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.
I discovered how hard it is to fund arts education by accidentally wandering into a session on the subject. The session caused me to think about how our board funds complex interrelated issues. By accidentally attending a session on family dynamics, I learned how to be a better listener and facilitator. Those techniques have been invaluable to me both my personally and professionally.
Of course, my favorite part of the annual gathering is reconnecting with old colleagues and discovering new ones. At my first conference, I got some advice that I’ve held onto ever since: Don’t forget to explore the hallway. In other words, embrace the serendipity of gathering several hundred colleagues and friends in one place. Spend time getting to know your plenary tablemates. Try to substantively meet one new person each day. I’m always surprised at the opportunities, solutions, and ideas that come out of these accidental connections.
The Family Philanthropy Conference is an opportunity to fully submerge into an experience of learning, growing, and pushing your thinking. While there, I want to try and embrace the serendipity that so often comes from these fully immersive experiences. You’ll definitely find me exploring the hallway!
Mary Galeti is vice chair of the Tecovas Foundation, a member of the Council on Foundations.