Conference Theme Should Unify and Call Us To Action

Philanthropy411, is currently covering the Council on Foundations conference with the help of a blog team.  This is a guest post by Lee Draper, President of Draper Consulting Group and Chair of  National Network of Consultants to Grantmakers

by Lee Draper

The theme of this year’s Council on Foundations annual conference is “Windows”.  But as conference participants we are left wondering: “What does that mean?”  Why is this the most compelling organizing principle for our annual convening?  There is no tagline, commentary, or clue.

This is a big weakness.

There is no apparent connection between the diverse sessions offered this year; “Windows” appears to be just a cover title.  Many of the sessions and virtually all of the plenaries are interesting, informative, and often provocative. But the sessions are an assortment of one-offs within a three-day schedule.  They suffer by not being aligned with overarching big ideas that could add context and enable sessions to build upon each other as the conference progresses.

More importantly, COF is missing the opportunity to define a larger vision of philanthropy and call us all to ambitious action in these “interesting times.”  Certainly, as Claire Gaudiani challenged us in the opening plenary, this is the moment in American and world history when leadership should sound a clarion call and bold ideas should shape our work.

Let us look to next year’s conference for an important theme(s) and sessions that total more than the simple sum of individual parts.

2 responses to “Conference Theme Should Unify and Call Us To Action

  1. Jim – A belated but enthusiastic thanks for your input. I’m excited to see what the planning committee develops for COF 2012 and would very much like to continue to share ideas…and help in any other way that I can. Keep me posted!

  2. Lee–A thoughtful and helpful post here. I agree that we have the opportunity to “define a larger vision of philanthropy” through the COF annual conference. I have the privilege of chairing next year’s conference in Los Angeles and the planning task force and I are already at work to develop a compelling organizing theme that is connected to the various sessions throughout the conference. We certainly welcome your ongoing ideas as we develop plans, so I hope to hear more from you (and others) as we begin soliciting input for next year’s conference. We’re looking forward to having COF in LA!