Last week, leaders from our nation's 34 regional philanthropy networks gathered in San Diego for the annual conference of the Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers. Philanthropy Northwest was there in force, with a contingent of eight people representing all of the facets of our organization. Given the sprawling, diverse nature of the conference, which included everything from sessions on executive transition to branding, public policy and a deep dive on technology, and the bench depth of our team, we're bringing you a recap built from our team's reflections upon their "aha" moments from the conference.
"The Forum network is the largest philanthropy network in the country, comprised of 34 regional networks with 4,500 members. With a shared technology platform, the Network is very close to realizing its aspirational state as the leading learning community weaving local, state, regional and national philanthropy together. While I knew about the stats and the aspiration, my aha was the opportunity to view and validate from several perspectives -- governance, policy, members -- and determine that we need to message this more proactively within our regional membership." --Jeff Clarke, CEO
"My aha moment could be titled, 'Collaboration it's not just for Philanthropy.' I was struck by how successful and rich the Forum's knowledge management collaboration is. Not just the integration of Salesforce and Drupal, but the ongoing collaboration of how to use those tools to do and to communicate our work. Like all good collaborations, its success has been the result of talent, ongoing commitment, patience and amazing generosity from the participants across the network." --Kelley Bevans, database and communciations manager:
"I was struck by the creative thinking and entrepreneurial risk taking from some of the regions -- things like WRAG's certificate program on corporate social responsibility and the Southeastern Council of Foundations' Leadership Institute." --Kristen Holway, partner, The Giving Practice
"It’s always exciting when a plenary speaker echoes your own thoughts and actions almost word for word. This slide (pictured above), from Deborah Meehan's session on network leadership, captures one way The Giving Practice encourages healthy collaboration and how Philanthropy Northwest sees our role as a network leader." --Audrey Haberman, managing partner, The Giving Practice
"John Kobara's opening of 'Okage Sama De' really stuck with me. I always used the phrase growing up in a Japanese culture without really thinking about what it actually meant. Translated, it means 'I am what I am because of you.' It reminded me why I work in philanthropy and how important it is for me to be a part of a network of smart and passionate people who complement and challenge each other to do better together." --Shiho Fuyuki, members services manager, Mission Investors Exchange
"CompassPoint CEO Jeanne Bell's session on executive transitions was a real aha moment for me. Not only is Philanthropy Northwest on the tail end of a CEO transition, but many other regional associations are going through the process as well. We're in the midst of a huge generational transition across the social sector, and, as Jeanne pointed out, these transitions are not only an individual organization challenge, but also a movement challenge as well." --Jon Stahl, communications director
"It really has become about the network. Since the first Forum meeting I went to in 2009, I’ve seen a steady (and striking!) increase in the regional association network's cohesion, strength and ambition as a real force in philanthropy. In those first couple of years, the conversation was about 'what can I, as an individual RA, do better?' Now it’s 'what can we, as a national network of RAs, do better?' It's particularly inspiring to see 'better together' become more than rhetoric in the area of public policy work. And not only on defense of the sector in response to regulatory threats. Regional associations are doing powerful work to help funders recognize their collective power and work together to advance public policies in support of mission-critical areas like school reform, healthcare, early childhood and veterans affairs." --Mark Sedway, senior partner, The Giving Practice
Thanks to the amazing team at the Forum -- Courtney, Dan, Mary, Mike and Val -- to our local hosts at San Diego Grantmakers and to all of our fellow regional association friends and allies for an invigorating, inspiring and let's-be-honest-it-really-was-fun week!