The Council on Foundations’ 2013 Fall Conference for Community Foundations, held on 22-25 September in San Diego, marked a unique opportunity for CAF America to speak directly with community foundation decision-makers, thought-leaders and strategists to connect and learn the best ways to continue advancing the common good.
With a diverse contingent of over 950 registered attendees, this year’s Community Foundation Conference provided relevant and thoughtful insights on current trends affecting community foundations’ philanthropic footprint. Discussions on a variety of topics including ‘the suburbanization of poverty: surprising challenges and regional solutions’; ‘donors, data & population demographics’; and ‘implementing healthcare reform: what community foundations need to know’ gave participants a holistic view of the community foundation landscape and best practices for serving their respective constituents.
While the conference primarily focused on US-centric topics and issues that community foundations encounter domestically, the level of engagement and interest in international philanthropy was pleasantly surprising. One particularly insightful session, entitled ‘US–Mexico border philanthropy partnership’, specifically highlighted community foundations’ role in international philanthropy. The session included a discussion on the availability, accuracy and transparency of information on the philanthropic sector in Mexico and the US–Mexico border region. Participants first explored how to identify trends in donations and donor institutions in Mexico and then worked together to best understand and define community foundations’ role in cross-border philanthropy. These themes benefited the session as a whole by enabling the conversation to unfold on a much larger scale.
As the CEO of CAF America, community foundations throughout the nation have shared with me their difficulty in finding a credible outlet to best serve their donors’ global interests. For years, it has been thought that only larger community foundations had the ability to serve their donors on a broader scale. Now, community foundations of all sizes have found it easy to partner with intermediary organizations such as CAF America to enhance their capacity and scope. I was impressed by the donor-centric approach of the community foundations represented at the San Diego conference: their staff showed such dedication to their donors’ global needs through inquiries and genuine enthusiasm about best practices in global philanthropy.
It is readily evident that the community foundations offering an international component to their donors are better equipped to serve the diverse interests and passions found within their local communities. In the larger framework, there has been a departure from the notion that international philanthropy is merely a ‘value-add’; on the contrary, it is rapidly becoming a vital component to the overall health and sustainability of such organizations. I look forward to next year’s Fall Conference for Community Foundations as it will undoubtedly provide another opportunity to gain valuable insights on the dynamic and indispensable field of philanthropy.
Ted Hart is CEO of CAF America.