Fountain of Youth

Philanthropy411, is currently covering the Council on Foundations conference with the help of a blog team.  This is a guest post by Richard Woo, CEO, of The Russell Family Foundation.

by Richard Woo

Tonight a boatload of folks celebrated the ten year birthday of EPIP: Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy. I’m serious, it was a boatload because we were singing, dancing and celebrating on an historic clipper ship anchored along the Philadelphia waterfront!

If you’ve been unplugged for the past decade and haven’t yet heard of EPIP, its vision is “of a day when all generations in philanthropy collaborate effectively to build better foundations for a better world”. Its mission is to “develop extraordinary new leaders for foundations to enhance organized philanthropy and it’s impact in communities.” Rusty Stahl, EPIP’s executive director, the national staff, it’s board of directors, and throngs of EPIP members and supporters across the country can feel proud of the progress they’ve made in marching on that mission. The Russell Family Foundation is fortunate to have at least three of our staff of nine attending this year’s EPIP annual conference held in conjunction with the COF conference. I say “at least” because I feel like an EPIP conferee in spirit even though I’ve worked in philanthropy twice as many years as EPIP has existed.

During tonight’s gathering, an EPIP member asked me in all earnestness (for he had just turned 40): “What’s the secret to staying young?” Considering that I’m turning 60 next year I paused a moment, then told him about the workshop I attended earlier today on adaptive leadership for 80 foundation CEO’s and board trustees. The session is a two day pre-conference workshop designed by the Council to help folks “lead in the new normal.” I told the EPIP’er that my board president and I shared a case study from our foundation of an issue that “keeps us awake at night” in front of the rest of the workshop members–after which the audience offered feedback, critiques, and possible solutions. I told my 40 year old EPIP colleague: “Experiencing that kind of transparency and trusting 80 strangers was really scary–but I felt really enlivened by all of the questions, suggestions and differing perspectives offered up. That is the secret to staying young.”

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Posted by Kris Putnam-Walkerly © Kris Putnam-Walkerly and Philanthropy411, 2010.