Not the TPW I knew!


Jim Fruchterman


On three weeks notice, I recently received an unexpected invitation to pitch The Philanthropy Workshop in London! I’m based in California’s Silicon Valley and have known TPW for many years as a local experiential learning program for high net worth individuals wanting to up their strategic philanthropy game. But, a pitch session for nonprofits like Big Bang philanthropy?  In London? This sounds like a different TPW.

I also had some trepidation. Although I’m a long term nonprofit head, I’m much more comfortable with foundations, corporations, the federal government, and major NGOs, as opposed to soliciting high net worth individuals for support. But job one for a nonprofit CEO is always focused on funds development for our team and mission. Of course I said yes.

After arriving in London, I became acquainted with the new TPW. The first day was The Marketplace. Urgency and the growing size of their alumni network had made the TPW leadership want to drive deployment of several million in funding quickly, and this was their first experiment holding a pitch day. They invited four organisations to pitch on climate justice and four on inclusive economies. Of course, the other seven groups pitching were very cool. There’s a great deal of value in meeting and learning from my fellow nonprofit leaders.

However, the invitation was for more than one day. It was also the first TPW Global Summit held outside of North America. And the summit norm was back to a no pitch zone, which is much more typical (from my experience) when grantseekers are invited to attend events like the Global Philanthropy Forum or Davos. The conference was actually surprisingly terrific. I am a cheerful conference cynic. For me the program is not the thing at events. It’s the people who attend. It’s so much better to meet 50 people in one place than flying to five countries to meet five or ten. They also had philanthropy rockstars like Darren Walker, head of the Ford Foundation; Olivia Leland, the founder of Co-Impact; Anna Verghese, the ED of the Audacious Project; and more. But at a 100 person event, not a 1000 person event. I met some people I had long wanted to meet, not because I was trying to track them down or recognised them on sight (not a personal skill). It happened because we happened to be next to each other and started chatting about issues we both cared about: not about our organisations. But the program was also great. I didn’t find myself dozing off, except for one government minister on a late afternoon, or wishing I was out chatting with fellow attendees.

The focus of the program was urgency: on the need for speed. Grant first, ask questions later. Numerous speakers extolled the virtues of quick trust based philanthropy. However, not everyone was buying this especially relatively new philanthropists who felt uncomfortable with speedy philanthropy and felt spending philanthropic funding wisely was a weighty responsibility. Of course, this mirrors a larger debate in philanthropy between the urgency crowd, such as Half My DAF, or the spend down foundations versus perpetuities and steady measured pace philanthropy. Darren Walker didn’t back down one bit on the Ford Foundation as a perpetuity — likely because that’s its charter. The fact this conversation was the headline issue at the conference was a mark of the progress made by the urgency crowd over the past decade.

Did I raise any funding? I don’t know yet. We’ll have a better idea in a few months. That was as expected when I signed up. For me, a successful conference is when I come away with two or three new relevant contacts. Far better was walking away with 10 or 20, as I did in London.

Finally, the fact this was not the TPW I remembered was underscored by the unveiling of a new brand identity to their membership. Turns out TPW wanted to move beyond being a workshop. The new brand will be announced in the coming months. It’s exciting days for this community of strategic philanthropists!

Jim Fruchterman, TechMatters CEO

Tagged in: #TPWGlobalSummit

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