully planned, led or coached many, many successful capital campaigns. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education from the University of Kansas, and an M.B.A. and Ed.D. from the University of St. Thomas.

Dianne is a long time member of the Minnesota Planned Giving Council and has served on its Communications Committee. She is a member of the Board of Advisors of the School of Social Work at the University of St. Thomas and St. Catherine’s University. She has served as a member of the University of St. Thomas Alumni Association Board, the Advisory Council of the Meadowbrook Collaborative and has been Chair of the Board of Advisors of the St. Louis Park Community Foundation and President of St. Louis Park Sunrise Rotary, where she was recognized as a Rotary International Paul Harris Fellow.

Senior Advisor: Tony Wagner

tonyTony is the former President and CEO of Pillsbury United Communities (PUC), a nonprofit community based agency operating 5 community centers in Minneapolis core neighborhoods, an annual budget of $15 million and a staff of 200. As President and CEO, Tony also provided leadership to 20 other nonprofit organizations and charter schools affiliated with Pillsbury United Communities. Tony is the principal at the Wagner Group, a nonprofit leadership consulting firm. He is an acknowledged leader and expert in management, board development, and non-profit community issues.

In 2011 he was recognized with the “Transformational Leadership Award” by the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits and the Center for Integrative Leadership at the University of Minnesota. In 1987, he received the “Excellence in Not‑for‑Profit Management” award by the United Way of Minneapolis and St. Paul and the Wilder Foundation and, in 1994, the “Outstanding Service” Award by United Neighborhood Centers of America. Tony grew up in North Minneapolis and, as a child, was a client of Pillsbury United Communities. He attended the University of Minnesota where he received his BA and MSW Degrees. His education was interrupted by military service, during which he served in the Republic of Viet Nam as a 1st Lieutenant. Tony was an assistant professor at Augsburg College for four years and is a graduate of the Humphrey Institute’s Reflective Leadership Program and St. Thomas University’s Institute for Renewing Community Leadership.

Communications Specialist: Sara Fromm

Sara Sara spent the last fifteen years honing her communications skills within a variety of professional environments, including writing and editing for non-profits and universities and, most recently, as a writer with HBH Consultants and a support planner for Wellspring Services. Sara is a thoughtful, engaged listener and facilitator who is enthusiastic about supporting individuals and organizations. She has an eye for what is missing and employs a courageous and compassionate approach to helping her clients get to where they want to be. Sara is an experienced researcher, editor and published writer. She is a member of the Association for Women in Communications and is part of the Center for Creative Leadership. She will graduate summa cum laude from St. Cloud State University in 2015 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Community Psychology.

Data & Research Specialist: Rhonda Otteson

rhondaRhonda honed her skills in data management, program design, financial procedures, grants procurement and donor development in a variety of roles within the social sector over the last twelve years. While serving as Director of the Link, she worked closely with the advisory board to expand organizational capacity and broaden the donor base through grassroots fundraising efforts and community engagement. For almost a decade in community action, she served as a dedicated advocate and leader on social and economic issues facing low–income people in Minnesota. A bona-fide data geek and policy nerd, Rhonda brings grant writing expertise, a passion for evaluation and a commitment to serving the community through inclusive intervention and engagement. Rhonda holds a Master’s in Advocacy and Political Leadership (MAPL) from the University of Minnesota-Duluth with concentrations in nonprofits and the public sector and a B.A. in Interdepartmental Sociology from St. Cloud State University. She lives in Willmar, Minnesota, with her two wonderful girls, Chloe and Kylie.

Project Coordinator: Amy Nord

amyAmy’s experience with nonprofits began with her first two positions out of college: the first with The State Historical Society of Missouri and then as the Assistant Director of the Downtown Columbia Association, where she learned the value of collaboration between people who share a common vision. After graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in English from St. Olaf College and supporting her husband Chris during his four years of veterinary school, Amy and family made the permanent move from Missouri to Milaca, MN (a decision she regularly questions every frigid January and validates every warm-but-not-blistering July). Amy spent several years working from home while her children Emma and Jack were young and joined HBH Consultants in 2013 as an assistant to founder and principal Bob Bunger.

Designers: The Grenwoods

grenwoodsThe Grenwoods are a husband and wife design team who recently moved from Duluth, MN to Bellingham, WA. They each hold a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design from the University of Minnesota Duluth. After graduating, they spent two years working for WestmorelandFlint, the top marketing and communications firm in Duluth, MN and have been successfully on their own since they launched their independent firm. As artists, they have an incredible ability to see the beauty that surrounds us, and translate it into fresh, purposeful and functional designs. They are extremely responsive, intuitive and patient and invite their clients to play an active role in the creative process.

Curious about Christa and Katrina’s backgrounds? Check out our about us page.

Have a project you want to explore with us? Reach out to Katrina at katrina@velastrategy.com or 320.293.8388.

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