The Council on Foundations Fall Conference for Community Foundations is under way in Charlotte, and several community-foundation leaders are offering reports from the event on Kris Putnam-Walkerly’s blog, Philanthropy411.
Ms. Putnam-Walkerly, a consultant to foundations, has agreed to allow The Chronicle to post selected items from the event.
Below is an excerpt from a post from Diana Sieger, president of the Grand Rapids Community Foundation, in Michigan.
Ms. Sieger’s post offers an overview of an address by Emmett Carson, chief executive of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, who spoke to leaders during a retreat that preceded the meeting.
The post follows:
Emmett Carson, president and chief executive officer of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, provided a provocative backdrop to our evening’s discussion. He noted five key issues that are looming large for community foundations:
- The notion of “community” has changed. “Rootedness” has changed. Community is not always place-based like in the past.
- Legal regulations are more onerous for community foundations.
- There is increasing need for knowledge and sophistication as we go about the business of investments.
- Information technology and systems are growing at a rapid pace, and we need get ahead of the curve
- Our commercial competitors in the form of Fidelity Investments and others are still a critical factor that require our attention even though the initial surprise of their existence back in the early 1990s has diminished.
Mr. Carson’s remarks certainly got my attention, and I’m reminded of the extensive research, reports, and tools developed by Lucy Bernholz, Katherine Fulton, and Gabriel Kasper five years ago that led to a body of work called On the Brink of New Promise: The Future of U.S. Community Foundations. As noted on this Web site, their work noted three key principles:
- From the institution to the community
- From managing financial assets to long-term leadership
- From competitive independence to coordinated impact
The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and the Ford Foundation funded this ground-breaking research, and many of us in the field provided commentary and insight as the report took shape. Actually, this was the brainchild of Elan Garonzik who at that time was a program officer at the Mott Foundation. His intent was to get community foundations prepared for what he described as “the next Fidelity surprise” and how could we anticipate it and prepare for it.
The trends noted in On the Brink of New Promise, the subsequent reports along with Emmett’s astute summation of what we are now encountering can be viewed as opportunities for community foundation leaders. We need to pay attention and certainly we cannot slip into the “Oh, we’ve always done it this way” mode. Say that and watch the field wither away.