How Do We Know What We Know – and Do We?


Philanthropy411 is currently covering the Communications Network and CommA Fall 2010 Conference in Los Angeles with the help of a blog team, which is part of the conference’s 2nd annual Gorilla Engagement Squad.  This is a guest post by Sylvia Burgos Toftness,Communications Lead at the Northwest Area Foundation.  Follow the Foundation on Twitter:  @NWAFound

by:  Sylvia Burgos Toftness

I’m buzzing, and it’s not the coffee.  It’s Friday morning, 9:30, and my head is straining to hold onto the insights, questions and anxieties shared in just the last 90 minutes of this two-day conference. First, is was a breakfast roundtable during which Hewlett Foundation generously shared the findings to the question: is the communications training we provide to grantees really working? The study, conducted by the Williams Group, whispers to me from my attaché. How much foundation support does it take to help a grantee develop a strategic communications mindset, as well as basic skills? The conversation from the roundtable was telling: comforting because many of us share the same challenges; daunting because we share the same challenges. Among the take-aways: Am I using Twitter to direct nonprofits to a massive, passive PDF?  Should I be linking to an app?

Lots of work to do with program officers when I get home.

Right now, Lucy Bernholz, president of Blueprint Research and Design, is helping us see a world of technology usually outside our field of vision. Yes, what we don’t know can hurt us. She’s talking about how digital technologies and social media tools are changing philanthropy in bigger and more fundamental ways than we can easily see. As she began her presentation, she mentioned that she totally revamped her talk last night in response to the many things she heard and learned at this conference – from conversation with attendees and more.

Glad I’m here.

Kris is a sought after philanthropy advisor, expert and award-winning author. She has helped over 90 foundations and philanthropists strategically allocate and assess over half a billion dollars in grants and gifts.

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