Blowing Up The Conference Model


Philanthropy411, in partnership with the National Network of Consultants to Grantmakers, is currently covering the Council on Foundations conference with the help of a blog team.  This is a guest post by Sean Stannard-Stockton, CEO of Tactical Philanthropy Advisors.

by:  Sean Stannard-Stockton

The Council on Foundations has done an admirable job of incorporating social media into the annual conference. From the official RE: Philanthropy blog of the Council, to their official Twitter handle, to their support for unofficial blog teams, the Council has fully embraced the important role of social media in philanthropy.

Now it is time for the Council to blow up their traditional conference model and begin exploring new formats for the annual conference.

A few ideas:

• Moderated debates over specific propositions between leaders in the field.

• 20 minute TED-style presentations on fascinating topics from energetic and inspiring people in the field.

• Three-hour working groups on issues that the field must confront together.

• Nonprofit showcases featuring 15-minute presentations by grantees nominated by Council members.

During last year’s conference, I wrote:

The opening plenary of the Council on Foundations conference was fine. It was interesting. There was a nice musical piece by a local group to kick things off.

But it wasn’t a rock concert.

The Council on Foundations conference should be philanthropy’s Woodstock. It should be our Octoberfest. It should be our MacWorld. It should be the type of event where people who are passionate about philanthropy and foundations come together to celebrate, learn, share and laugh. It should be fun.

I feel the same way this year. We don’t have to be bound by the traditional format of conferences. We are free to experiment.

If the Council wants the annual conference to be a “can’t miss” event that attracts the very top people in the field, it needs to blow up the conference model and start experimenting with new approaches.

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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