Great Next Generation Training Opportunity

Emerging Practicioners in Philanthropy is one of my favorite groups and one of my frustrations with the Next Gen track at the Council on Foundations conference last year was that too many of the Next Gen sessions were at the same time, so you couldn't attend the full track. This year EPIP is addressing that concern by hosting an amazing pre-conference for the next geners. From EPIP:


The Place of the Next Generation in Philanthropy


A High-Value, Low-Cost Training for the Next Generation of Foundation Leaders

Preceding the Council on Foundations 60th Annual Conference


In these economic times, investing in the next generation of foundation talent remains a critical strategy for sustaining the legacy and innovation of our field. Yet, for understandable reasons, professional development budgets are being slashed. In response, Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy (EPIP) is pleased to provide a new type of training that is highly affordable and offers a unique value proposition for foundation professionals and trustees in the under-40 demographic. This two day pre-conference offers in-depth skill-building workshops from some of the premiere educators in our field such as GrantCraft; semi-structured intergenerational learning featuring esteemed foundation CEOs and leaders; and personalized career services from This pre-conference is being held in partnership with the Council on Foundations, Resource Generation, and 21/64.


Separate registration is highly affordable at $200 per person, with a $150 discount rate for dues-paying EPIP members. Scholarships will be available for dues-paying EPIP members, including from the Professional Development Fund, which supports conference travel for young foundation professionals of color. Email to request scholarship information. Under-employed foundation professionals, as well as those from public foundations, are encouraged to apply for scholarships. With a start-time after lunch Saturday and adjournment Sunday afternoon, participants need not miss work days and will only need one hotel night. Participants are strongly encouraged to attend the Council on Foundations 60th Annual Conference. Atlanta-based colleagues are strongly encouraged to attend. Information and registration is available on the website here. Online registration is reached directly here.

Independent Sector- Diana Aviv

Diana Aviv gave a wonderful keynote at the Independent Sector Conference. She was also was getting her groove on at the NGen party. I don't have video of her dancing, but I do have her full remarks from the keynote here.

New Voice- Tera Wozniak

Tera over at the Social Citizen Blog is twittering about the Independent Sector Conference here.

New Voice- Rosetta Thurman

Rosetta from Perspective from the Pipeline is live blogging from the Independent Sector Conference. Check out her posts:

Day One

Day Two

I had a great dinner last night with a fabulous group of African American female bloggers. The food was terrible but the conversation was wonderful. Rosetta, Kathrin Ivonovic- Diversity Projekt, Naomi Leapheart-Matchstick Movement, and Monica Montgomery- Blog TBD (get on it Monica, we are waiting to hear from you) and all wonderful women that have a lot to say and are making great change through their writing. Check out their blogs.

New Voice- Heather Carpenter

Heather is blogging on the Independent Sector Conference over at her blog Nonprofit Leadership 601. It has been great to finally get to have an in-person conversation with Heather, since the bulk of our communications have been over email. Check out her posts:

Independent Sector Conference Here I Come

Elections and Nonpofits

There are also many people twittering about the conference. Check out their tweets here.

Independent Sector Conference- Ben Jealous

One of my favorite people, Ben Jealous, the new CEO of the NAACP was the second speaker at the NGen welcome lunch. Ben walked us through a story of the movement to abolish the death penalty that he was a part of right after graduating from college in 1996. Some lessons from that movement included:

  • Break big goals, like abolishing the death penalty into smaller goals like ending the juvenile death penalty.
  • Engage young people in organizing work because they can engage unusual coalitions like the civil rights community partnering with the conservative pro-life movement.
  • Invest in the development of your workforce, regardless of age. The anti-death penalty movement had some key wins, these wins were the result of the organizing work of a recent college grad who had success organizing students in high school and on college campuses.

Ben also gave great professional development advice as a 35 year old CEO of a national civil rights organization:

  • Seek out many mentors and give them the opportunity to support your growth. Building those relationships are key in any field.
  • He had specific advice for those that care about social justice. Develop the skill sets needed to build institutions, not just the skills to organize individuals. This is the way to create systemic change and strengthen your career.

Expect big things from Ben and the NAACP in the coming months and years.

Independent Sector Conference-Tamara Draut

Today through Tuesday I will be at the Independent Sector Conference in Philly and blogging about the Next Gen track. The conference track began with a great convening of all of the Next Gen leaders for a welcome lunch. The event was moderated by Brian Gallagher, the CEO of the United Way of America.
Tamara Draut author of Strapped: Why Twenty and Thirty-somethings Can't Get Ahead was the first speaker. She very honestly opened the session with her confession that as a Gen Xer she is envious of millenials (aren't we all) because they are leading the next movement of social change. Through their culture of collective action (think Facebook Causes) and belief that change is possible. That envy ends with economics. Millenials will not be as well of financially as their parents because of declining wages, increasing healthcare costs, and the skyrocketing cost of education. She called for the end of our dept for diplomas system (hear, hear!)

Blogging at the Independent Sector Conference

From November 9-11, I will be blogging from the Independent Sector Conference. Quite honestly I was going to skip their conference this year given the recent job transition but then I heard that they will be having a Next Generation track. It is really encouraging to see that an important institution like Independent Sector realizes how important it is to prepare the pipleline of leadership. It will also be great for me to meet with other foundation and nonprofit staff members from around the country. Some of my best ideas have come to me during conference sessions. They give you the opportunity to look beyong your normal way of looking at the world and envisioning something better.

If you are also attending the conference and are interested in blogging about any of the sessions or want to meet up for coffee at the conference send me an email at tristaharris (at) gmail (dot) com.

Independent Sector 2008 Annual Conference
NGen: Moving Nonprofit Leaders from Next to Now- Sponsored by Comcast
Developing the next generation of nonprofit leaders is critical to the ability of charities and foundations to improve lives around the world. The “NGen: Moving Nonprofit Leaders from Next to Now” program, which is new at the Independent Sector 2008 Annual Conference, will help expand and improve the nonprofit talent pool by developing the leadership skills and networks of emerging leaders.

Open to nonprofit professionals under the age of 40, NGen will offer its participants special sessions addressing issues they face as emerging leaders and opportunities to network with leaders of all ages. You must first register for the conference before you can register for this program.

The IS Annual Conference, “Our Hopes, Our Voice, Our Future,” takes place November 9-11 in Philadelphia.

For more information about the Annual Conference and NGen, visit:

Myths of Flatness

"The anger that comes with a sense of injustice, that life is deeply unfair, is powerful and dangerous."
-Katherine Marshall

The Push Conference is over but the posts will continue. I think the best types of conferences are ones where you have new ideas to chew on indefinitely. The session on Flatness was an interesting contrast between the rest of the world's view of U.S. consumerism and how some U.S. companies are working to develop ethical brands. Chandran Nair started the session with an overview of how the exportation of U.S. culture is an unsustainable global nightmare and yet it would be unfair for the U.S. to tell the rest of the world that they can't enjoy the same level of consumerism that we take for granted everyday. If every person in China began driving and eating the amount of seafood that U.S. citizens do, the air would be unbreathable and the oceans would be emptied of fish (or at least the delicious ones). His suggestion was an increase of environmental planning worldwide.

Other speakers on this topic included Jonathan Greenblatt and Katherine Marshall. Jonathan talked about how corporations are trying to buy authenticity through their social responsibility efforts. He gave some examples of when this has worked well (Ethos Water, Good Magazine, Tesla sportscar, and Living Homes) but it can also go bad like the Red Campaign. My favorite quote from Jonathan was "moving people from consumer to advocate is the best way to engage people." This is evidenced by the organic movement and consumer's push to get store to stop using plastic bags. Jonathan is now working for Good Magazine, who's YouTube videos have been extremely popular (they have been described as Sesame Street for grownups) so I have shared one below.

Opening of Push Conference

Tonight was the opening reception for the 6th annual Push conference that I will be covering on this blog. Push's founder described the conference atmosphere as a "zone of discovery" and said that she hoped through our experiences here that we will develop connections to new visions of what is possible and invent a future where we can all contribute.

Push has a history of staring the conference with performance art and this year was no exception. Jenni Wolfson presented the first segment of her one woman show "Rash" about her experience in Rwanda documenting human rights abuses for the UN. A video of one of her performances is above. She had a very powerful message how about the randomness of your place of birth can have such an impact on your destiny. The show was painful to watch because it laid in front of the audience the bare truth about how ugly humans can become, when teachers can murder students and nuns can slaughter church members simply because of ethnicity.

Following Jenni was Dan Wilson, a songwriter and artist, who performed a variety of his songs including his hit "Closing Time", which was written to celebrate the impending birth of his daughter. Dan also wrote "Not Ready to Make Nice" for the Dixie Chicks. His beautiful messages of hope and possibility were a startling juxtaposition to Jenni's show.

The opening was an important reminder to me that art can expose the ugly side of human existence that we would rather ignore and can also show us our greatest possibilities. Both of those viewpoints are important as we look at how we can shape the future. Look for more posts this week as the conference progresses.

The future of futurists

I am SO excited that I was selected to cover the Push: The Fertile Delta conference for this blog. The conference begins this Sunday and the organizers describe it this way:

The PUSH conference is for the curious and courageous. It is a wildly fruitful, catalytic experience for the intellectually inquisitive who have a sense of the changes coming our way. It is for those who need a place to discuss, confirm, collate and explore ideas, so they can invest in the future and lead change.

Yikes, no high expectations there. I have developed a new appreciation for futurists as I have grown in my foundation job. Foundations and nonprofits are often forced to deal with current and past problems because those needs are so pressing and overwhelming, it seems a little too high minded to start thinking about future trends when we can't even get a handle on the present. Futurists seem to have a unique ability to look at the present for clues to what the future may bring. I'm not advocating that all foundations ignore the current problems our communities are facing but a few forward-thinking institutions might be able to influence the future.

Look for my dispatches from the conference coming early next week.

Is diversity philanthropy's Achilles' heel?

Diversity has long been as issue in philanthropy. One of the earlier examples was the courageous African American foundation staff that decided in 1971 to propose an all Black slate of new members for the Council on Foundations board of directors in protest of the foundation world's racial exclusiveness. As a result of that act 5 African American members were added to the board and ABFE was created and became the first Council on Foundations' affinity group. This is painful work that puts individual foundation staff members at risk but also creates important change in the sector. Fast forward 37 years to the Council on Foundation's conference in DC , where the organization was having its first conference plenary session on diversity. I find it a little bit shocking that in COF's 59 year history that there has never been a time where the organization felt like the entire membership would benefit from a session on diversity but I digress.

The session was an opportunity for council members and a California congressman to debate the merits of recent legislation in California that would require a small percentage of large California foundation to report the race and gender of grantees, staff members, and board members. I'd like to start by saying that the government doesn't really have the moral high ground on this issue, given the extreme lack of diversity in public office. Foundations aren't squeaky clean on this either since most changes related to this issue have happened because of mass protest (ala ABFE) or legislation (ala the California law).

There were a variety of perspectives on the panel from "diversity improves the quality of our grantmaking" to "you can't force us to have "others" on the board". Watching the panel in action was a painful reminder that we have a long way to go until there is true equality in philanthropy and some of that journey to equality will be voluntary and a part of that journey may need to be legislated. A summary of the session is available here.

What are your thoughts on the pros and cons of legislation related to diversity? Is it needed? Is it overkill? Do foundations need diverse staff members to make grants in diverse communities?

COF Conference Coverage from Chris Cardona (that's alot of C's)

Chris Cardona, from the Venture Philanthropy Fund is one of my favorite philanthropy thinkers and an all around nice guy. Chris did conference coverage for a variety of blogs and he did a great summary of the conference for the Doing Giving Differently blog.

From Chris:

The Council on Foundations is the trade association for organized philanthropy. Its annual conference generally draws about 2,000 people. Given that there are maybe 10,000 foundation staff in the whole country, this is a big number. CoF also holds sector conferences for family foundations, community foundations, and corporate foundations. This year, it combined them all into one big event. It also made a conscious, if not entirely successful, effort to attract more funders from abroad. As a result, the attendance this year was in the neighborhood of 3,500.
After a few days back home, here are some reflections:
  • Institutional philanthropy is in the midst of a full-fledged identity crisis.
  • The “next gen” is the place to be.
  • We’re only beginning to scratch the surface of engagement with our counterparts in other countries.
  • Strategic philanthropy is important, but don’t underestimate charity.
  • It’s not clear to me that most foundations are ready to engage with giving circles in a meaningful way.

For Chris' full post go here.

'Millennials and the Moment'

Entering the 'Millennials and the Moment' session, I scanned the room and noticed a much wider and well-distributed range of generations in the crowd. After a few days milling around in the Gaylord, I realized that I now recognized many in the once-indiscernible herd of philanthropists.

The panelists Cassie, Eddie, Andrew, and Carmen maturely reflected on their leadership experiences. Particularly striking points below:

  • Cassie started Campus Climate Challenge and hosted a conference of over 6,000 environmentalists featuring Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi.
  • Eddie started an organization for improvement of public housing in Oregon - at the age of twenty.
  • Andrew, a young City Councilperson from Tallahassee, wanted more opportunity to network with other young elected officials so he started an organization that now serves over 400 young elected officials.
  • Carmen is the Vice President of USSA a student-led and -run organization that advocates for educational equality.

Other than talking about their specific experiences, the students made the salient point that ours is the most diverse generation in US history and that it is up to us to reverse the polarization perpetuated by past generations.


A gigantic thank you to all of New Voices of Philanthropies guest bloggers at the COF Conference. Your varied perspectives created a great picture of what was happening at the conference and is much appreciated.

A big hello to all of the new readers of the blog that were introduced to the site at the conference, there are new posts every Monday and Thursday and you can find some background on the blog here and you can subscribe to our RSS feed here.

There will be continuing coverage of the conference by me and our fabulous guest bloggers. I would also like to hear your perspectives of the conference in the comments section below. What was a highlight of the conference for you? What did you learn? What lessons will you use? What ticked you off? (Hint: the thing that ticked me off happened at the diversity plenary...more to come on that later)

Philanthropy 2.0

I'm blogging live from the philathropy 2.0 event sponsored by the Case Foundation, EPIP, and 3rd Wave. Packed, hot, techie. About to break a sweat hot.

Just a quick observation. In today's session on faith and feminism, the director of the Women's Funding Network, Chris, pushed me to present my small group's discussion points. Although the rest of the group urged her to speak, she clearly indicated that she wanted me to present because I am an emerging voice in the feminist movement.

This is not the only time this has happened. Today, in the session I co-designed, Luz gave way to Charles and Trista to allow them airtime. This level of collegiality and respect for the voices of young people in philanthropy is new to me. Just by creating it as a focus area of the summit and by hearing leadership frame the conference on Sunday, people are already taking action.

We are not just here to learn, existing leadership is not just here to teach. It is an exchange.

Jollification in the Caribbean

Each year ABFE hosts the James A. Joseph lecture as a tribute to ABFE's co-founder. The event highlights an emerging leader, this year the honoree was a fabulous ABFE Fellow Wendy Lewis Jackson from the Kresge Foundation.

The lecturer was Carrolle Perry Devonish, Executive Director of the Anguilla Community Foundation, the fir5st and only charitable foundation in the country. She talked about an Anguillian concept "jollification", which she defined as cheerful giving to your neighbor. An example is a whole neighborhood coming together to help someone pour a concrete floor. Through the act of helping you get to spend time with your community and you know that if you ever need something, your neighbor will be there for you. A community foundation is no more than a method to make jollification a financial resource as well.

He call to action was for more grantmakers to share their skills and talents with the African Diaspora, especially with communities that are translating their long held practices of neighbors helping neighbors into formalized philanthropy models.

Dispatches from the COF Conference

I got to the hotel on Saturday and to say that it is a large conference center would be a massive understatement. The atrium is probably 14 stories tall and has a small neighborhood of houses scattered inside the lobby for good measure. I have been joking that the Gaylord just built around homeowners that were unwilling to move and then they turned their houses into gift shops.

They are still working on signage for the massive convention center so I have decided to think of getting to sessions as more of a zen-like journey of discovery as I walk aimlessly through the center's massive hallways trying to figure out if the Maryland Ballroom is near the Woodrow Wilson ballroom. I would leave a trail of New Voices of Philanthropy promotional postcards but I am afraid (or hopeful) that the many next gen staff that are here would pick them up and I would be lost again.

A great group of current and future philanthropic powerhouses are providing conference coverage (we already have great posts from Tracey, Melissa, and Jasmine) so check back often for the latest conference dirt or relevant learnings (however you prefer to frame it).

Social Justice Philanthropy: Where is the Movement?

On the heels of what will be one of the biggest gatherings in a long time of established foundations in the U.S., the field of philanthropy continues to be called into question. Where are philanthropic dollars going? Who are philanthropic dollars benefiting? Is change a real goal of these dollars? If so, what does that change look like?

The Council on Foundations is kicking off its annual conference in a big way on Sunday, May 4th, just a heartbeat away from America’s capital at the Gaylord National Resort on the National Harbor in Maryland. “Philanthropy’s Vision: A Leadership Summit,” is intended to attract many of the philanthropic leaders that help to shape the future of philanthropy. With new and interesting tracks on issues like diversity and inclusiveness, generational leadership, and rural philanthropy, it appears that this conference may broach the conversation and many values of social change in a way that has never been seen before.

But for those CEO’s, program officers, thought leaders in the philanthropic field who think, work, fund, and behave in ways that always embrace social justice values, they are not so sure how deep conversations may go. In an effort to maximize the seemingly prime opportunity to take advantage of issues like diversity, community change, and looking beyond to the next generation, the Social Justice Philanthropy Collaborative is holding a reception to help organize like-minded leaders in the field. This reception will help individuals NAVIGATE the conference, BUILD relationships and commitment, and STRENGHTEN the network of progressive funders and allies.

At a time where societal change is outpacing the ability to respond alone to community needs, it is imperative that every foundation and organization working within the field of philanthropy come together to network, strategize, and build collaborative action to truly achieve real change. This reception marks a pivotal moment of reinvigorating the movement.

So, in a hallway near you, COF participants, look for folks with the buttons, the stress balls, the candy, and the social justice guide to navigating this Summit so you can see where the movement is.

Go to for more information!

Special Guest Blogger Melissa Johnson, Field Director
National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP)

Where's the fire?

At a conference last week, I asked a panel of new foundation leaders what surprised them the most about the philanthropic field. Kate Wolford, the new President of the McKnight Foundation had a very eloquent answer that gave me pause. She said that when she was a nonprofit CEO everything was always pressing and urgent. There was a yearly budget to be raised and programs that needed to be run effectively or else the organization might shut down or the people that they were serving would not be reached. She said that she was most surprised about the lack of urgency in the philanthropic field. I was a little shocked at first because we are all working on very pressing social issues and are under the pressure of constant deadlines. But, when you step back and look at it there really is no true sense of urgency in the field. There is no budget to be raised (community foundation aside), no stockholders that will pull their support, no constituents that won't vote for you again if you tick them off. Foundations have the leisure of time. This can be an asset when you are working on long-term community issues that need long-term solutions. But this can be a detriment when that lack of urgency turns into apathy.