People from all over the world, people dedicated to improving social good, philanthropy's practitioners and leaders--they came to Denver and learned from experts and from each other how to understand and how to answer the challenges of our time.
After attending the Council on Foundations 2010 annual conference in Denver April 25-27, more than 1,400 of the nation’s philanthropic leaders returned to their communities ready to act, serve, collaborate, and change.
From pre-conference gatherings of foundation CEOs and trustees and numerous affinity groups to post-conference advanced practice institutes, conferees examined the critical issues of our time: how to repair and protect the environment; how to create healthy communities; how to better educate the next generation; how to help the young and promising veterans of our military; and how to foster public service and social justice.
Each day, conferees came together to hear keynote speakers who passionately laid out crucial challenges and asked philanthropic leaders to generate innovative solutions.
A Call for Partnership
Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor to President Obama overseeing Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs, opened the 2010 Annual Conference by extending the hand of partnership to “leverage our strengths” in government and philanthropy. Jarrett, who has served on the boards of several institutions and foundations, admitted that at one time she “had developed a healthy detest of the federal government.”
But she said the Obama administration is attempting to reshape the relationship between government and philanthropy. Innovation comes from the many and varied community projects that philanthropy supports. Government can help take the successful models supported by philanthropy to scale.
“The government will build upon some of philanthropy’s most promising and proven prior investments,” Jarrett said. Among those promising and proven investments are the first winners of grants from President Obama’s Social Innovation Fund, which will be announced in July. The fund is intended to act as a public-private investment vehicle, with every federal dollar leveraging $3 in private funding. Up to $50 million in federal funds will be awarded in the first round.
Jarrett noted that the relationships among government, philanthropy, and private partners will not always be smooth. “When our goals are aligned we need to do a better job of pulling together. When we disagree we need to listen to each other more carefully,” Jarrett said.
The potential—and potential pitfalls—of collaborating with government was a key topic of debate throughout the conference. Clotilde Perez-Bode Dedecker, president and CEO of the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo, captured the discussion in her blog post.
“Are we willing to slog through the challenges of bridging sectoral and organizational cultures? Are we willing to invest the sweat equity to build new relationships necessary to drive innovation and scale?,” Dedecker asked. “Can we afford not to given the call of our respective missions?”
Jarrett’s speech set the tone for an afternoon of mini-plenary sessions setting up the four key conference tracks – social innovation, social justice, and social change in education and in health.
A Call for Action
Former Vice President Al Gore ignited the second day of the conference with a passionate argument for protecting and repairing the planet, saying the climate crisis is “by far the most serious challenge facing our civilization.”
Gore said there’s ample evidence of melting glaciers, growing acidity in the oceans, increasing volatility in storms, and decreasing predictability in rainfall and seasonality. Every other cause philanthropists are working on is profoundly affected by the climate crisis, he said. "This is not just an issue, this is our future."
The former vice president-turned-environmental activist who has been awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts urged action as a responsibility of this generation for the next. Even as the U.S. Senate kicked climate-change legislation down the priority list, Gore warned of the perils of short-term thinking in matters of the environment and energy policy as well as in a political campaigns, corporate profits, and investment practices, including those of foundations. Gore said it’s time for all Americans to act or future generations will ask “What were you thinking? Were you watching ‘Dancing with the Stars’? Didn’t you care?”
“Make no mistake,” Gore said. “This intersection of change is present right now.” And like Jarrett, Gore called on the philanthropic sector to play the role of convener, to “unlock that fire, that enthusiasm for social justice, social change.” The crowd responded to Gore’s call with a standing ovation and with lively discussions in sessions throughout the day about environmental issues as a matter of social change and social justice and as an area prime for social innovation.
“I met a family funder after the Gore talk who told me she doesn’t consider herself an environmental funder. She primarily funds women and girls in her community, but she also funds sustainability and, more and more, is seeing the connection rather than the silos,” reported Rachel Leon of Environmental Grantmakers Association in her blog post. “That is how we will all win, when we connect and find ways to complement our own missions with that of the world.”
A Call for Service
Patrick Corvington, CEO of the Corporation for National & Community Service, delivered an upbeat report on the state of volunteering.
“We are in the same business,” Corvington told the philanthropic leaders. “We are in the solutions business.”
Because of the Kennedy Serve America Act, Americorps is on a path to grow from 75,000 volunteers to 250,000 volunteers. “This year we will award $840 million grants. Next year, we will do $985 million in grantmaking,“ Corvington reported. “At the end of the day it won’t mean a thing if a million kids are still dropping out and 15 million are still out of work. For too long too many have been satisfied with ‘we gave it our best try’. We must not only try. We must succeed.”
Corvington advised the conferees “to step into the current of history, step toward the challenge, to live lives that matter—of service.”
U.S. Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, the 17th chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, shifted the conversation from civilian service to military service. He first said that one of his staff members overheard a conference attendee asking, “What’s the military doing here?” Mullen had a clear answer: Please help the returning veterans integrate back into their communities and get established on new career and personal paths.
He noted that the average age of those currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan is 20-21, and many returning veterans are still in their 20s, with much to offer to their communities. “They are truly the best I’ve ever seen…they are an American treasure,” Mullen said.
Mullen said these young veterans have developed leadership skills and a level of discipline that will make them an asset to any community. But he said many of the one million who are transitioning back into civilian life face great challenges. “Their lives have changed forever in ways they could not have imagined,” he said.
Mullen said he wants to prevent the homelessness that plagued many Vietnam War veterans. Many of the returning troops need physical and mental health care as well as education and workforce training. A robust GI bill passed last year offers much, but Mullen said he needs the help of colleges and community organizations in reaching out to all who are eligible for the benefits. “The only way we can serve them is if we have communities reach out to them,” he said.
The call to service became the buzz of the conference. At a later session, Akhtar Badshah, senior director of Global Community Affairs at Microsoft, said Microsoft has a program to provide technology training to returning veterans, and in response to Mullen’s call, he “will issue a call for proposals from nonprofits in your communities” to reach more veterans with the training.
Responding to feedback from many at the conference who said they were inspired by Monday’s speakers, Council President and CEO Steve Gunderson asked that as conferees return to their organizations and communities, they share responses to the calls for action.
Philanthropic leaders spent most of the conference examining crucial challenges, such as the environment, education, health, and social justice. To make a difference in these areas, as conference blogger Chet Tchozewski, founder of Global Greengrants Fund notes, "we need to flip some serious switches in society." Chip Heath, author of “Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard,” offered insight into how to do just that.
“The changes you all are seeking are really important changes,” Heath said. “Writing a check is probably not enough. You have the power to convene, to affect change, but that requires a change in the way you do business.”
Heath challenged the notion that people hate change. He noted that getting married and having a child are two of the biggest changes people can undertake, and most do so with joy. Why? Because those changes have a strong emotional appeal. For change to occur, we must appeal to and balance both the analytical and emotional sides of people. Heath also urged the field to counter the tendency to analyze the problems and instead study – deeply – the successes.
Geoffrey Canada, president and CEO of the Harlem Children’s Zone, closed out the conference with a message of hope about the future for poor children in our country. In 1997, Canada launched the Harlem Children’s Zone project, which targets a specific geographic area in central Harlem with a comprehensive range of services, starting at birth and following the child to college. The integrated approach has drawn much attention.
Unfortunately, education’s successes have been scattered at best. “Look at where our third graders are and that’s where America will be,” Canada said, noting that achievement of U.S. students today is briskly falling behind previous generations and students in other countries. “I am stunned. This is a national disaster, and people are just sitting there, paralyzed, watching it.”
But he also sounded a note a hope. “If there has ever been a time we can win it is now. The public is going to be made aware,” Canada said, noting the increased attention in Washington to the educational crisis. But in essence, “This is really about what local communities are going to do to help their children. Who is going to lead that change forward?”
That last question was really the key question of the conference. What choices will those in the philanthropic sector make at the intersection of social change, social justice, and social innovation?
The 2010 annual conference theme reflects the challenge of our transformative times– Intersections: Social Change, Social Justice, Social Innovation. The invitation was to “explore philanthropy’s role in moving markets, policy, civic engagement, and technology to promote public good.”
Most concurrent sessions were organized around four key tracks, allowing philanthropic leaders to explore areas most relevant to their work. Those moving through the tracks found lively debates, substantive discussions, and an array of strategies to take home. There were a number of other gatherings and discussions covering the landscape of issues in philanthropy today, from corporate grantmaking to global philanthropy to the sector’s use of technology.
The social justice sessions were standing room only throughout the conference. Susanne Siskel, director at the Ford Foundation, convened the social justice panels in the hope to “demystify what the term means.” Many funders said they see a connection to social justice issues in supporting long-term change; others were interested in how tactics from social justice movements might be used to build public will for their causes.
“You have to have a long view, which philanthropy does not always have,” said session presenter Erica Hunt, president of the Twenty-First Century Foundation. “You need people who can communicate and tell the story that people who aren’t directly affected by problems can empathize with. You have to build the public will and build the capacity to defend what you have won.”
Sessions examined what defines a social justice movement, how it looks locally and globally, and how to build a social justice movement. Speakers included Van Jones, founder of Green for All; Deepak Bhargava, executive director of the Center for Community Change; Avila Kilmurray, director of the Community Foundation of Northern Ireland; Akwasi Aidoo, executive director of TrustAfrica; and Carlos Savedra, executive director of United We Dream.
For insights from session participants, check out these blog posts:
Philanthropy's Road Map: Moving Toward a More Just World
Social Justice Philanthropy: Are We Playing to Win?
Social Change – Education
Philanthropy has sponsored a wide range of education projects over the last three decades, and yet, as a whole, the American education system is failing many of our nation’s children. The conversation about this challenge began before the conference, when foundation CEOs and trustees held a pre-conference discussion about education with Jeff Raikes, CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; C. Kent McGuire, dean of the College of Education at Temple University; Ellen S. Alberding, president of the Joyce Foundation; and Vartan Gregorian, president of the Carnegie Corporation.
Throughout the conference, participants in concurrent sessions examined education from early childhood to college and from organizational needs to public will. In nearly every session, there was a sense of urgency about scaling up the successful innovations many foundations have funded.
“We need to move from a few islands of excellence to a system of excellence,” said Terry Mazany, president and CEO, The Chicago Community Trust, who convened the education panels.
Dan Leeds, the board chair for Alliance for Excellent Education, put the need in sharp perspective. “The U.S. is the only industrialized country whose current generation is on pace to be less well educated than the last generation,” Leeds said.
For insights from session participants, check out these blog posts:
It IS Rocket Science: The Imperative of STEM
How funders can be effective in supporting education policy change
Social Change – Health
Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, convened panels on health reform to “encourage some who don’t view themselves as health philanthropists to get involved.”
The overarching theme in the sessions was the need for a comprehensive and integrated approach to health, from the design of communities to nutritional school lunches to accessible health services.
“So many things need to be done and the areas are so broad,” said David Williams, the Norman Professor of Public Health at Harvard University School of Public Health. “You might already be working [on issues] but you haven’t thought about the health impact. You are doing health policy but you haven’t viewed it that way.”
Other presenters included Angela Glover Blackwell, CEO of PolicyLink; Lauren LeRoy, president and CEO of Grantmakers in Health; and Robin Mockenhaupt, chief of staff of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Conferees came away from the conference with a number of model programs to consider, from culinary boot camps for school cafeterias in Colorado, walking trails in Kansas communities, and healthy child care center policies in Delaware.
For insight from a session participant, check out this blog post:
How Can We Get To A Healthier America?
Crowd sourcing, competing for prize money, and “open innovator platforms” are just a few of the processes that businesses – and now foundations – are using to incubate fresh, creative solutions to social problems.
“Social innovation is a transformational approach to social issues,” said Ophelia Basgal, vice president for Civic Partnerships and Community Initiatives, Pacific Gas and Electric Co., who convened the social innovation panels.
Session presenter Judith Rodin, president of the Rockefeller Foundation, urged foundation leaders to study how the business sector fosters innovation. “In the 21st Century, innovators will not need laboratories,” Rodin said. “Laboratories will be everywhere and everywhere will be a laboratory.”
The social innovation sessions looked at prize philanthropy, scaling, the role of technology, the role of volunteerism, and how businesses bring ideas to market. Presenters included Michele Jolin, senior adviser for social innovation from the Domestic Policy Council, White House; Kathleen Enright, president and CEO of Grantmakers for Effective Organizations; Andrew Hargadon, the Charles J. Soderquist Chair of Entrepreneurship at the Graduate School of Management, University of California-Davis; and Marc Freedman, founder and CEO of Civic Ventures.
For insight from a session participant, check out this blog post:
Social Innovation - It May Not Be What You Think It Is
And so much more….
The 2010 annual conference schedule was packed from dawn to dark with a variety of gatherings that were thought-provoking and informative. And, as always, there were numerous opportunities to network and unwind, from an ice cream social to a party at the Denver Art Museum.
Trustees and CEOs gathered before the conference for a day-and-a-half to share strategies and concerns around philanthropic leadership. They heard from IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman as well as other experts and colleagues on issues ranging from engaging Next Gen leaders to trustee liability.
The Council released Technology Advancing Philanthropy, part of an ongoing project to examine how technology can best be used across the sector. The Council also launched two key new efforts: the Global Philanthropy Initiative, which commits the Council to working with counterparts around the world on global giving issues; and Career Pathways, a new leadership pipeline expansion program aimed at improving diversity and inclusiveness at the sector’s senior levels.
For insights from participants, check out these blog posts:
Public-Private Partnerships: There's Room for Us All
Philanthropy in Cuba to Promote Social Justice
A Provocative Look at Getting People Back to Work
Philanthropy's Mixed Response to the Economic Crisis
Getting Beyond the Cash Machine
The Data a Foundation Board Needs
Trading Power: What Gives?
Authentic Corporate Social Responsibility
Corporate Philanthropy: A Shared Value Approach
Your participation enhanced the conference experience for our attendees. Thank you!
Casey Family Programs
Sponsor: Next Gen Lounge
The Annie E. Casey Foundation
FSG Social Impact Advisors
Harvard Kennedy School
KPMG LLP Global Grants Program
Note: KPMG International’s Trademarks are the sole property of KPMG International and their use here does not imply auditing by or endorsement of KPMG International or any of its member firms.
Bank of America
Sponsor: Corporate Grantmakers Opening Session
Sponsor: Corporate Grantmakers Opening Session
Center for Effective Philanthropy
American Indian College Fund
Alliance for Justice
Aon Association Services
Association of Small Foundations
Bromelkamp Company, LLC
Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy
GrantMakers in Film + Electronic Media
GuideStar USA, Inc.
National Network of Consultants to Grantmakers
O'Connor Davies Munns & Dobbins, LLP
Stanford Social Innovation Review
Sullivan, Cotter and Associates, Inc.
Syntrinsic Investment Counsel, LLC
The PhD Project
Trillium Asset Management Corporation
The Council’s premiere award, first presented in 1984, honors an individual who has made significant lifetime contributions to philanthropy.
This award, which honors outstanding collaborative efforts, goes The National Fund for Workforce Solutions, a national effort designed to identify, strengthen, and expand high-impact local workforce development programs. The five-year initiative, launched in 2007, supports regional collaboratives comprised of nearly 200 public and private funders supporting new workforce development efforts in their communities. Key foundations in the collaborative include the Hitachi Foundation, California Endowment, Ford Foundation, Knight Foundation, Walmart Foundation, Microsoft, The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, The Annie E. Casey Foundation and Prudential Foundation. (www.nfwsolutions.org)
This new award, named in honor of Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, will honor those who use their professional success for philanthropic service. This year, the signature award will be introduced to Newman’s Own Foundation, where it will reside. In 2005, Paul Newman established the Newman’s Own Foundation, and to date, Paul Newman and the Newman’s Own Foundation have donated over $295 million to thousands of charities worldwide. In future years, the Newman’s Own Foundation and the Council on Foundations will present the award to an individual or individuals for distinguished professional and philanthropic service. (www.newmansownfoundation.org)
The 2010 Board Chair’s Award honors business leaders whose philanthropic work and contributions have led to transformative change in their home communities. Through organizational leadership and setting a strong personal example, these leaders have inspired and enabled others to give their time, talent, and resources to improve the lives and opportunities of the disadvantaged. The recipients of the inaugural award are Sam Gary, Denver oilman and founder of the Piton Foundation, and Thomas Cousins, Atlanta real estate developer and co-founder of Purpose Built Communities.
This award recognizes an individual who has demonstrated outstanding creativity in their grantmaking. It was created in 1985 as a memorial to the late Robert Winston Scrivner, former staff associate of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and first executive director of the Rockefeller Family Fund. The award includes $10,000 for the recipient’s ongoing professional enrichment and development in the field of philanthropy. The 2010 award recipient is Kavita N. Ramdas, president and CEO of Global Fund for Women. It is the world’s largest public foundation focused exclusively on advocating and providing funding for women’s human rights globally. Since 1996, Ramdas has led and expanded the impact of this international network, which has supported thousands of women’s groups that are finding innovative solutions to the persistent problems of health, poverty, violence, and discrimination in nearly 170 countries. (www.globalfundforwomen.org)
This award recognizes a foundation for its strategic and creative approaches to advancing public policy change. This year’s award goes to The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, which has partnered with youth aging out of the foster care system through the Metropolitan Atlanta Youth Opportunities Initiative. This partnership began in 2003 and focuses on empowering foster youth to advocate on behalf of the issues that affect them. As a result of this program, Georgia policymakers extended Medicaid benefits up to age 21—a key public policy priority for the youth. (www.atlcf.org)
This award celebrates outstanding risk-takers and innovators in the philanthropic community whose determination and leadership have increased funding for programs that promote gender equity and diversity. The 2010 award goes to Barbara Dobkin, chair of American Jewish World Service and a funder, activist, and leader in the social justice arena for more than 25 years with a particular focus on the advancement of women in all sectors of society. She has created and funded innovative programs serving women and girls globally and has encouraged women of wealth to strengthen their role as philanthropic leaders and advancing causes for women, children, and families. (www.ajws.org)
This award, created in 2006 by the Council’s President and CEO Steve Gunderson, honors grantmakers for their innovative leadership, bold visions, and significant impact that serves as a model for advancing the common good through effective grantmaking. The award is presented at each of the Council’s three conferences. Those being honored at the Council’s annual conference in Denver include:
These awards recognize grantmaking foundations and corporate giving programs for excellence in communication strategies and techniques that advance their grantmaking goals. The award began in 1984 and is named after Wilmer Shields Rich, the first executive director of the National Council on Community Foundations (now the Council on Foundations). She was an early champion of public accountability by charitable foundations, which she encouraged through publications and other forums. This year, the Council is honoring 71 foundations with 92 awards, given in gold, silver, or bronze in six different categories. Awardees were evaluated on overall outcomes/impact, message and design effectiveness, organization of content, and outreach/distribution strategies.
On behalf of the Count Me In campaign:
2011 Annual Conference
We asked conference participants to help us shape the 2011 annual conference, and we’d like your feedback, too.
Those attending the 2010 Annual Conference were invited to a number of sites in the Denver area to explore how philanthropies are working on homelessness, early childhood needs, integrated healthcare, healthy schools, and energy conservation among other issues.
More than 20 conferees took a ride on the light rail system to learn about Denver's Transit Oriented Development (TOD). Representatives from The Urban Land Conservancy, Enterprise Community Partners, Hope Communities, and Denver Housing Authority explained how they have collaborated to develop communities along public transit routes. The tour began at a community theater housed in an affordable apartment building and ended at a church that has collaborated with government and nonprofit partners to solve parking issues.
A small group went on an intimate tour of the PROJECT C.U.R.E. warehouse, where medical supplies and equipment are gathered and then distributed around the globe. In fact, the conference group saw a truck stocked with supplies headed to Haiti.
In keeping with the social justice track at the conference, the Denver Foundation hosted a site session featuring funders and residents working together on education reform and neighborhood development.
Others visited with the Rose Community Foundation to learn about the foundation's initiative to encourage boomers (people over age 55) toward civic engagement or toured the Spring Institute for Intercultural Learning to see an immigrant job training and integration program in action.
Attendees got a look at the important work being done by in rural Colorado during a session devoted to Colorado Rural Philanthropy Days and during a post-conference, overnight trip to Southeast Colorado organized by Native Americans in Philanthropy.