EPIP: Day Two

Day Two of the 2010 EPIP Conference started off with a great observation from Steve Gunderson, the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Council on Foundations. Gunderson addressed the folks at the morning plenary by stating, “EPIP needs to change their tagline from the “next generation” of grantmakers to the NOW generation of grantmakers. The future is now.” I couldn’t agree more and know that everyone else in the room felt the same way.

Following Gunderson, we had the opportunity to hear from Bill Somerville, the President and Founder of Philanthropic Ventures Foundation. Somerville brings more than 50 years of experience to the non-profit sector and is nationally recognized as an expert on creative grantmaking. He really challenged the group to think about philanthropy in a variety of ways that we may not have. I can’t stop thinking about some of the ideas that he talks about. For example, he talks about paperless giving, and how this goes beyond just filing everything electronically. He also talked about the importance of having more failures. This may seem counterintuitive, but he argues, and I rightly agree, that the field of philanthropy can learn as much from its failures, if not more, than its successes. He even advocated for the non-profit sector to put out a book that discusses some of its failures in depth. I think Somerville is right when he says that if we aren’t willing to take risks, we may be afraid to think creatively. He also discussed the importance of building trust between organizations and sectors. He advocates for people to get out from behind their computers to really understand the work they are funding, and for people to get out of their comfort zone. Lastly, he talked about the dangers of “academic philanthropy” (I have to admit, this was the first time I’d heard that term mentioned), meaning that as we see a rise in things like strategic philanthropy, standardized program evaluations, performance metrics etc, that we need to really engage grantees in our partnerships, ask them how they measure the success of their programs etc.

The rest of the day featured some really great sessions centered on social justice philanthropy and allowed members to hear experience from those working in this area. I really appreciated the multigenerational panels and experienced foundation leaders that provided concrete suggestions for how grantmakers can advance social and racial justice philanthropy. Although I wasn’t able to attend every panel, the feedback I’ve heard from everyone has been extremely positive!

In the afternoon, EPIP and the Young Nonprofit Professionals Association held a concurrent workshop. Since both groups are here in Denver at the same time and are clearly interested in a lot of the same issues, I think it was really great to plan this session. Keynote speaker Barry Gaberman, Senior Vice President (Retired), of the Ford Foundation talked about the need for infrastructure to support talent in philanthropy and nonprofits.

Tomorrow marks the third and final (half) day of the conference, before the annual Council on Foundation’s 2010 Annual Conference officially kicks off. If you’ll be staying on after the EPIP conference is over, or if you’ll be participating remotely, be sure to follow the hashtag #cof10 for updates.