Sharing Best Practices and Making New Connections

In my last job, the learning curve seemed to remain vertical for much of my tenure, occasionally even tipping backwards. As is often the case in nonprofit organizations, the person I replaced had left somewhat suddenly and with much of the information about the position, although probably neatly organized, still in her brain. With no real community of colleagues from whom to learn (and commiserate), I ended up starting from scratch and repeating mistakes that had already been made.

In my current position as a grants officer at the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis, this has happily not been the case. One of the first things that I was instructed to do was to join ProNet, the Council on Foundations affinity group for all community foundation program staff. While it may be true that once you’ve seen one community foundation. . .you’ve seen one community foundation, there are plenty of best practices to be shared.

Instead of developing documents, a version of which others are probably already using, I only have to ask the members of the ProNet e-mail discussion group if anyone will share. Or if I have trouble with a committee volunteer, if I’m unsure how to handle a new nonprofit, or if I’d like to survey what technologies or products others in the field are using, ProNet is my go-to group. And while the e-mail discussion group, archives, and virtual connections are invaluable, getting together to talk shop with other program staff from around the country (and world) is even better.

I have attended the Council’s Fall Conference for Community Foundations for the past two years and am excited about this year’s event in New Orleans. On Sunday, September 9, ProNet will host its annual meeting and dinner at Red Fish Grill, an award-winning local restaurant within a mile of the Hyatt Regency. We will gather at 5 p.m. for drinks and to meet folks we’ve traded e-mails with. We’ll have the chance to sit with colleagues to dive deeper into table topics such as proactive grantmaking , newbies to the field, unrestricted grantmaking, and more. We’ll elect the new Steering Committee and hear from YaYa and Sweet Home New Orleans, two dynamic arts organizations that have created arts safety nets in the aftermath of recent crises in New Orleans.

The entire event is only $30 for members and $45 for nonmembers. Just go to the conference Web page (scroll to the bottom) to find out how to register and be entered to win an iPad.

Don’t know any of your professional colleagues? Neither did I, but now is your chance to make connections. (And I do mean now, because it is in less than two weeks!) I look forward to meeting you in the Big Easy!

Ashley Harperis the grants and initiatives officer for the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis.

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