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Golden State Learning Series - A GEO Collaboration

Tuesday, September 27, 2016 - 11:00am to Thursday, December 1, 2016 - 12:15pm PDT
Online Learning Session
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This program series is sold out. 

California is a large and diverse state, full of both tremendous opportunities and tremendous challenges for philanthropy. Whether we’re helping grantees achieve the greatest impact possible, or dealing with inadequate resources, lack of buy-in, or limited information, support can often be found through connections to local colleagues or organizations. Other times, it can be helpful to look for inspiration beyond our own backyard.

Offered in partnership by Grantmakers for Effective Organizations, Northern California Grantmakers, Southern California Grantmakers, and San Diego Grantmakers, this highly-interactive, five-session online learning series gives California grantmakers the opportunity to learn from colleagues within and outside of California about grantmaking approaches and practices that nonprofits say contribute most to their success. Local examples and regional experiences are woven into the program, which also offers participants the opportunity to pinpoint key challenges, reflect on personal experiences and identify key actions that can improve practice.

Learning Objectives

In this five-session series, you will:

  • Gain an understanding of the practices that can have the greatest impact on nonprofit success from grantmakers both inside and outside of California,
  • Identify examples and ideas of how to make changes in practice in your organization based on the experiences of fellow grantmakers, and
  • Make connections to other California grantmakers who can support you in your work.

Series Format

The five-session series consists of various components:

  • Advance reading. A selection of readings for each session will be included in the syllabus. We will assume participants have read the advance reading and will not review this content during the online sessions.
  • Five online sessions. These highly-interactive cohort-based sessions will include a brief presentation of major concepts for the session, a case example from a fellow grantmaker, and an opportunity for you to ask specific questions and dig deeper. Please come prepared with questions and ready to participate.
  • Online space. You will have access to an online forum where you can ask lingering questions, share resources and support your cohort’s learning.

Series Schedule and Topics

Session 1: Supporting Nonprofit Resilience
September 27, 2016 | 11:00 am to 1:00 pm PT

Nonprofits consistently report that flexible funding and capacity building support provide them with the resources and skills they need to weather the ups and downs of today’s constantly changing social, economic and political environments. In this session, learn how grantmakers can support the development of stronger, more resilient nonprofits. Kate Dewey, president of The Forbes Fund, will share her organization’s capacity-building strategy and how that strategy prioritizes nonprofit success and enhances grantee impact.

Session 2: Learning for Improvement
October 13, 2016 | 11:00 am to 12:15 pm PT

A learning for improvement mindset goes beyond proving whether or not an intervention has worked, and instead focuses on understanding why and how in order to improve performance. In this session, Raquel Gutierrez, director of strategic learning & practice at Vitalyst Health Foundation, shares how VHF has embedded learning into its grantmaking strategy. The session will also focus on ways that grantmakers, grantees and other partners can design and implement collaborative learning strategies.

Session 3: Strengthening Relationships
October 27,2016 | 11:00 am to 12:15 pm PT 

Honest and authentic engagement of grantees, community members and other stakeholders leads to more informed decisions and ultimately better results. In this session, Pia Infante, co-executive director of The Whitman Institute, explains how her organization is exploring different ways to bring stakeholders into the grantmaking process and the challenges that come with this type of deep engagement.

Session 4: Collaborating for Greater Impact
November 17, 2016 | 11:00 am to 12:15 pm PT

Collaborative relationships with peers, grantees and partners can help grantmakers leverage the contributions of multiple players to achieve shared goals for social change. But, collaboration often requires a shift from the traditional organization-centric mindset toward a more networked approach. In this session, Bill Pitkin, director of domestic programs at the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, talks about what it takes to adopt and put into practice a collaborative mindset.

Session 5: Closing Session & Reflection
December 1, 2016 | 11:00 am to 12:15 pm PT 

During the final session we will review key takeaways and discuss ways to further learning after the completion of the series.


The registration fee is $125 for the five-session series.

If you have questions, please contact Kristen Scott Kennedy at 202.355.9536 or email

Who May Attend

This series is available only to members of GEO, NCG, SCG, and SDG.

In order to allow for rich discussion and active involvement, the learning cohort is limited to 21 participants. No more than two participants from the same organization will be accepted. Ideal candidates are involved in grantmaking and have three to five years of experience working in philanthropy.

Application Process:

This program series is sold out.

All potential participants are asked to complete a short application form. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis, so apply early to secure your spot. The final submission deadline is Tuesday, August 23, 2016.