Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Spirit of Philanthropy Yet to Come

The EPIP pre-conference is dubbed "Innovation and Legacy: The Place of the Next Generation in Philanthropy" to evoke both the great changes a new generation of grantmakers will bring to the sector and the storied tradition they inherit and will eventually pass on to others. It's a look at philanthropy from a generational perspective, past, present, and future, so it's only fitting we next gens were visited by three spirits.

(My philanthropic education thus complete - and "A Christmas Carol" is nothing if not a man's philanthropic education - I plan to call room service tomorrow and demand the turkey as big as me.)

Host Committee Co-Chair Ann Cramer, Director of the Americas at IBM Corporate Citizenship and Corporate Affairs, is every bit the gracious host in her thirty-second hello. Noting her affiliation, she reminded the up-and-coming EPIP attendees, some of whom are high school students, that philanthropic opportunities are available in the corporate world.

Cramer promised anything we might need for a successful pre-conference. She is, she said, "a voice, an advocate, and a friend" to the next generation.

In candid comments, Conference Committee Chair Kathy Merchant, President and CEO of the Greater Cincinnati Foundation, marvelled at the diversity present in the room, remarking that one could put a similar number of people of her generation in the room "and we wouldn't look like you."

History's most diverse generation has come of age and not a moment too soon. As someone who has worked in the nonprofit world her entire professional life, Merchant noted the incredible challenges ahead for our nation and our world and wondered if the structures we have built would be sufficient to handle them.

"We've installed a lot of fences," added Council Board Chair Ralph Smith, Executive Vice President of the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Smith noted his admiration for how EPIP has been able to use generation to unite young people across the barriers erected between different types of grantmakers and between funders and nonprofits.

"It augurs well for our field," he said. "These barriers are not natural, and they're not inherent [to this work]."

Whether these obstacles remain a part of philanthropy will rest with those with the courage and the wisdom to break down the walls that keep those in the sector apart from one another.

"Not many in my generation know how to do that," Smith said.

All in all, this visit from the Council's leadership was both an impressive vote of confidence in the next gens assembled and a recognition of the power of the next generation's collective voice. It wasn't long ago that programs like this were unheard of. And if they did occur, they didn't always receive the welcome we did. That's an innovation I would like to see passed on.

The Panel is Dead

Rusty Stahl, Executive Director of EPIP, and Trista Harris, Executive Director of the Headwaters Foundation for Justice, put a call out for potential next gen bloggers and kindly included me. I thought that I'd take notes and post my thoughts during the breaks or in the evenings.

Silly Kevin. That's how people blogged in the Stone Age, in like, oh, 2006 maybe. These days, you've got to be a media empire of one. Arriving at the EPIP pre-conference, several folks came armed with laptops, digital cameras and recorders, the whole shebang.

I was a little overwhelmed. Here I am thinking, "I've joined the new media!" only to discover I'm publishing a zine. Remember those?

But do you know who I really feel bad for? The panelists.

Dear Panelists, Blackberries, laptops, and digital video aside, your audience is paying attention. It's just also grabbing photos, typing out what it thinks about what you just said, reading what that guy three rows back just said about what you just said, and responding for their Twitter followers and the whole Internet to see. By the way, when you're done, you have 16 new Facebook Friend requests. Don't ignore them.

The conversation used to be between the panelists. It's not even in the room anymore.

Of course, if the panelists weren't in the room to begin with, we wouldn't have them and their opinions to blog about - which is another way of saying:

The Panel is dead. Long live the Panel!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Blogging the 2009 COF Annual Conference

Capital Epiphanies has joined the EPIP motherblog in blogging the Council on Foundations' 60th Annual Conference in Atlanta, Georgia this week. I have no idea what the traditional media presence is going to be at this event, but conference-goers will be blogging, tweeting, and otherwise drumming up an online storm.

EPIP joins New Voices, Tactical Philanthropy, and Perspectives from the Pipeline, among others, in covering the conference.

I know I'm forgetting some people. If you're here in Atlanta, send links and come say hello. And if you'd like to join the blog army, send word to one of us. Folks are forming teams, and encouraging others to post.

Things got rolling today with EPIP's much-anticipated pre-conference "training and retreat": Innovation and Legacy: The Place of the Next Generation in Philanthropy.

Tune in for session recaps, opinion, and conversation from this yearly gathering of grantmakers.