2017 Pennsylvania Foundations Public Policy Conference: Amplifying the Voice of the Sector

Each year, Pennsylvania’s philanthropic sector invests more than $2.6 billion in grant making in the Commonwealth. Uncertainty about national and State public policies and budget realities will make philanthropy’s investments critically important, especially on behalf of vulnerable populations in our communities. Now more than ever, Pennsylvania foundations must come together to define a shared understanding that can amplify the voice of the sector and sharpen their focus on the impacts of policymaking on the social safety net and the non-profit community. The time is right to lay the groundwork to maximize foundations’ strategies and leadership.  This is the time for Pennsylvania foundations to "lean in!"

You can do so by joining your colleagues on May 1-2 at the Radisson Hotel Harrisburg to develop the first-ever statewide philanthropic policy network for collaboration and impact. With the assistance of the Council on Foundations and facilitation by the world-class MAYA Design, Inc., participants will will discuss how foundations can come together to address four critical public policy issues facing the Commonwealth, all against the backdrop of an uncertain State budget:

  • The opioid crisis
  • Fair education funding
  • Communities in crisis/Act 47
  • Human services funding

The convening’s agenda builds on the outcomes of the 2016 Pennsylvania Philanthropy Conference sponsored by the Council on Foundations in State College, and a subsequent survey of Pennsylvania foundations, which revealed that most of last year’s attendees were already engaging in or funding public policy efforts to various degrees. Most shared a deep interest in collaborating on public policy research and engagement of local leaders around the work of foundations across the State.

Sessions will be highly interactive. The conference kicks off with briefs from policy experts in each of the four issue areas.  This will enable participants to hit the ground running for a full-day of highly interactive collaboration planning. Participants will leave with a solid understanding of their selected issue along with a menu of activities that can be mission-specific to each organization but aligned for statewide impact.

Help the effort NOW by completing the brief issue interest survey.  that will help us gauge the level of interest in each of the four topic areas, and give us a preview into the opportunities and challenges for peer collaboration on these public policy issues. 

All Pennsylvania foundations are welcome. Join your peers in building an effective philanthropic public policy voice in the Commonwealth!

Note: this is a public policy education event and no funds will be used for lobbying purposes.

Register Now


Sunday, April 30 (OPTIONAL)

5:30-7:30 p.m.
Informal Dinner Meet-Up for Sunday Arrivals

The Millworks Restaurant (340 Verbeke St., Harrisburg)

Monday, May 1

7:30 - 8:30 a.m.
Registration and Breakfast
8:30-9 a.m
Welcome and Remarks

Speakers: Max King, President and CEO, The Pittsburgh Foundation; Grant Oliphant, President and CEO, The Heinz Endowments

9:00-10:10 a.m.
Public Policy Issue Discussions

MAYA Design will introduce and facilitate a “world café,” an easy-to-use method for introducing participants to one another and creating a collaborative dialogue around the priority public policy issues.

MAYA Facilitators: Dutch McDonald, President and CEO; Bridget Monahan, Designer and Researcher; Brett Leber, Designer and Researcher

World Café: Issues One & Two

Each 30-minute round of the world café will focus on one of the four topic areas. The round begins with a policy expert who delivers a 10 minute “state of the State,” and ends with a question for discussion: what do you see as a role for foundations to add value for collective action?

Topic One: Human Services Funding

Speaker: John Denny, Campaign for What Works, Denny Civic Solutions

Topic Two: Communities in Crisis/Act 47

Speaker: Karen Miller, Senior Fellow, Berks County Community Foundation

10:10-10:20 a.m.
10:20-11:20 a.m.
World Café: Issues Three & Four
Topic Three: Fair Education Funding

Speaker: Charlie Lyons, Vice President, ShellyLyons Public Affairs & Communications

Topic Four: The Opioid Crisis

Speaker: Kathy Dahlkemper, Erie County Executive

11:20-11:40 a.m.
Large Group Share-Out

Participants will share insights or other results from their small group conversations.

11:40 a.m.-12:00 p.m.
Afternoon Breakout Overview

Preview of the afternoon’s activities, breakout groups, and desired outcomes:  identification of tangible and actionable opportunities for collaborative action.

12:00-1:00 p.m.
Lunch: Lobbying and Advocacy Guidelines for Foundations

Speaker: Suzanne Friday, Senior Counsel and Vice President of Legal Affairs, Council on Foundations

1:15-1:45 p.m.
Breakout Activity: What’s on your Radar?

Participants will think expansively about their policy area issues from different perspectives and begin to work together to prioritize the issues into primary, secondary and tertiary levels.

1:45- 2:15 p.m.
Breakout Activity: Statement Starters

Participants will reframe the issue in a way that promotes the ability to generate different solutions.

2:15-2:45 p.m.
Breakout Activity: Creative Matrix

Each group will create a customized matrix that lays out the issues and the “enablers” or mechanisms by which that issue can be addressed, and generates many different ideas.

2:45-3:00 p.m.
Breakout Activity: Gallery Crawl and Vote

Participants will view and vote on ideas to bring forward from their creative matrices. This helps develop a set of opportunities with the greatest impact in each issue area.

3:00-3:45 p.m.
Breakout Activity: Importance/Difficulty Matrix

Participants will prioritize their ideas against level of impact and difficulty to begin to identify where to take action.

3:45-4:00 p.m.
Break/Return to Main Room
4:00-5:00 p.m.
Large Group Share Out

Each policy area group will present their prioritized opportunities and share how these were generated and prioritized.

6:00-8:30 p.m.
Reception and Dinner

Participants will share any thoughts from Day.

Tuesday, May 2

8:00-9:00 a.m.
Breakfast Exchange

Speaker: Secretary Ted Dallas, Pennsylvania Department of Human Services 


9:15-11:00 a.m.
Roadmap Working Session

Each policy group will decide on the biggest opportunity they want to/can engage in together and then break it down into a manageable set of action steps plotted against a timeline.

11:00-11:45 a.m.
Large Group Share Out
11:45 a.m.-12:00 p.m.
Wrap Up

Working Group Members

Janice Black, President and CEO, The Foundation for Enhancing Communities
Jane Conover, President and CEO, York Community Foundation
Max King, President and CEO, The Pittsburgh Foundation
Kevin Murphy, President and CEO, Berks County Community Foundation
Barbara Taylor, Executive Director, Grantmakers of Western Pennsylvania
Jennifer Wilson, President and CEO, First Community Foundation Partnership of Pennsylvania