The nation’s leading family philanthropists gathered in San Diego to engage in dialogue, exchange ideas, and examine their opportunities to shape the next decade and beyond.
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At no other time in recent history has philanthropy been called upon so often to help meet needs; to help solve problems. Hundreds of the nation’s top family philanthropists convened in San Diego in January to discuss and debate how to answer the call.
“There is within the field a choice point to retreat or advance,” said Ralph Smith, executive vice president of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, kicking off the 2010 Family Philanthropy Conference. “What we do depends on how optimistic we are.”
Smith, board chair of the Council on Foundations, noted that philanthropy has been “called into the public square” and a special obligation comes with such an opportunity, sounding the conference theme “Sea Change: Redefining Family Philanthropy.”
“Perpetuity brings with it the capacity, the opportunity, the obligation to think about the next generation,” Smith said. “Family philanthropy leads the way.” However, the way is not always clear and it is not always easy.
In provocative plenary sessions featuring leading economists, media strategists, and philanthropists, as well as in engaging workshops, small group discussions, and networking events, family philanthropists began to chart a new course.
From management boot camp to salons for emerging leaders; provocative plenary sessions to philanthropy in action in San Diego neighborhoods, family philanthropists across generations explored how to make a difference in a new decade.
The rewards for giving are great. So reminded Arthur C. Brooks, the opening plenary session speaker, as he set the tone for the three-day conference. Brooks is president of the American Enterprise Institute and author of “Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth about Compassionate Conservatism,” and “Gross National Happiness: Why Happiness Matters to Americans? – And How We Can Get More of It.” Extensive research shows that giving leads to happiness and to more wealth, he said. A $2 billion, or 1 percent, increase in charitable giving leads to a $39 billion increase in the gross domestic product, a standard measure of a nation’s wealth.
The support family philanthropists give their local communities has an effect far beyond those boundaries. “Because of what you do, we are a richer, happier, healthier nation, and that does have a direct effect on me,” he said. “And for that, I thank you.”
Brooks was joined in discussion by Joanne Florino, executive director of the Triad Foundation, Inc., and Robert Friedman, founder of Corporation for Enterprise Development. Judy Belk, senior vice president, Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, moderated. The panel debated the balance between government and philanthropy in providing services and supporting nonprofits, with Brooks voicing concern that if government becomes more involved in some areas, it will “crowd out” philanthropy. He urged philanthropists to “demand our turf.”
Other panelists suggested it’s not a matter of either/or, but rather government, philanthropies, and nonprofits all playing specific roles. Friedman said philanthropy can support targeted efforts and incubate innovative ideas, but it takes government to “scale up.”
Florino added: “Philanthropy can support some great schools, but it can’t create the great jewel of a free and universal education system.”
The role of philanthropy in sparking change and nurturing innovation ignited numerous discussions in small-group sessions and large, emerging as the central theme of the conference.
Charting a new course demands not only will but also effective tactics. At the “Catalytic Philanthropy” plenary session, panelists discussed some key tactics recently outlined in the Stanford Social Innovation Review:
Kathleen Patillo, co-founder and trustee of the Rockdale Foundation, shared her efforts working both domestically to improve Atlanta public schools and internationally to establish a microfinance program in the Middle East. To get results, Patillo said, you have to be proactive. In Atlanta, she collaborated with other foundations making donations to school efforts and, together, meeting regularly with the school superintendent to discuss needs and track results. With the microfinance program, the foundation took specific steps to broadcast what was being learned.
“We reported on our key indicators,” Patillo said. “We made a video and invested in a website.” Ultimately their effort attracted more participants, spurring the microfinance organization to grow from 17 members to 61 members.
Phillip Holmes, the Los Angeles director of Blue State Digital, described what he has learned about mobilizing from working on political campaigns, including Barack Obama’s. “Using real voices, that’s the big sea change today,” Holmes said. He urged foundations to use social media, e-mail, and other methods for taking a direct, personal approach to communication: “If you talked to a friend or family member, would you send a newsletter?”
Jason Rzepka, vice president of public affairs at MTV, described how the network uses its “100 million watt light bulb” to promote social messages. The network has executed campaigns on sexual health, voting and, most recently, the emerging issue of digital abuse, such as cyber bullying and sexting (athinline.org.) Rzepka said using a combination of television, internet, mobile technology, and social media is key to a campaign’s success, and he urged philanthropists to always seek multiple tools and channels to achieve goals.
The San Diego conferees not only considered broad perspectives on motivations and strategies, but they also looked deeply at specifics, especially in funding education, arts, and community development.
Conferees explored questions about place-based philanthropy, such as who to collaborate with and how to measure progress. In her "Home" Work post to our conference blog, Adrienne Vargas, vice president of donor relations and charitable giving for the San Diego Foundation, outlined key suggestions for making community projects work.
Local dancers entertain the conference at a Joe and Vi Jacobs Center event.
Some conference participants spent a full day at the Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation located at the Village at Market Creek, a community in San Diego that was redeveloped with the support of local foundations and residents. Community residents both provided input into how to transform their neighborhood and became shareholders in the enterprise. Richard Woo, CEO of The Russell Foundation, described what he and others learned in his blog post "Community Change from the Inside Out." Everyone was treated to a multicultural networking party at the Joe and Vi Jacobs Community Center, complete with Somali henna painting, Laotian blessings, and an international array of appetizers.
Family foundation and school leaders from Detroit described how they are rebuilding trust, restoring public schools, and refocusing on children and families—rather than on a specific education system—in order to retool the region for a new economy. The major shift, according to Carol Goss, president and CEO of The Skillman Foundation, has been shifting foundation work to “cover a child’s life from cradle to career” whether they attend a public, charter, parochial, or private school.
Ben Cameron, program director for the arts for the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, brought the crowd to their feet at the plenary session “Investing in the Culture of Communities” with his passionate call for arts funding. Putting the argument in terms of current debate, Cameron said “every $1 for a performing arts ticket generates $3-$7 for the local economy” through parking, fabric and materials for costumes and sets, printing of programs, and other side economies.
“But the true crisis is not economic,” Cameron said. He argued that technology has realigned cultural and information media, shifting from consumption to participation. "Arts programs and education are necessary to create the emotional intelligence and the ability to accept and communicate change in a culture that is constantly changing at a rapid rate," he said.
Communications and technology trendsetter Jeff Jarvis, author of “What Would Google Do?,” closed the conference by challenging philanthropists to be in the “problem-solving” business. Demonstrating how technology is transforming almost every aspect of our lives, he addressed the conference via Skype from his office in New York City. Jarvis said some hallmarks of the Google era are opening up processes for participation, which means giving up some control, and being willing to be wrong. He said we are in the “midst of a creation generation” and the future is entrepreneurial, not institutional. The philanthropic sector should consider itself a platform like Google. “If you define resources as money, they’re scarce,” Jarvis said. “If you define resources as connections to community, as knowledge, as values, there are no limits to your resources.”
Family philanthropies are dynamic, complicated, special. Family members and those who work with them often are balancing the duty to honor legacies with the desire to fulfill the needs of today and satisfy the passions of each new generation.
That’s one of the features that makes the Family Philanthropy conference dynamic and unique. The 2010 conference offered a workshop for the Next Gen to explore challenges and share ideas about stepping up. Conversations continued throughout the conference in the Next Gen lounge in Family Central, which proved to be a gathering place for all generations.
The “on deck” generation shared challenges over coffee. Cross-generational groups met at salons geared to the specific interests of each generation, and concurrent sessions brought multi-generations together to explore issues of great interest to family philanthropies, such as how to have difficult conversations, how to plan for succession, and how to determine if giving in perpetuity is right for a family.
The Council on Foundations’ Next Generation Task Force, along with its partners 21/64, Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy, and Resource Generation, released “Trading Power” at the 2010 Family Philanthropy Conference.
Award-winning journalist Ambrose Clancy interviewed 18 philanthropic executive and trustees – some seasoned and some Next Gen – about what each generation has to offer to philanthropy. To download the report, go to www.cof.org/tradingpower
The Council on Foundations’ Next Generation Task Force is providing the Council with expertise and guidance to shape future programs and services to maximize the impact of and support for Next Gen philanthropic leaders. To learn more about the task force, go to www.cof.org/nextgen
Kari Dunn Saratovsky, VP of Social Innovation at the Case Foundation discusses using social media for social change with conference attendees.
Jason Franklin gives a quick word after hearing Arthur Brooks speak
You helped make the 2010 Family Philanthropy Conference a valuable experience for all!
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Dear Colleague and Friend:
As we get back into the swing of work after the conference and, for those of us on the east coast, the historic snowfall, I want to express my personal and deep appreciation for your attendance at the Council’s Family Philanthropy Conference in San Diego. Our co-chairs, Audrey and Mary, deserve special thanks not only for their vision and leadership, but also—and most of all—for their optimism and energy!
Like Audrey and Mary, you came to philanthropy because you want to invest in real change. You came to the family philanthropy conference because you want to be part, with others, of the change you seek for our world.
Now that our conference with its fitting theme, “Sea Change: Redefining Family Philanthropy,” is behind us, I ask you to remember these four points in your efforts during the year ahead:
We at the Council on Foundations have been given an incredible opportunity to serve all engaged in family philanthropy—and all engaged in philanthropy’s many different forms. While we have, like you, made appropriate reductions in our budget and staff., we have been careful to maintain critical tools to serve you: among them our Family Philanthropy Programs and Services, our legal expertise, our public policy engagement on your behalf, and our communications efforts.
There is a wonderful African proverb that says, “To go quickly, go alone. To go far, go together.” We have much to do at this time of dramatic change. Let us embrace the work, together.
Steve Gunderson, president and CEO, Council on Foundations
We asked conference participants what they learned at the gathering that will influence their work in the coming year and beyond.
“The biggest thing I will take away from this meeting is building connections between what we ask of our grantees and how we hold ourselves accountable. We need to make sure the grantee/funder relationships are strong and healthy. Also, we have three generations alive now so I think the time is ripe for developing those cross-generational relationships. There are a lot of nuggets from the meeting that I can take back to our organization to do that.”
Akilah Williams, Arie and Ida Crown Memorial Foundation
“I think collaboration is a theme to expand upon and the practice of catalytic philanthropy. Those are going to be the keys to our work.”
Chris Dobson, Carolyn Foundation
“We’re looking for better ways to work together with family foundations.”
Vanessa Oshiro, The San Diego Foundation
We asked conference participants what they learned at the gathering that will influence their work in the coming year and beyond.
“I work at a supporting organization, working with 30 different family foundations. The session on succession was perfect … I’ve always thought of the issue as one generation handing off to the next, but we heard today from a father and daughter going for the same board seat. It is cross-generational, not just next generation. That broadens my thinking and will help as I work with the families.”
Tami Durrance, The Columbus Foundation
“I went to a session on how to have difficult conversations. Communication is key. That’s something to really think about. Once people get set on their opinions, it’s hard to work through, so I learned some things that will help in those kinds of conversations.”
Corey Howard, Ryan Howard Foundation
“I went to the foundation management boot camp, and I think I will have a stronger checklist for reviewing areas of compliance. It was good to get a reminder of what I should check regularly.”
Anne Katahira, The Palmer Foundation
“We are a brand new foundation. We’ve really enjoyed meeting with other colleagues and hearing what has worked and what hasn’t. We’ve heard some terrific ideas, especially about working with boards and succession issues. I think it’s wonderful how generous families are with their information.”
Susan Reynolds, Chapman Family Foundation
The 2010 Family Philanthropy Conference offered opportunities to visit three distinctive sites around San Diego and see philanthropy in action. It was just one more way participants had to expand their knowledge and exchange ideas.
International Community Foundation Center – Visitors to this site were treated to a lovely walk in the garden. They toured the center’s half-acre organic garden, which produces food for the Healing Foods Program at the Rebecca and John Moores University of California-San Diego Cancer Center.
Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation – About 50 participants spent a day at the Jacobs Center in the Village at Market Creek, a diverse neighborhood where residents, philanthropists, and private entrepreneurs worked together in a creative redevelopment effort.
Foundation for Change and San Diego's Border Fence – Social justice issues in the San Diego-Tijuana, Mexico border region were explored, allowing participants to see the geo-political challenges local residents face.