As 2019 comes to a close, I’m reflecting on my first year at the Council on Foundations. I’m proud of the strides we’ve made in forging strong relationships across the sector, moving our policy agenda forward, supporting the professional growth of members and reimagining both our membership model and our vision for the future of the Council.
When I look back on the places, conversations and people that defined this year, there are a few key themes that stand out.
The Council is only as strong as our member community.
That’s why in 2019 we prioritized translating one big thing we heard from many of you into action by reimagining our approach to membership. The results so far are very promising with our community now topping 750 members!
This year, we offered support to our members in many different ways, including:
- Welcoming almost 900 attendees to our Leading Together conference in Miami;
- Working with our colleagues at other strong sector organizations to push for the repeal of Unrelated Business Income Tax (UBIT) “parking tax” on nonprofits and the simplification of the Private Foundation Excise Tax;
- Answering nearly 3,000 requests for information from members on topics ranging from administering scholarships to engaging in international giving;
- Delivering 19 webinars, six Legal Matter workshops and three Community Foundation Excellence courses;
- Hosting our HR Summit and Endowments & Finance Summit;
- Publishing the Grantmaker Salary and Benefits Report and the CommonFund Study of Investment of Endowments for Private and Community Foundations;
- And so much more…
In 2020 we will continue to offer the programs and services you value most, while also taking steps to improve the member experience by creating more opportunities for you to shape and lead our work.
The Council is only as strong as our relationships.
When I think about the Council’s work, I am reminded of how deeply connected and intertwined we are to our members, our peers and our partners. I spent much of 2019 building deeper relationships by engaging in conversations with foundations, corporate giving programs and philanthropy serving organizations across the United States as part of the process to reimagine the Council. We held visioning sessions in Detroit, Raleigh, San Francisco, Los Angeles; hosted meetings and roundtables discussions in Chattanooga, Atlanta and Nashville; and spoke I personally with philanthropic leaders both in-person and through teleconferences and “office hours” style phone conversations.
I am deeply grateful to have heard from hundreds of peers and partners through this process. Thank you for feedback on how the Council can best serve the field of philanthropy now and into the future.
We also spent time this year strengthening our relationships with other sector organizations so that we can lean deeply into mission-advancing partnerships in 2020 and beyond. We’re excited to once again work in partnership with the United Philanthropy Forum on Foundations on the Hill and to push back against tax policy that hurts charitable giving and nonprofits in coordination with Independent Sector, National Council of Nonprofits, the Philanthropy Roundtable and the United Philanthropy Forum. I know that when we work together, we can create a more supportive federal regulatory and policy environment to advance the greater good.
The Council is only as strong as our staff.
This was a transitional year, but luckily many longstanding Council staff stayed with the organization and provided the stability, continuity and expertise that our members have so long relied on. Our Legal Resources team, for example, continues to provide crucial support to foundations across the country as they seek to understand and abide by the legal regulations that govern giving.
Meanwhile, we’ve been able to attract seasoned talent who are poised to serve the field and will lead the Council into the future. Our recently rebuilt Government Affairs team is already chalking up big wins on Capitol Hill!
I’m deeply appreciative for all of the ambiguity the Council staff has managed this year and their willingness to take on new challenges and roles and to flex and grow in new directions.
We are only as strong as our financial health and reliable revenue.
We know that how we spend money is an expression of our values so we spent time in 2019 getting to clarity about how expenses move our mission and serve the best interests of our members. We also upgraded our internal financial infrastructure so that we will have much more clarity about programmatic expenses. As a result, I’m excited to share that the Council will end 2019 with a budget surplus and is taking the first steps toward strong financial health.
As I look back on 2019, I could not be more excited for all that 2020 holds for the Council, our members and the broader sector. We have such incredible potential to catalyze and support important societal progress in the United States and around the world. As the Council continues to define our path forward, we know we want to be a trusted partner to philanthropy in advancing the greater good and making our world a better place.
I’m excited to share our vision for what that will look like in the New Year. Stay tuned.
May your holiday season be filled with joy and laughter and your New Year hold endless possibilities. Happy holidays from the Council. We look forward to connecting with you often in 2020!