As one who has been in the field as a community foundation CEO since 1994, I have seen many themes. We were sorted by asset size for many of our conversations in the belief that such distinctions defined our capabilities and philanthropic contributions. (We now understand that was absolutely false.) There was the theme that "the Council isn’t doing enough for community foundations," which resulted in the founding of another organization (no longer in existence). There was the "we must maintain donor-advised funds as ours alone" theme (which obviously failed). There was the "are we donor-centered, or are we community-centered" question, and the resulting focus on donor-advised funds as THE answer (a more balanced, community-directed approach—rather than a product-based approach—has replaced it). There was the "On the Brink" conversation, which warned us of the changes we have been seeing in recent times. And there was a general conversation last year, discussing the assumption that the field did not hear the warnings of "On the Brink," and therefore our infrastructures are broken. (They are not, and we have indeed modified both our revenue streams and the nature of the work we do).
My friends, I am pleased to say that, at long last, our oldest and most revered themes have resurfaced at this conference:
This is the most exciting conference to date, because in every session we are celebrating the field, its continuing new knowledge and tools, its return to the things we always knew worked, and the fact that dollar for dollar, person to person, we can say, "Nobody does it better," and mean it!
Denise K. Spencer is president and CEO of the Community Foundation of the Lowcountry in Hilton Head Island, S.C.