by Derrick Feldmann

Fresh off MCON14, many people ask me how we get so many great speakers and what’s our criteria for selecting them.

The goal of MCON is to share ways that people within organizations are changing cultures, resources, relationships and movements that engage all kinds of causes and people so that others can be inspired to do the same.

Thus, in identifying potential speakers, we focus on those in the cause space who take risks, those who create new ways to make cause work more effective. We view this effectiveness through the scope of transparency, the scope of memorability – whether it’s constituent or consumer focused – and the scope of a new way of working.

This was our fourth MCON, and along the way we’ve fine-tuned the conference’s focus. Originally, we shared best practices on engaging Millennials in cause work.

Today, MCON focuses on anyone who is championing new ways to do cause work well through innovative learning and engagement.

We want as speakers people who are shifting the way things are done.

For instance, we invited representatives of Panera and Chobani to speak this year because each company has incorporated cause work right into its business model. Even more significantly, that cause work is garnering success for the company’s profitability and its employees.

It follows, then, that organizations wanting to use MCON for some sort of launch and people who are interested in promoting themselves don’t fit within MCON’s goal.

The actual speaker curation process for MCON takes many months and many creative minds:

Annually, we form a curation committee of five individuals pulled from philanthropy foundations, large corporations, influential leaders in the cause space and the Achieve staff. These individuals remain anonymous.

The group begins compiling a list of potential speakers in August and watching videos of each person speaking. Yes, we watch a lot of videos, but it’s important to us to maintain the level of professionalism we’ve established with the conference.

We then whittle down our list to the top 25 and decide who to invite. We also ask these individuals for speaker recommendations, and ask conference sponsors and others in philanthropy.

We start announcing our slate of speakers in February and continue almost until the conference begins. Sometimes we have a last-minute opportunity to add a speaker we’d been hoping for, and we would rather include the person without promotion than exclude him or her because of a deadline.

This year, in-person and online conference attendees heard from nearly 50 energetic, risk-taking individuals who are transforming cause work. I hope you’ll keep up with the robust idea-sharing happening on Tumblr ( and add your own. And if you have a recommendation for next year’s speakers, let me know.