Four members of the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines team recently attended the annual National Conference for Growing Community Foundations in Wichita, Kansas hosted by the Kansas Association of Community Foundations. This year’s theme was “Putting Unity in Community.”
For those who have not attended this conference before, it brings together nearly 500 community foundation professionals and board members representing 36 states and Bermuda. Speakers from all sizes of community foundations speak on topics ranging from finance, charitable giving, grantmaking, community leadership, investment, legal and much more. It provides a tremendous learning and networking opportunity to bring back best practices and trends that impact the work of our Community Foundation.
Here are three themes I noticed at the Conference:
‘If you’ve seen one seen one community foundation you’ve seen one community’ may not be as true as we think it is. Deborah Ellwood from CFLeads challenged this idea as her organization is conducting new research on the field. While each of us lift up different priorities for our community, there are many similarities in the way we operate and function. We need to continue to learn from one another and embrace the best practices offered by others in the field.
Community leadership is and will continue to be the emerging third leg of our community foundation stool. Many more community foundations, including those with smaller asset sizes, are thinking hard about how they can leverage their capital to lead in the community. Kristi Knous, President of the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines, participated on a plenary panel on this topic. She shared her perspective on how the charitable giving marketplace is more crowded now than ever before with commercial donor advised fund providers and that our leadership in the community differentiates us from those commercial providers.
Closely connected to community leadership was dialogue on investments of community foundation assets and if they could be used to not only provide a financial return, but measurable community impact. Impact investing is a tool being deployed by several community foundations to support initiatives in their community they may not otherwise be able to through traditional grantmaking support. LOCUS Impact Investing, the Aspen Institute and Network Kansas are all doing interesting work to support community foundations as they explore what this investment strategy means to their work.
The National Conference for Growing Community Foundations was a terrific experience and was well worth the investment of our time.