A new leader for philanthropy visits Colorado

  • January 31, 2016
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Guest Blog Post by David Biemesderfer, President & CEO, Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers, Washington DC

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Last week in Denver I had the pleasure of engaging with several Colorado foundation leaders in a meeting coordinated by the Colorado Association of Funders (CAF) and hosted by the Boettcher Foundation. It was a wonderful opportunity to learn more about the thoughtful, impactful philanthropic activity going on in the state, and to hear the foundation leaders talk about the tremendous value they get from their CAF membership and their pride in watching the growth of CAF in recent years.

At the meeting I spoke about my new role as President & CEO of the Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers, which is a vibrant and growing organization in the philanthropy sector. The Forum is the largest network serving philanthropy in America, consisting of 33 regional philanthropy associations—including CAF—with more than 5,500 participating organizations. The Forum Network’s greatest strength is that we bring together the dual assets of deep regional roots and a broad nationwide reach. No other organization in philanthropy brings these assets to the table in the way that we do.

The Forum supports and advances the work of CAF and its regional association colleagues in many ways. We offer staff professional development and peer-to-peer networking opportunities to help people be effective in their regional association work. We strengthen philanthropy’s voice in public policy by building regional associations’ capacity to engage in policy work. We provide an effective vehicle to allow regional associations to share data, information and resources. And we help regional associations pool their resources and expertise to better serve their members.

The Forum operates as a true network that relies on the contributions of all of its regional association members, and the Colorado Association of Funders is an active contributor to the network.

CAF Executive Director Joanne Kelley serves on the Forum’s board of directors and on our governance committee and government relations & public policy committee. She also serves on our community foundation task force and has served on our grantmaker education committee and several conference planning committees. Her expertise and experience in communications and public policy, among other areas, add great value to our network.

In my meeting with CAF members I discussed how the Forum will begin implementing a new vision over the next two years that builds on our unique skills and expertise in the philanthropy field. We plan to broaden our network to bring together the assets of the Forum Network with the assets of national philanthropy-serving organizations—specifically national issue-based, identity-based and practice-based affinity groups—to create a “one stop shop” for philanthropies to find and engage others with similar interests, share knowledge and advance policy. In short, we envision the Forum as the place where philanthropy’s infrastructure comes together.

National affinity groups have deep content knowledge in their specific areas of expertise, whether it is knowledge of a particular funding issue, population group or philanthropic practice, and RAs have deep knowledge and connections in our regions. Under the Forum’s new vision, we will bring the two together in a much more comprehensive and systematic way than what is occurring today. We believe this will reduce duplication and increase collaboration in philanthropy’s infrastructure, and will greatly enhance how we all work to support, inform and advance the philanthropy sector.

We will be putting our new vision into action through an inclusive, collaborative, iterative and co-designed process with current and new partners, guided by a design team comprised equally of representatives of regional associations and national affinity groups. The team is co-chaired by Kathleen Enright, President & CEO of Grantmakers for Effective Organizations, and Chris Essel, President & CEO of Southern California Grantmakers.

I’m honored to be taking over the helm of the Forum at this pivotal moment for the organization and for the philanthropy field. Working with wonderful members and partners like the Colorado Association of Funders, I am committed to making significant progress in how we support, connect and advance philanthropy in our country.