What’s missing? That was the biggest question on my mind as I left the 2011 Larger Community Foundations Conference, which concluded last week in San Francisco.
Not much was missing from the conference’s guest speaker lineup. It was clearly designed to provoke innovative thinking among the CEOs and board chairs of the nation’s two dozen or so largest community foundations. Google any of the speakers, and you’ll be blown away: Michael Horn, Paul Brest, Jackie Khor, Jocelyn Wyatt, David Becker, Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen, Mimi Silbert, Steve Gunderson, Terry Mazany, Carol Larson—and especially the residents of Delancey Street, who last night inspired us to the point of speechlessness and even tears.
So what’s missing? “Community foundations are the face of philanthropy,” said Council on Foundations President Steve Gunderson in his remarks today. But as Steve also pointed out, 14 percent of America—mostly those who live in rural areas—are not yet served by a community foundation. That’s something the Council intends to address at its Rural Philanthropy Conference in Kansas City, July 25–27.
And rural Americans are not the only ones missing out on what community foundations have to offer. During the two-and-a-half days of challenging conversations at the San Francisco conference, it became increasingly clear to the 65 of us in the room that we can all do more. More for our communities. More for our donors. More for the people who would be donors if they felt welcome. More for the people of all races and generations who have much to give. More for the people in our communities who are left behind and served by the tireless and passionate leaders of nonprofit organizations.
“Your customers are rarely buying what you think you are selling them.” That statement by opening speaker Michael Horn will stick with me for a long time. It was a personal call to innovation and action and an imperative for our own community foundation to rise to the occasion and create what is missing.
Laura McKnight is president and CEO of the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation