Speakers and Panel Members
Vu Le - Keynote Presenter, Funders and Nonprofit Leaders Panel
Vu Le (“voo lay”) writes the blog NonprofitAF.com. He is the former executive director of RVC, a nonprofit in Seattle that promotes social justice by supporting leaders of color, strengthening organizations led by communities of color, and fostering collaboration between diverse communities. Vu is a founding board member of Community-Centric Fundraising, a movement that aims to ground fundraising practices in racial equity and social justice. Vu was born in Vietnam. He and his family came to the US when Vu was eight. He spent several years in Seattle, attending elementary and middle school, before moving to Memphis, Tennessee for high school and St. Louis for college and graduate school. He has a BA in Psychology and a Master in Social work. He is a vegan, a father of two kids (ages eight and five), and a staunch defender of the Oxford Comma.
Neki Catron - Funders and Nonprofit Leaders Panel
Neki Catron is the Global Community Engagement Manager at Sylvamo. She holds a Master’s of Health Service Administration with degrees in criminal law and juvenile justice. Prior to Sylvamo, Neki made a significant impact in the Mid-South for over a decade working in various leadership positions at renowned places like St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Methodist LeBonheur Healthcare, National Civil Rights Museum, and Boys & Girls Club of Greater Memphis. Neki is responsible for the overall global community outreach for Sylvamo. She works directly with senior leadership, and other staff to develop a vision for community engagement, charitable giving, company volunteerism, and other community outreach efforts. Neki currently serves on the boards of United Way of the Mid-South, and the Arkansas State University Mid-South Foundation.
Meka Egwuekwe - AI Session
Meka is the ultimate American success story. The son of a Nigerian father and American mother he grew up in economically challenged South Memphis. As a young man, he taught himself computer programming, which opened the world to him. Realizing how profoundly tech changed his life, he has devoted himself to creating pathways to careers in computer science education for people of color, starting in his beloved hometown. Today, the nonprofit he helped found in 2015, CodeCrew, has directly impacted more than 10,000 unique K-12 and adult students, and further impacted more than one million kids in Tennessee through advocacy for computer science education legislation. Lives have changed in Meka’s hometown and well beyond.
Tiffany Graham - Funders and Nonprofit Leaders Panel
With more than 25 years of experience in both the for-profit and non-profit sectors, Tiffany serves as the Chief Marketing & Development Officer for the National Civil Rights Museum. She previously served as Vice President of Gift Planning (Individual & Foundation Giving) at ALSAC/St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and has held other fundraising leadership roles in higher education at Tulane University and University of Memphis, as well as in arts and culture at Levine Museum of the New South and the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African American Arts+Culture. Tiffany began her career in retail strategy consulting, where she spent a decade working with some of the world’s best known brands to drive multi-million dollar business development, supply chain, and process improvement initiatives.
Tiffany holds a B.S. in Industrial & Systems Engineering and a B.A. in Mathematics from the University of Southern California, as well as an M.S. in Industrial & Systems Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology. She is a member of the Dean’s Advisory Council for the University of Memphis College of Education, a graduate of Leadership Memphis and Leadership Charlotte, and member of the Memphis Chapter of Jack and Jill of America, Inc., Phi Lambda Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., and the Memphis Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals.
Amber Hamilton - Funders and Nonprofit Leaders Panel
Amber Hamilton is the Executive Director of Memphis Music Initiative. Amber is a seasoned leader, coach, and trainer with extensive experience in leadership strategies and nonprofit management. She began her career in professional sports management, first as an intern for the NFL, then moving on to eventually become the Assistant Director of Player Development for the NFL Players Association. Amber discovered her passion for community engagement and redirected her career to focus on working with community organizations and NGO’s. She began working at Fannie Mae in its Office of Community Giving, as a senior manager directing the employee volunteer program and overseeing grants to community partners. Amber went on to lead a national group of nonprofits at Rebuilding Together, where she served as a vice president overseeing 165 local affiliates. Amber has a B.A. in political science from Howard University, a master’s degree in executive leadership from Georgetown University, and a certification in executive coaching from Georgetown.
Dr. Mary "MJ" McConner - IDEA Session
Dr. Mary “MJ” McConner is the founder and principal of Inclusive Excellence Consulting–a full-service diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) consulting firm headquartered in Memphis. She is a Certified Diversity Executive and 2023 Memphis Business Journal Super Woman in Business who has worked in the DEI and international education sectors for over 15 years.
She is a highly engaged community volunteer and member of GiVE 365 Memphis Advisory Team, Junior League of Memphis, Memphis Urban League Young Professionals, American Heart Association 2023 Woman of Impact campaign, SHRM-Memphis DEI Committee, and Friends of the Pink Palace-MoSH. She also serves on the board of directors for the Alzheimer’s Association Tennessee Chapter, Crosstown High School, STS Enterprise Corporation, NASPA Center for Women, University of Memphis Fogelman Women in Leadership, and Grand Valley State University Alumni Association.
MJ’s involvement in the Memphis community has been instrumental in her commitment to DEI and community engagement. Her DEI thought leadership has been featured in AfroTech, Medium Magazine, Living Corporate, Roland Martin Unfiltered, Valiant CEO, Fox 13 Memphis, and more.
Faith Morris - AI Session
Faith Morris has worked with and counseled business leaders and influencers in corporate, media, entertainment, legislative and nonprofit. She’s a marketing strategist who re-energizes established brands, builds new brands, establishes influencer relationships and creates innovative campaigns that exceed marketing and business goals.
She has built a reputation as a marketing strategist, producer and thought partner who uses out-the-box thinking, creativity, storytelling, inclusivity, invitation, and distinctive execution to achieve impact. It's coloring outside the lines with big bold strokes.
2023 was a pivotal year for Faith as stepped away from the National Civil Rights Museum as Chief Marketing & External Affairs Officer, after 10 years, to lead CultureLift Inc., her new firm, as CEO. Her clients include the National Civil Rights Museum’s Freedom Award, where she serves as Managing Producer/Director and consultant for the museum’s big initiatives; Memphis River Parks Partnerships where she as Curator/Producer for Tom Lee Park’s Grand Reopening and marketing consulting and LeMoyne Owen College, where she led the crisis management and internal/external communications during the president’s transition.
Faith led the museum’s communications, branding, advertising, audience engagement and revenue generation. She was executive lead for the MLK50 commemoration for the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination, which lured 110 media outlets to Memphis (national and international) and engaged community, organizational, corporate and civic partners all over the world in commemorative activities. She produced several of the Museum’s signature events including serving as Managing Producer/Director for the Freedom Award that honors individuals who have contributed greatly to advancing civil and human rights. She kept the museum in the news and top-of mind achieving billions in audience reach. She co-authored the book, A Story of A People, a storytelling pictorial of the National Civil Rights Museum.
Faith holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Memphis; Executive Leadership Training from Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College; Public Relations Accreditation (APR) from Public Relations Society of America; and DEI Certification from Cornell University.
Honors include Hall of Fame, Smart Meetings Magazine; Visionary, Smart Meetings Magazine; Top Women in PR, PR News. Memphis Business Journal’s Women Who Lead; 70th Annual NAACP TN State Convention with the Bridge of Honor Award; Tri-State Defender’s Salute to Women of Excellence; Black Enterprise’s Top Women Executives in Marketing and Advertising; Chicago Defender’s Women of Excellence; Who’s Who in Black Chicago; Black Enterprise’s 100 Advertising and Marketing Executives; nominated for Fortune Magazine’s Most Powerful Women Entrepreneurs; Top Blacks in the Ad World, The Root; and African American Executives You Should Know, Rolling Out.
Lauren Ready - Storytelling Session
Lauren Ready is a keynote speaker and the Principal Storyteller of Forever Ready Productions, a video production company with offices in Memphis and Chicago. She tells mission-driven stories for nonprofits and businesses so they can realize and harness their collective purpose and impact. She and her team have helped nonprofits raise more than $10 million through mission-driven video stories.
Lauren has also won 5 regional Emmys and is one of the most decorated filmmakers in Memphis. Lauren is based in Memphis with her husband, Scott, and their son Max. She’s a certified drone pilot (by the way, only <7% of U.S. certified drone pilots are women — she loves being in this stat!), enjoys rock climbing, and without a doubt packs her camera for every family trip.
Lauren Taylor - Funders and Nonprofit Leaders Panel
Lauren Taylor is the Senior Vice President of Programs and Learning at the Hyde Family Foundation. She oversees the Foundation’s Engaged Leadership and Civic Pride, High-Quality Education, Thriving Arts and Culture, and Vibrant Spaces and Communities impact areas as well as the Grants Management and Learning/Evaluation team. The Hyde Family Foundation strives to create a thriving,
unified Memphis for all by working across sectors to enable the cornerstones of place-based success: access and opportunity, connectivity and vibrancy, and aligned and visionary leadership.
As Senior Vice President, Lauren is responsible for strategy and planning, program area management, grants management, evaluation and learning, talent management, and finance and budgeting.
Prior to her current position, Lauren served as the Foundation’s Senior Program Director/Chief Learning Officer, Program Director for Livable Communities, and Program Officer for Greening Initiatives. She developed the Livable Communities program area, which focused on Memphis-based initiatives furthering a strong urban core where people live, work, and play; connecting people via a network of green assets, streetscapes, and transit opportunities; and creating thriving neighborhoods through leadership and engagement. She also established the Greening Memphis grantmaking strategy, which led to the approval of more than $40 million in grants supporting a quality, interconnected green space, park, greenway, trail, and bike lane system in Memphis. Additionally, she was the Foundation’s Director of Grants Management from 2005-2008.
Before joining the Foundation, Lauren worked in development as the Grants and Research Officer at the Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association (MIFA). She currently serves on the City Parks Alliance Board of Directors, First Horizon Bank’s CRA Corporate Advisory Board, Grace-St. Luke’s Episcopal School Board of Trustees, and the Women’s Foundation for a Greater Memphis Board of Directors. She was a
founding board member of the Overton Park Conservancy and the Memphis Farmers Market. She was a member of Leadership Tennessee Class VII (2019-20); a 2015 PLACES Fellow with the Funders Network for Smart Growth and Livable Communities; a 2013 recipient of the Memphis Business Journal’s Top 40 Under 40 Award; and a graduate of the New Memphis Institute’s Leadership Development Intensive (2009) and Fellows Program (2007).
She completed the Executive Program in Social Impact Strategy at the University of Pennsylvania and received her BA from Smith College.
Anna Kathryn Word - Funders and Nonprofit Leaders Panel
Anna Kathryn Word, CFRE, serves as the Chief Development Officer at MIFA (Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association). She has been in the nonprofit development sector for 20+ years, working for regional, national, and international non-profit organizations including ALSAC/St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and Facing History and Ourselves. At MIFA, she oversees the strategy and fundraising for MIFA’s Development and Communications departments.
She holds a B.A. in English Literature and a Master of Public Administration with a focus in Nonprofit Administration, both from the University of Memphis. She is a member AFP Memphis, the Planned Giving Council of the Midsouth, and serves as an adjunct faculty member in the School of Urban Affairs and Public Policy at the University of Memphis.
Dr. Jan Young - Funders and Nonprofit Leaders Panel
Dr. Jan Young has had a distinguished career in education, health care, the military, and philanthropy. Currently as Executive Director of The Assisi Foundation of Memphis, Dr. Young has overall accountability for facilitating the Foundation’s philanthropic activities, management, community relations, and strategic direction. The Assisi Foundation is a health legacy foundation created ed from the sale of St. Francis Hospital in 1994. Its mission is effective philanthropy. With a mission of “effective philanthropy”, the Foundation strives to respond to the diverse needs of our community to support health, lifelong learning, social justice, and stewardship of resources. Since its inception, the Foundation has awarded over two hundred ninety million dollars to not-for-profit organizations serving people primarily in Memphis, Tennessee and the surrounding metro area. Dr. Young serves in an advisory capacity for multiple nonprofits and is a past Board member of Philanthropy Southeast.
Prior to joining the Assisi Foundation in 1995, Dr. Young served as Senior Vice President of Operations at St. Joseph Hospital in Memphis with leadership accountability for clinical and support services for the 450-bed facility. In addition, she has worked as a management consultant and as an adjunct faculty member for the University of Tennessee and University of Memphis in nursing administration.
She is retired from her private clinical practice as a licensed, primary care Nurse Practitioner. Dr. Young received her Doctorate of Nursing Science with honors and was the recipient of the Faculty Award from the University of Tennessee Health Sciences College of Nursing. She is the recipient of the Outstanding Alumna Award from both the University of Tennessee and the University of Memphis as
well as an honorary doctorate from Christian Brothers University.
Dr. Young’s military service began with the U.S. Army Nursing Corps Reserves and later transferred to the Air National Guard. She received the national honor of Outstanding Air National Guard Nurse and led the team that received the Air National Guard’s first Outstanding Health Promotion Program Award. After serving in numerous roles of progressive responsibility, Dr. Young was promoted to the rank of Brigadier General and served as the Air National Guard Advisor to the Assistant Surgeon General, United States Air Force, Medical Force Development and Nursing Services. In that role, she focused on national policy issues, analysis, and evaluation. At the completion of that tour, she was
appointed to her terminal assignment as the Air National Guard Assistant to Air Education and Training Command, retiring as a Major General.
Dr. Young dabbles in a variety of creative arts and crafts and is a self-proclaimed “master of none”. She has multiple interests, holds a variety of certifications, and has been an invited speaker for local, regional, and national conferences.