by Chanelle Gandy
As a newcomer to philanthropy and Council On Foundations (COF), I departed the COF annual conference in Philadelphia with a renewed sense of purpose and urgency for my work. But what’s more, I sincerely enjoyed myself while interacting with some of the best and brightest practitioners our field has to offer.
When I was employed in a different sector, I attended my share of conferences that weren’t so Millennial-friendly, as evidenced by low attendance by the “under 30” professionals, a clear lack of programming and networking receptions designed for emerging leaders, and a “wait your turn” mentality.
I actually began to think that this was the norm and continued to attend conferences every subsequent year thinking that someone eventually would pay attention to my evaluation feedback, which was essentially a plea for more programming tailored to the needs of new practitioners in our sector.
The COF conference was a different experience. Aside from the conference program, I had very little information from which to form my expectations for the COF conference. There’s no doubt that I looked forward to making new connections, expanding my learning, and matching names with faces, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that this conference made a genuine effort to be Millennial-friendly.
The Funders’ Network for Smart Growth and Livable Communities has been intentional in its inclusiveness efforts, including designing ways to further the development of new professionals both internally and programmatically. My experience at COF shows me that philanthropy as a field also understands the importance of preparing the next generation for leadership.
During a pre-conference session, I was greeted by two Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy (EPIP) members who quickly brought me up to speed on the events they’d be sponsoring in conjunction with the conference. I was sold after I heard “young people.”
What I learned the following evening was that EPIP is the best kept secret in our field for aspiring practitioners and senior and executive foundation staff who are committed to cultivating the next generation of foundation leadership. Since beginning my career in philanthropy, it has been quite refreshing to interact with senior program staff who embrace the mentorship role, and most importantly, challenge my thinking about the issues we care about.
Posted by Kris Putnam-Walkerly © Kris Putnam-Walkerly and Philanthropy411, 2010.