RE: Philanthropy Blog

Miami is wonderful. It’s also where the 2012 COF Family Philanthropy Conference is happening. Although we are only one day in, I can safely say that traveling from California was well worth it.

“…outside resources will be much more effectively used if the local community is itself fully mobilized and invested, and if it can define the agendas for which additional resources must be obtained.” -”Building Communities from the Inside Out,” John P. Kretzmann and John L. McKnight, 1993.

In the process of preparing for the Council Learning Lab on social media at the Family Philanthropy Conference, I came across some pretty interesting data: 14 percent of dog owners have created a Facebook account for their pet! And 15 percent of these dogs have more than 100 friends - it gives a whole new meaning to man’s best friend. This is pretty impressive given that the average human Facebook user has 245 friends. There must be some really popular dogs out there.

If you’ve ever come to one of the Council’s wonderful conferences, you already know that connections happen in the elevators and spaces around the panels. It’s easy to get lost in the well-crafted, engaging panels and formalities of a conference, but real connections are made when there is space to breathe and let the ideas settle. That’s where we realize the ideas, passions, and intentions we are all here to share.

Coming into the Council’s Family Philanthropy Conference, I’m looking to follow two strains of curiosity. First, I want to see how other foundations have built collaborative community relationships that expand beyond traditional roles of grantor and grantees. More deeply, I’m curious about how foundations can maintain focus on a certain community as the board transitions to subsequent generations.

I’m always excited for the Family Philanthropy Conference. The plenaries feature dynamic speakers who often offer a philanthropic perspective that I hadn’t considered before. There are so many interesting sessions, and so many interesting ideas to take in. I try to attend a session about something I’d likely not be able to explore any place else. Sometimes it’s a speaker I’ve never heard. Sometimes it’s a story I’ve never connected to. Sometimes it’s on a subject matter I know nothing about.

Former Rep. Gabby Giffords from Arizona and Louis D. Brown, a young African-American man growing up in Dorchester, Mass., were both shot. Gifford’s shooter was white, mentally ill and “acted alone.” Louis’ killer was young, black, and possibly involved with a gang.

Most family foundations tend to conduct their grantmaking by continuing the discussion until everyone either agrees or at least agrees to commit to a decision. This approach can be time consuming, but rewarding. What happens, though, when you can’t all agree? What do you do when one director is passionately in support of and another is vehemently against a grant decision?

One more sign that philanthropy is entering the mainstream of American popular culture is its intense involvement with this year’s Super Bowl.

There has never been a more challenging time for philanthropy. Globalization, natural disasters, and economic turmoil have placed additional stresses on social safety nets already stretched to the max. In this environment, the philanthropic sector must be smarter, more adaptable, and more collaborative.