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A Call to Reduce Duplication and Increase Collaboration in Philanthropy’s Infrastructure

Monday, February 15, 2016

By David BiemesderferPresident & CEOForum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers

In January I took on a new role as President and CEO of the Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers. The Forum is the largest network serving philanthropy in America, consisting of 33 regional philanthropy associations—including Northern California Grantmakers—with more than 5,500 participating organizations.  

The Forum helps NCG serve its members better, although our work goes much deeper than that.  The Forum Network’s greatest strength is that we bring together the dual assets of deep regional roots and a broad nationwide reach.  No other organization in philanthropy brings these assets to the table in the way that we do.

The Forum supports and advances the work of NCG and its regional association colleagues in many ways.  We offer staff professional development and peer-to-peer networking opportunities to help people be effective in their regional association work.  We strengthen philanthropy’s voice in public policy by building regional associations’ capacity to engage in policy work.  We provide an effective vehicle to allow regional associations to share data, information and resources.  And we help regional associations pool their resources and expertise to better serve their members.

Over the next two years, the Forum will begin implementing a new vision that builds on our unique skills and expertise in the philanthropy field.  We plan to broaden our network to bring together the assets of the Forum Network with the assets of national philanthropy-serving organizations—specifically national issue-based, identity-based and practice-based affinity groups—to create a “one stop shop” for philanthropies to find and engage others with similar interests, share knowledge and advance policy.  In short, we envision the Forum as the place where philanthropy’s infrastructure comes together.

National philanthropy-serving organizations have deep content knowledge in their specific areas of expertise, whether it is knowledge of a particular funding issue, population group or philanthropic practice, and RAs have deep knowledge and connections in our regions.  Under the Forum’s new vision, we will bring the two together in a much more strategic, coordinated, comprehensive and impactful way than what is occurring today.  We believe this will reduce duplication and increase collaboration in philanthropy’s infrastructure, and will greatly enhance how we all work to support, inform and advance the philanthropy sector.

In arriving at our new vision, the Forum has engaged with our national affinity group partners through many one-on-one interviews and a facilitated group discussion.  In all of these conversations we’ve heard widespread support for the Forum’s new vision.  One leader of a national philanthropy-serving organization called it “timely and overdue”; another responded, “amen”; yet another described it as “very smart; we can’t do business as usual.”  A survey the Forum conducted in December with leaders of both regional associations and national affinity groups revealed widespread agreement that an expanded network of regional and national philanthropy-serving organizations will achieve greater impact for the philanthropy sector.

The Forum will be putting our new vision into action through an inclusive, collaborative, iterative and co-designed process with current and new partners, guided by a design team comprised equally of representatives of regional associations and national affinity groups.  The team is co-chaired by Kathleen Enright, President & CEO of Grantmakers for Effective Organizations, and Chris Essel, President & CEO of Southern California Grantmakers. 

I’m honored to be taking over the helm of the Forum at this pivotal moment for the organization and for the philanthropy field.  Working with wonderful members and partners like Northern California Grantmakers, I am committed to making significant progress in how we support, connect and advance philanthropy in our country.