Category Archives: Guest Post

EngAGEment Snapshot: Grantmakers of Western Pennsylvania

Guest Post by Kathy McCauley, EngAGEment Coordinator, Grantmakers of Western Pennsylvania

Ours is a story of learning from what experienced sites and our local advisors had to tell us.

Just to focus on the value of that local group: Barbara Taylor, executive director of Grantmakers of Western Pennsylvania (GWP), assembled an advisory board that knew the issues, knew this community, and devoted a lot of time to being part of the programs and talking with other funders. We were fortunate to have in this group people with such national perspective as Nancy Zionts (Jewish Healthcare Foundation) and Mary Anne Papale (Highmark Foundation), along with a team of such creative minds and diverse experience as Amy Snider (United Way of Allegheny County and, more recently, the David S. and Karen A. Shapira Foundation), Mildred Morrison (Allegheny County AAA), Dr. Judith Black (Highmark), and Nancy Kukovich (Adelphoi USA).

Here’s one example of this group at work: when I proposed a set of programs for year two, the group said, “Those are nice, Kathy, but we need to get the engagement of our larger foundations. Why not ask them how they have sparked change, and ask them to help how we could do that for aging?” That is how we decided on one of our central programs, “How’d they do it?”—which gave us a deeper understanding of how to help change our region’s approach to tapping the talent of older adults and supporting healthy aging. Continue reading


The Forum Conference: A Newbie’s Perspective

Guest Post by Mandi Moshey, Communications Manager, Philanthropy Northwest

It’s been a nearly two weeks since returning home from the Forum Conference in Pittsburgh, and I continue to talk to my colleagues about lessons learned from the conference. Being one of the greenest members of the Regional Association staffers in attendance (I’ve only been with for Philanthropy Northwest for a little over three months now) meant that I was eager to meet the folks from other RAs and get a better understanding of where our organization fits within the national landscape.

The conference was an excellent crash course in all things RA – from operations and organizational structures to common struggles and successes worth celebrating. The highlights for me included:

  • The “Job-Alikes”: The work we do certainly qualifies as niche so it was great to sit around a table with fellow communications personnel to discuss our unique challenges. Topics ranged from a high-level, philosophical discussion regarding the value of social media, all the way down to granular items like which email communication tool will cause the fewest headaches.
  • Not having to explain what I do for a living: As I intimated above, our work is what I have been known to call “dangerously specific.” Even my mom can’t really explain what I do. Being in a room full of people who “get it” was extremely refreshing. (And now I am reminded again that I need to work on cutting my elevator speech by a few sentences).
  • Sharing our “bests”: There’s such a wide range of issues that we can focus on in the philanthropic sector, and it was interesting to learn more about the innovative and exciting work being done by our colleagues across the country. Philanthropy Northwest does not currently focus much programming on engaging youth in philanthropy, so I was particularly interested in hearing more about the work being done with young people. Hat tip to Indiana Grantmakers Alliance for their incredible work on the Phil Anthropy game.
  • Pittsburgh! I had no idea what to expect coming into Pittsburgh, but I was definitely pleased. The city was lovely and extremely walkable. I only regret that I didn’t have more free time to explore. I’ll have to plan a return visit someday.

Overall the conference was great experience. I look forward to the opportunity to continue working with each and every Forum member and appreciate having access to a network full of such smart and creative people.

What’s Happening in Florida with the Engagement Initiative?

Guest Post by Maggie Gunther Osborn, Vice President, Florida Philanthropic Network

Florida is a natural partner for work in the aging arena right?  Of course, we have been called “God’s waiting room” and the place where older Americans come to retire and snowbirds that drive south during winter to warm their bones.  It’s where everyone comes to visit Mickey Mouse and Grandma and Grandpa.  Florida’s population is among the oldest in the country and in fact, we have the oldest county demographically in America, Sarasota County.

Sarasota median age: 44.5 years
Florida median age: 41.3 years
National median age 36.8 years

When I joined FPN in 2010 we were awarded a grant to be part of the final cohort of the GIA Engagement Initiative and I knew right away that I was in very new territory. My background as a grantmaker had been primarily in children and youth. Beyond funding for Seniors in Service I was very unaware of issues surrounding our aging population and even less familiar with what the members of FPN were doing in this arena. I had just not been in a place where I thought much about this burgeoning part of our community. As we began to discuss the possibilities of where we could go with our two years of effort, we signed on to partner with SECF, who was a year ahead of us in their engagement work and was creating regular webinars in which FPN’s members could participate. This being established we began to think of what else we could do. The discussions with my members, our funders, and the baseline survey provided the answers.

The member survey and subsequent programming have employed a broad view in asking our members about their funding and involvement in the aging arena. It was clear from our initial research and inquiry that, outside of the traditional framework of health funders, there were no funders among our membership that identified themselves as aging-issue funders, although many of them have some investment in the space. As FPN moved through planning discussions, we chose to work within the framework that all funders, in one way shape or form, are touching the aging population, especially those that are investing in safety net programming, economic development and housing during these difficult times. To address the broader audience of funders, FPN chose to meet them where they were in their funding, offering an additional lens of aging through which they could view their grantmaking.

We began to frame the conversation and all future programming outside traditional silos. Rather it became, and continues to be, the goal of FPN to look at the aging population as a lens that should always be used when looking at any grantmaking; not separate or apart but rather just another framing or piece of the whole puzzle. FPN has also tried to raise awareness of issues and opportunities not by separating out the conversation but rather by infiltrating conversations that Grantmakers and partners are already having. We have also tried adding some joy and energy to what can often times be heavy and unappealing subject matter; approaching from a frame of abundance rather than deprivation.

So what does this look like in Florida? First, one simple example was instead of having a session on aging issues at the 2012 summit that the usual suspects would attend, we educated the entire body of attendees by holding a trivia contest on aging facts that qualified attendees to be part of a drawing for an iPad and drew them to visit vendor booths. At the other end of the spectrum in Florida lies the incredible work that has given birth to The Institute for The Ages in Sarasota. The Institute for the Ages is a new “think” tank that came out of Florida’s economic development efforts. Their mission is to activate ideas that prepare us for the opportunities and challenges associated with aging populations. In addition to providing the infrastructure for, and access to, Sarasota County’s community test bed, the Institute connects members of the community, government, research organizations, companies and other partners to identify policy, product and service innovations that will improve the lives of people across age groups. The idea that aging populations are an economic engine that can be engaged and will drive the economic future for Sarasota is a reframing of the tradition conversation of this population being a drain on resources.

FPN has taken and will continue to take a nontraditional approach to this work and mark our success by shifts in attitudes and breadths of grantmaking that will encompass not isolate the aging populations as a valuable asset in our portfolios.

New England Regional Association Retreat

Guest Post by Gail Pinkham, Director of Communications, Associated Grant Makers

Pictured, left to right: Mari Jones (ME), Ann Garchinsky (MA), Deborah Werner (CT), Susan Neupauer (RI), Jeff Poulos (MA), Jenn Lammers (MA), Laurie Allen (CT), Nancy Roberts (CT), Janet Henry (ME), and Gail Pinkham (MA). Not pictured, but operating the camera: Nate Marsh (MA)

The executive directors and staff of Associated Grant Makers, Connecticut Council for Philanthropy, Maine Philanthropy Center and Grantmakers Council of Rhode Island came together for a meeting of the minds at our first New England Regional Association retreat on Monday, January 30, 2012, at Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation in Wellesley, MA.  We met to share our successes and discuss strategies and business models for future programs as well as brainstorm about challenges we are facing in our work with grantmaking members and the nonprofit sector.  It provided a great opportunity to meet in person with our peers outside the office setting, to make connections with colleagues that have similar job roles and to collaborate with each other on future programs that may be of interest to all our members.

Engagement Snapshot: Aging in Connecticut

Guest Post by Deb Werner, Director of Member Services, Connecticut Council for Philanthropy

In January 2011, the Council joined the EngAGEment Initiative, becoming one of 16 regional associations participating in this program with Grantmakers in Aging (GIA). While the Council had been invited to join the EngAGEment Initiative when it originated, and again a few years ago, it was not until recently that the emerging “age wave” finally appeared on the radar screen of the Connecticut philanthropic community and our members.

The Council’s goal, supported by a Leadership Team composed of Council members, is to increase awareness and encourage funders to take an active interest in aging issues in their communities, and use their convening power, influence, knowledge and resources to assist in finding creative solutions. Continue reading

Corporate Philanthropy: Where We Stand

Guest post by Ann Cramer, Americas Director, IBM Corporate citizenship and Corporate Affairs. This post also appears on RE:Philanthropy, a blog from the Council on Foundations.

There has never been a more challenging time for philanthropy. Globalization, natural disasters, and economic turmoil have placed additional stresses on social safety nets already stretched to the max. In this environment, the philanthropic sector must be smarter, more adaptable, and more collaborative.

None of us has all the answers, but some innovative approaches to giving already have shown strong results. Our sector must focus on bringing about meaningful change to create sustainable value. In other words, we must move away from “checkbook charity” and toward an integrated approach to giving that includes volunteerism, contributions of expertise (including mentoring), and public-private partnerships that enable all participants to leverage their best assets in service to the greater good. Continue reading

FOTH: A Time to Talk the Talk and Walk the Walk … Comfortably

Guest post by David Biemesderfer, President and CEO of Florida Philanthropic Network. This post also appears on RE:Philanthropy, a blog from the Council on Foundations.

Florida Philanthropic Network is pleased to once again be leading the state’s delegation to Washington, D.C., for Foundations on the Hill (FOTH), March 21–22. Although we coordinate visits with our members of Congress back in their home districts throughout the year, FOTH is a critical part of our annual public policy engagement work.

Because Florida is such a large state, FOTH offers a great opportunity for our grantmaking members from Miami to the Panhandle to gather in the nation’s capital for two days of focused interaction with our senators and representatives and their staffs. Our FOTH team members always walk away from the experience feeling energized and inspired by the collective voice we bring to Washington, on the statewide and national levels, and they enjoy the camaraderie that the FOTH experience always engenders.
FOTH is also a great model of collaboration between the Council on Foundations, the Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers, and the Forum’s members across the country. Our sector is much better served, and has much more power, when we all come together for the common good.

A highlight for us last year was our meeting with Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.), who at the time was a new member of the all-important House Ways and Means Committee. Two years ago, it was our meeting with then-Rep. Suzanne Kosmas, which led directly to her introduction of a bill to extend the IRA charitable rollover. Talk about seeing our Hill visits make a difference! We always walk away from our days on the Hill learning something new, making new connections, and feeling like we moved the needle just a bit further in helping philanthropy to build a better Florida.

I’ve been involved with FOTH since the beginning, and my advice to our delegation members never changes. First, make sure you tell your story, in your own words, about the good work you’re doing in your communities. Second, always wear comfortable shoes.