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Nonoko Sato has been named executive director of the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, only the second director in the organization's 34-year history.

Officials with the nonprofit council, one of the first and largest statewide nonprofit associations in the country, announced Thursday that Sato will start the top job Aug. 1.

She succeeds Jon Pratt, who founded the council and announced in December that he would be stepping down as director.

The council's board of directors unanimously voted to appoint Sato, who has been associate director of the council for three years and previously was executive director of SMART, a San Francisco nonprofit.

Sato, an immigrant from Japan who grew up in Chicago and graduated from Carleton College in Northfield, also serves on the boards for the Coalition of Asian American Leaders and Theater Mu.

Pratt, who will continue as a research fellow with the council, said in a statement that Sato has "deep leadership experience in the challenges facing nonprofit organizations" and "will be a strong advocate and vital resource in the important work to come."

Sato said in a statement that the council will "ensure Minnesota's robust nonprofit sector has what it needs to fulfill their important work towards a just, joyful, and equitable world."

The council, which spends $3.8 million a year and has about 30 staff members, hosts classes and networking, runs a jobs board and advocates for policy changes. About 2,200 Minnesota nonprofits pay dues to the council, most of them small- or medium-sized organizations in the metro area.

The council was part of a coalition that has lobbied Gov. Tim Walz and legislative leaders to create a "nonprofit resiliency and recovery fund" with $50 million in federal funds to mitigate losses during the pandemic. No action was taken at the Legislature on the request, the largest ever made to the state by the nonprofit sector to support its organizations.

About 40% of Minnesota nonprofit employees filed unemployment claims from March to September 2020 due to furloughs, layoffs or reduced hours during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The council has conducted four surveys of the nonprofit sector during the pandemic. The latest report in May found that nonprofits were seeing signs of recovery, with fewer of them cutting staff or facing financial distress and a third of the respondents seeing a spike in donations and grants.

In March, council employees announced they had unionized, joining a national trend of nonprofits that are organizing. The employees joined the Minnesota Newspaper and Communications Guild, which also represents some employees at the Star Tribune.

Kelly Smith • 612-673-4141