Annual Conference Recap

Last week in Pittsburgh, the Forum’s Annual Conference broke registration records for the third year in a row and as you can see from the picture below, we had a good time. The conference is a great opportunity each year for regional association staff to meet face-to-face with their peers, exchange knowledge, and build relationships that go beyond conference calls and listserve conversations.

Big Data was the big trend in this year’s sessions. Valerie Lies of Donors Forum, Marissa Manlove of Indiana Grantmakers Alliance, Wendy Wehr of Minnesota Council on Foundations, and Lawrence McGill of the Foundation Center led a discussion on methods for collecting and interpreting diversity data, supported by the D5 Coalition, a five-year effort to expand diversity in foundation leadership, grantmaking, and practices. The next day, Mark Bolgiano of the Council on Foundations gave us a glimpse of the future of data driven decision making. As acquiring data gets easier and cheaper, regional associations have the opportunity to convert data into member value. Finally, Kathy Jankowski of Jankowski Associates moderated a panel of regional association senior staff whose organizations have released giving studies, featuring Carol Lewis of Philanthropy Northwest, Betsy Nelson of Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers, Marissa Theisen of Arizona Grantmakers Forum, and Dawn Townsend of Conference of Southwest Foundations.

The statisticians among us weren’t the only ones having fun. Two sessions focused on communications also got people buzzing. “Media Relations for RAs,” led by Larry “Bud”Meyer of Meyer Communications and Doug Root of the Heinz Endowments, provided a solid grounding in the fundamentals of media relations from pitching stories to fielding interviews. This session was immediately followed by another on crisis management and communications led by Davia Temin of Temin and Company. With nonprofit organizations struggling to manage crisis, Temin shared an overview of crisis management techniques as well as her tested principles for effectively saving and rehabilitating reputations.

As always, there was a focus on practical skill-building for regional association staff. This year, Jerry Nagel of the Meadowlark Institute led a session on the art of meeting hosting and Anne Morgan trained staff on engaging board members. There was also special attention paid to the organizational health. Easy Office sponsored a session on assessing regional association sustainability, led by Paul Connolly and Pete York of TCC Group. Linda Bush of Bush Anderson & Associates mapped the lifecycle of an organization to ensure successful transformation and growth. Diana Buco of the Forbes Fund facilitated a discussion for small RAs on office administration, technology, member engagement, and committee management.

The conference closed out with two inspiring sessions to energize attendees for all the work ahead of them as they returned home. First Jeffrey Davis helped us re-imagined creativity in the workplace, encouraging staff to view themselves as agile “problem-artists” to optimize work flow, project execution, and relationships. Then Teressa Moore Griffin of Spirit of Purpose provided the capstone presentation of the conference on how to take a hard look at where the need to change and growth really lie.

Our thanks go out to the 2012 Planning Committee:

  • Lucille DiDomenico, Conference of Southwest Foundations (Chair)
  • Emily Baron, Grantmakers of Western Pennsylvania
  • Adrienne Cox-Trammell, Conference of Southwest Foundations
  • Cindy Frantz, North Carolina Network of Grantmakers
  • Deborah Fugenschuh, Donors Forum of Wisconsin
  • Gretchen Greiner Lott, Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers
  • Melody Harris, Grantmakers of Western Pennsylvania
  • Stephanie Jacobs, Minnesota Council on Foundations
  • Joanne Kelley, Colorado Association of Funders
  • Barbara Taylor, Grantmakers of Western Pennsylvania
  • Marissa Theisen, Arizona Grantmakers Forum

And to all of our Conference Sponsors:


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