Conference Theme Should Unify and Call Us To Action


Philanthropy411, is currently covering the Council on Foundations conference with the help of a blog team.  This is a guest post by Lee Draper, President of Draper Consulting Group and Chair of  National Network of Consultants to Grantmakers

by Lee Draper

The theme of this year’s Council on Foundations annual conference is “Windows”.  But as conference participants we are left wondering: “What does that mean?”  Why is this the most compelling organizing principle for our annual convening?  There is no tagline, commentary, or clue.

This is a big weakness.

There is no apparent connection between the diverse sessions offered this year; “Windows” appears to be just a cover title.  Many of the sessions and virtually all of the plenaries are interesting, informative, and often provocative. But the sessions are an assortment of one-offs within a three-day schedule.  They suffer by not being aligned with overarching big ideas that could add context and enable sessions to build upon each other as the conference progresses.

More importantly, COF is missing the opportunity to define a larger vision of philanthropy and call us all to ambitious action in these “interesting times.”  Certainly, as Claire Gaudiani challenged us in the opening plenary, this is the moment in American and world history when leadership should sound a clarion call and bold ideas should shape our work.

Let us look to next year’s conference for an important theme(s) and sessions that total more than the simple sum of individual parts.

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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