The State of Philanthropic Infrastructure

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

A message from PNY President Ronna Brown, published originally in the New York PhilanthroPost Monthly August 2015 edition.

After a week in Baltimore with colleagues from around the United States meeting to talk about the “state” of the philanthropic infrastructure, there is more than good reason to feel excited and hopeful about what lays ahead. 
Our colleagues in Baltimore hosted the most recent annual conference of the Forum of Regional Association of Grantmakers – which included representatives from the 33 Regional Associations and the Council on Foundations, Foundation Center, Exponent Philanthropy, National Council on Nonprofits and nearly two dozen national affinity groups like Grantmakers for Education, Grantmakers in Health, Peace and Security Funders Group and Grantmakers in Aging.  This gathering demonstrated that the philanthropic infrastructure organizations are deeply engaged in networking to build stronger collaborations in order to serve our memberships.   
Increasing programmatic partnerships between regional associations and affinity groups was a consistent theme across many sessions at the conference. But, placed squarely in the programmatic center of the three-day conference, was a two-and-a-half hour “speed dating” session that encouraged regional association staff to sit and talk with affinity group staff to brainstorm new collaborative ventures.  It was a creative and useful mechanism to encourage the development of new relationships and build upon existing ones.  
We are excited to bring back what we learned in Baltimore and implement it in our processes, strategies and programming. PNY prioritizes partnering with local and national groups to produce programs that vary in subject, funding area and format, so we’re glad to see this is a growing trend across the RA network.
In addition, the three-day convening provided an unparalleled opportunity for PNY staff to share with other regional associations from across the country and to discuss best practices, brainstorm new programming and learn how to better meet the needs of our members.
Perhaps, not coincidentally, PNY was well-represented besides our staff.  Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation (A PNY member) former president David Grant gave the opening keynote based on his recent book, The Social Profit Handbook. His fascinating talk included the importance of evaluation as he cautioned against just focusing on the hard data without using stories and other “soft” metrics to develop an overall picture of work accomplished and the "social profit." PNY member and Ms. Foundation for Women president Teresa Younger gave the plenary address and was wonderfully engaging as she examined the Ms. Foundation’s mission and shared examples of how philanthropy can support progressive policies in order to build community strength.  
There is great change afoot right now in the philanthropic infrastructure community. I came away from the Forum conference energized by and impressed with my colleagues from around the country and a proud new member of the Forum Board of Directors.  We are excited to make sure, as we move into the fall, that you are connected to the many opportunities for shared learning and collaboration throughout the sector. 
Best Regards, 


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