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CEO Message: Wow.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

By Ellen LaPointe, President and CEO, Northern California Grantmakers

It takes a lot of time to put together a day-long conference. We think about that when we consider the other things we will not be able to do, or will have to do later. We think about it when we are deciding what to take on in the year to come. We think about it when we reflect on how to make the highest and best use of the resources entrusted to us. And sometimes we think about it at night, when scheduled speakers have to cancel at the last minute, or problems come up with the venue, or – well, you get the picture – when things don’t quite go as we planned.

And then the day comes. We check in with our presenters one final time. We do a last-minute run-through of the schedule and plans. We put on our “good” clothes, arrive early, make the space a welcome place to gather, and grab one more cup of coffee (ok, maybe two).  The music comes up.

Slowly at first, then with greater speed, EVERYONE ARRIVES. People exclaim hellos to colleagues they haven’t seen in a while. They make dates to get together to “really catch up,” or to talk about a thing they’re both thinking about. Folks pore over the program, considering how they might like to spend their time. People cluster together at tables with their breakfast, making the most of the moments they have to talk before things really get rolling. 

And then we begin. And JUST like that – in an instant – the reason we spend all of that time and do all of that planning springs into sharp focus. The NCG community comes together in a way that only this experience truly affords us – to learn, to be inspired, to connect, and of course to laugh. It IS an NCG conference, after all.  :)

By nearly all accounts, our shared experience at this year’s conference was one of the best ever. Together (nearly 400 strong!) we grappled with the essential concepts embodied by our theme: Values. Vision. Voice.:

We considered how our values can guide us in times of uncertainty and provide fuel for action.

We explored the ways funders can set forth a vision – a picture of the change we want to see and be – to which we can aspire, and towards which we can orient.

We used our voices to tell truths, and talked about how we can show up and be ever-more accountable.

There was beauty, connection, performance, good food and drink (including the new “NCG-rita!”), and even a brass band. And for those of you who had the misfortune to miss it, it was one of the most memorable Great Debates we've had in years. ("Leadership is influencing people to make up their own acronyms," said the show-stealing Cedric Brown with a wry smile.)

Thank you to all who were able to be with us.  It was well worth all of that time and effort, and then some. The conference reminds us that we are infinitely greater than the sum of our parts, and a beautiful community besides.

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