Making Connections, Learning Together

October 6, 2016

From the moment I attended my first Philanthropy Northwest program as a Women’s Funding Alliance staff member in 1997, I have always been personally inspired and professionally improved as a result of time spent connecting and learning with our network.

This year's Philanthropy Northwest conference was no different: Three fantastic days Under One Sky in Missoula, Montana, connecting and learning with close to 300 friends and colleagues from Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, Wyoming and beyond.

Through my work with clients of The Giving Practice and more recently as Philanthropy Northwest's interim CEO, I have seen just how passionate our members are about our communities. For me, this authentic caring is not only about good work and meeting metrics — it's about our willingness to stay open to new ideas, to share successes and challenges, to find new ways to listen to our grantees and the people who are directly affected by our investments.

I also want to thank David Bley, Philanthropy Northwest's outgoing board chair, for his outstanding leadership for the last two years. I have learned a tremendous amount from observing the way he frames important conversations, encourages board members to speak openly and honestly, and supports and encourages our staff. We're glad he will remain active on our board in the role of past chair, and in our network in his position as director of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's Pacific Northwest team. And I enthusiastically welcome Kevin Walker, president and CEO of the Northwest Area Foundation, as our new board chair. I have been extremely impressed by his warmth, curiosity, insight and sense of humor in his six years on our board, including a critical role in developing our new strategy framework. We're very fortunate that he is our new board chair.

Taking Time to Be Our Best

It's so easy, yet also dangerous, to believe our best work is done by working hard and in isolation. We are at our best, as a field and individually, when we take the time to sit with others, learn together, reflect and share with colleagues, mentors and community partners.

And it's not so easy to give and get honest feedback about how we're doing as funders — so I have benefited from just that whenever we convene, too. It may be during a plenary or a session when someone else’s story sheds light on one of my own relevant challenges. It may be from side conversation, with someone I’ve known for years or someone I just met, where we trade advice and opinions. Or it may be in stepping back and using reflective practices to unveil what we need to see or know by looking at it “from the balcony.”

I believe that connecting and learning together needs to happen more than just annually. And as busy as you are, I hope you will continue to take the time — you deserve it! — to join Philanthropy Northwest events in the coming months and years. In fact, for those of you eager to continue our conversations about democracy and  equity, you won’t want to miss our upcoming  webinar: Changing the Political Discourse: Working Class Communities on the Frontlines.

We look forward to continuing to share stories of your partnerships, your challenges and your wins.

Audrey Haberman is Philanthropy Northwest's interim CEO and managing partner of The Giving Practice, our national consulting team. She can be reached at ahaberman@philanthropynw.org.