My experiences from the Council on Foundations’ 2014 Fall Conference for Community Foundations in Cleveland, USA were very inspiring. It was the first conference of community foundations that I attended.
First, I was impressed by the number of people that came for the conference. As organizers mentioned during the plenary sessions, there were more than 1,500 participants from the US, Canada and internationally. Secondly, I was very happy to get the opportunity to participate in the centennial celebration of the community foundation field!
This colossal event opened different opportunities for me. I met with peers and connected with different people engaged in the community philanthropy field globally. I hope that I’ll manage to keep connected with more than 40 people with whom I talked and exchanged business cards. The plenary sessions gave me the opportunity to hear several thoughtful leaders who talked about community engagement, community philanthropy for investing for those in need, community policy changes and community public-private partnership initiated first by the Clevelend Foundation and later continued by other community foundations established later.
Through several thematic concurrent sessions that I selected to attend I got some new ideas about methodologies for expanding the financial capacity of community foundations and some tools for strategic planning for future work in the newly changed environments caused by natural changes but also technological developments.
As a first-time attendee I cannot say if the international participants usually get such attention at the Fall Conference for Community Foundations, but this year in Cleveland, the development of community foundations internationally was highlighted and noticed in both plenary sessions and concurrent sessions.
For me, the recognition and courtesy given to community foundations that are developing more and more in Europe, South Africa and Asia was the highest point of the conference. The presentation of the Community Foundation Atlas and the fact that there are more than 1,800 community foundations in more than 60 countries in the world was an important moment for networking opportunities and information sharing within the field. The CEOs of community foundations from Slovakia, Latvia, Northern Ireland, Spain and Kenya participated in the last morning’s plenary session, which was very inspirational and warmly accepted by all participants of the conference. Although small in size in terms of their endowments and the grants they distribute compared to US and Canadian community foundations, these more recently established community foundations provided a reminder of the importance and the effects of small grants that mobilize resources and engage community members in solving local issues.
Jasna Jašarević is executive director of Tuzla Community Foundation, Bosnia and Herzegovina.