Another great Philanthropy Forward conference

Tuesday, October 17, 2017





October 4 – 6, we hosted nearly 300 philanthropy professionals in Cleveland for Philanthropy Forward ’17. The conference was three days of plenary speakers who challenged, members connecting with each other and breakout sessions that imparted tangible takeaways. One of the main themes this year was the future of the sector – where we are heading and where we should be heading.

See all the conference photos and tag yourself.

The conference kicked off with three learning tours that gave attendees the chance to experience Cleveland and see the work of local funders. They were the Why Parks Matter tour of several city parks; Social Enterprise tour of four entrepreneurial social purpose businesses; and a private tour of Playhouse Square, the largest theater restoration project in the world.

Upcycle Parts is a social enterprise that hosts craft-making events from donated supplies.












After a fun Ohio Roots Home Grown Welcome Party at Great Lakes Brewing Company (and accompanying retirement send off for Brian Frederick), Phil Buchanan, Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP) president, opened the conference with his plenary “Leading Effective Organizations in Complex, Changing Times.”

CEP surveyed foundation CEOs earlier this year about whether the current political climate is affecting their grantmaking and programmatic goals. Phil shared that:

  • 48% of foundations see a negative effect of the new administration on their work, while 3% see a positive effect
  • 34% are changing their grantmaking budget, either increasing it (14%) or changing the allocations (20%)
  • 46% are putting more emphasis on collaborating with other funders
  • 45% are advocating more at the state level, 43% at the local level
  • 52% said the sheer magnitude and complexity of the problems on which their foundations are focused, plus the current political/economic climate makes progress difficult
  • 30% see the lack of collaboration as a barrier to progress
  • 64% are taking more risk

Plenary speaker Phil Buchanan is president for the Center for Effective Philanthropy.











At the Annual Meeting, we introduced four new members to the Board of Trustees and welcomed five back for additional terms of service:

  • Susan Urano, The Athens County Foundation
  • Connie Hawk, Licking County Foundation
  • Holly Fowler Martens, The Char and Chuck Fowler Family Foundation
  • Ted Vander Roest, Springfield Foundation
  • Keith Burwell, Toledo Community Foundation
  • Brady Groves, Richland County Foundation
  • Margaret Hulbert, United Way of Greater Cincinnati
  • Lissy Rand, Deaconess Foundation
  • Karen White, KeyBank Foundation

The lunch plenary speaker Dr. Eddie S. Glaude, Jr., author and Princeton professor, challenged attendees to recognize and address the Value Gap – the belief the white people matter more than others. In his talk, “The Value Gap: A Challenge to Equity,” he showed how this belief continues to shape society and limits the scope of change.

Glaude also touched on unconscious bias, which gives us a pass because unconscious implies that we don’t know our biases exist. He suggested we should call them habits, because we carry them with us. However, unlike bias, we can change our habits, but only by confronting the Value Gap and the ugliness of our history. We have to be consciously aware of what people have to deal with every day.

Dr. Eddie S. Glaude, Jr., author and Princeton Professor of Religion and African American Studies and Chair, Center for African American Studies, was the lunch plenary speaker.












We also showed the documentary 13th and had a discussion following, keeping the conversation flowing around race and equity in America.

See tweets and reactions to Philanthropy Forward '17 on Storify.

Throughout the conference, four philanthropists received awards for outstanding achievements in philanthropy. Click here to read more about the award winners: Ohio Philanthropy Award winner Hank Doll; Emerging Ohio Philanthropist Anthony Richardson; Michael G. Shinn Award for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Philanthropy winner Treye Johnson; and Innovation Award winner Don Ambrose.

The Final plenary speaker was futurist Trista Harris who shared signals for the future and what’s next for philanthropy in her speech “The Future of Philanthropy.” Harris suggested spending two hours per week thinking about the future and looking for solutions to your problems outside the sector.

Trista Harris is a futurist and president of the Minnesota Council on Foundations.











A panel of grantmakers from the Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland, Greater Cincinnati Foundation and the George Gund Foundation spoke about taking risks and not being afraid to fail.


Susanna Krey, Robin Martin, David Abbott and Trista Harris answer questions about the future of their work in philanthropy.











Harris said that foundations fear failure but they’re failing all the time. Foundations are slowly failing and need to start failing quickly because we can’t afford to keep failing slow. Problems are getting worse faster than we can solve them

 Jo Byrne, a graphic recorder/visual notetaker illustrated Trista Harris's plenary address.












Many great sessions engaged attendees and offered space to learn, ask questions and take risks thanks to the 57 speakers who presented 28 sessions with topics ranging from the cost of poverty, civic engagement and advocacy, youth philanthropy, best practices in corporate philanthropy and authentic leadership. Special thanks to the 21 sponsors and 10 exhibitors who helped make the conference possible, as well as our conference committee and volunteers:

  • David Abbott, The George Gund Foundation
  • Margot James Copeland, KeyBank Foundation
  • Ronn Richard, The Cleveland Foundation
  • Holley Fowler Martens, The Char and Chuck Fowler Family Foundation
  • Augie Napoli, United Way of Greater Cleveland
  • Richard Pogue, Kulas Foundation
  • Kathleen Lis Dean, Ph.D., Saint Luke’s Foundation
  • Brady Groves, Richland County Foundation
  • Connie Hawk, Licking County Foundation
  • Treye Johnson, Burton D. Morgan Foundation
  • Anthony Richardson, The Nord Family Foundation
  • Joan Szczepanik, Nordson Corporation Foundation
  • Teleange’ Thomas, Foundation Center Midwest

Philanthropy Forward ’17 closed with a celebration of champions in Ohio sports philanthropy. A discussion panel included Renee Harvey of the Cleveland Browns Foundation, Rebecca Kodysh of the Cleveland Indians and Renee Powell, professional golfer and representative of the Clearview Legacy Foundation. Each spoke about the philanthropic work  in which their foundation and players participate.

Ohio moderated a panel that included Renee Harvey of the Cleveland Browns Foundation, Rebecca Kodysh of the Cleveland Indians and Renee Powell, professional golfer and Clearview Legacy Foundation.












In closing, two special guests surprised attendees – Chomps from the Cleveland Browns and Slider from the Cleveland Indians.

Many attendees found the conference not only helpful in their work, but also thought-provoking and bold. Here are a few things they had to say:

  • “This conference really helped me to change my frame of perspective as I think about equity.”
  • “The Cost of Poverty Experience made me realize how little I truly understand about many of the people I want to help.”
  • “I really liked the plenary speakers this year – such a good mix of thought-provoking leaders.”
  • “The barriers of living in poverty and racial injustices prevent people from getting ahead… I knew this but had an aha moment when talking to some young black people about their experiences with discrimination.”
  • “I think this was one of the best Philanthropy Ohio conferences I have attended. The Value Gap and Future of Philanthropy both gave you something to think about for a long time in the hope that you can do something.”
  • “My aha moment was realizing this community is at the beginning of significant discussions about diversity and inclusion.”

We’ll see you in Columbus for Philanthropy Forward ’18! Stay tuned for the date, which will be announced in a few weeks.

If you’d like to give us feedback, see these links to rate the overall conference, individual sessions and the Pivot Points reception on Oct. 5.

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