Council on Foundations Conference

Yesterday I accepted an invitation to attend this year’s Council on Foundations (CoF) conference from April 29-May 1 in Seattle. This is the first year that CoF has invited bloggers to attend the conference with a press pass.

As much as I was honored to be invited, I had some hesitation about attending. I do not think of myself as a member of the press. I’m not a reporter. I think the role of bloggers in general is more one of commentator/analyst/columnist. But in talking with the Council it was clear to me that they “got” what my role should be. In fact, one of the first Sessions is about new media:

Foundations & The Morphing Media: Why We No Longer “Read All About It” Room 204 9:00-10:30 a.m. Foundations and the media have always seen themselves as agents of social change, both working to serve the common good. But there has been a drastic change in the media landscape. Broadcast and cable news segments, accommodating waning attention spans, are becoming less detailed and more politically charged. Newspaper readership is down, Internet news is on the rise, and blogging is, well, moving in a direction of its own. This could be troublesome as philanthropy depends on the media to spearhead deep, thoughtful discussion of social issues—information that then guides philanthropy in its grantmaking. Listen to a thoughtful and provocative discussion of our own as a panel of experts, including former Council President/CEO Dot Ridings, also a former publisher with Knight-Ridder, and Max King, president of the Heinz Endowments and former editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer, reviews the challenges and opportunities foundations will face with the new mainstream media. Presenters:

  • Arianna Huffington, Speaker, Syndicated Journalist
  • Dorothy S. Ridings, Moderator
  • Ian Rowe, Speaker, Vice President, Strategic Partnerships and Public Affairs, MTV
  • Jay T. Harris, Speaker, Board Member
  • Maxwell King, Speaker, President, The Heinz Endowments

So what is the role of philanthropy bloggers on the broader philanthropic landscape? Are we fringe commentators or will the conversation that we are developing here be one that, as the Council states above, “guides philanthropy in its grantmaking”?

We don’t know for sure yet. But I can tell you that since I received the invitation from CoF, a number of employees of the world’s largest foundations have subscribed to my blog. My understanding is that there was a lot of internal debate at the Council on whether or not to invite bloggers to the conference. I’m sure that a segment of the members are still very wary about our participation. But if, again in the Council’s words from above, “philanthropy depends on the media to spearhead deep, thoughtful discussion of social issues” then I think they’re going to like what they find.

One parting thought I want to leave everyone with is that I do not believe that online and offline media should be viewed as being separate. It is the message, not the medium that is important. My hope is that as groups like Council on Foundations and the Chronicle of Philanthropy begin to embrace philanthropy bloggers, that we welcome them and work to integrate the online and offline conversation. That is the challenge that I am working on as I refine the Giving Carnival.

One Comment

  1. Hopefully the attention that blogging is bringing — and the many discussions and conversations it is spawning — will encourage traditional press to deepen its coverage of philanthropy. It’s not enough to simply report on the number and size of grants — which is what the Philanthropic Awareness Initiative found as typical of foundation news coverage in its recent study of reporting on philanthropy over a 15-year-period. As my co-author and I wrote in a Chronicle of Philanthropy op-ed last July (, “When reporters cover the business world, they produce articles when new products or strategies are announced, when money is made or lost, and when companies grow or fail. And in between the coverage of those developments, enormous attention is paid to the types of businesses they are, what underlies the decisions companies make, and what they could do to become more successful. That same approach should guide philanthropy coverage. Reporters should be encouraged to provide in-depth and analytic coverage about the underlying problems in society that foundations are trying to solve, the likely results of their investments, and follow-up coverage about what did or didn’t happen.”