Tommy DiMisa
Philanthropy in Phocus
March 2020
4 Min Read

Nonprofit’s Showcased: The Imagine Awards

As I embark on this journey with Kulka Interactive, and because of my connection to the nonprofit sector I decided that the most appropriate place to start here would be in the Long Island nonprofit community, and with my friend, mentor and the most focused advocate of nonprofits I know, Ken Cerini of Cerini & Associates LLP and the Long Island Imagine Awards. Ken is the founder and Managing Partner of Cerini & Associates LLP, and most of his personal work is spent in the firm’s nonprofit and education practice with a concentration in preschool special education.

About 17 years ago Ken realized that amongst all the Long Island Awards programs, “The 40 under 40s”, and “the 50 under 50s”, “top leaders in this” and “the top winners in that”, there was no event for just acknowledgment and recognition of the nonprofit sector. No awards honoring the incredible work that organizations complete and change that their leaders’ effect.

There are the obvious programs for top lawyers’ bankers, top business leaders but what about all the work the nonprofit sector was doing. How could this work be showcased for its impact our communities here on Long Island?

Although Ken had the idea 17 or 18 years ago of what would become the Long Island Imagine Awards it still took another 10 years to come to fruition. In a recent meeting, I asked Ken, what was the delay? Candidly in Ken’s own words was “he needed to have clout in the sector.” Now at this point in 2020 on Long Island, Cerini & Associates and Ken Cerini have become synonymous with the nonprofit sector.

In my recent conversation with Ken he was very candid and when I asked him what made him most excited about the accomplishment of the Long Island Imagine Awards. He assured me that amongst the successes, certainly there has been some missteps and mistakes in the early years. I choose to discuss some ideas that Ken is very happy with…the evolution what has become the Long Island imagine awards. I Have been a committee member in Long Island for the last two years I’ve witnessed some of these accomplishments firsthand. What excites Ken the most is when the committee members truly understand and connect with a nonprofit sector. This knowledge and awareness propel the lively debates and discussions around the review of the applications. Another success Ken reflects on is “Let’s Imagine” which is a panel discussion that brings together all the winners of the Imagine Awards subsequent to the event. At this breakfast the attendees are able to interact with the winners as well as ask questions and learn about the many wins and losses that the winners have been through which leads to sharing of ideas and the critical networking that is incredibly important. This has been a boon to the sector and in fact it wasn’t till year 3 or 4 of the Imagine Awards that this breakfast panel discussion was even instituted and each year it proves to be more impactful.

I feel it’s important for me to mention that Ken has always worked extremely hard to make the imagine awards stand-alone entity separate and apart from Cerini & Associates to the best of his ability. The Long Island imagine awards was never meant to be a platform to make money or drive clients towards Cerini & Associates it truly was a platform to be a major thank you to the sector and act as a platform to drive organizations together and as well as inspire The for-profit sector to become increasingly more supportive and involved with a nonprofit sector.
To summarize a bit of my chat with Ken,

The nonprofit sector does so much for those who live work and play on Long Island that there needs to be a light shone on the sector even if it’s only for one night. As a result of the inspired collaboration this sector will continue to get stronger and better and find more strategic ways to work together. In a time when the sector is under so much pressure it is crucial to expand the education, collaboration, and spotlighting of this sector.

I think it’s important for me now to mention 2020 represents eight successful years of the Long Island Imagine Awards and the inaugural New York City Imagine Awards.

The Long Island Imagine Awards will be held at Crest Hollow Country Club on April 28, 2020, from 6:00-10:00 pm. Tickets & Sponsorships are available.

The New York City Imagine Awards applications are open and available: Due date April 1st, 2020, and the event will be held on October 20, 2020 from 6:00-10:00 pm at The Edison Ballroom in NYC.

Keep Connecting!