Council on Foundations Conference Wrap-Up

Wow! Now only was the COF conference really interesting, fun and exciting, but I was deeply impressed by the performance of the blog team! Just to be clear, this is Sean Stannard-Stockton writing again. I’ve been a bit of a managing editor since last weekend, so I’m glad to get back to writing.

A few reflections on the conference:

Last year at COF, I felt like a bit of a novelty attending as a blogger. One person did introduce himself to me saying that he read Tactical Philanthropy, but for the most part people seemed to perceive a blog as a place where some uneducated nobody posted rants about things they knew little about and then posted pictures of their cat. Seriously. But this time was different. Not only did it seem that everyone I met knew of Tactical Philanthropy, but people seemed to have a new sense that blogs were playing an important role in philanthropy. The very fact that my blog team included employees of major foundations was a pleasant surprise to me and indicative of the changing way that foundations see social media.

One thing I loved about the blog team is that I got to experience far more of the conference than I could otherwise. After Peter Manzo (here) and Peter Deitz (here) both posted their (opposing) thoughts on the opening plenary video, I was asked by someone what I thought of the video. It took me a second to remember that I hadn’t actually attended the plenary and that I had experienced it only via the blog! Similarly, I got a lot of emails from people who were not able to attend the conference to say that they were happily following along from home. (Note too, that these two posts were the most widely read on Tactical Philanthropy during the last week).

Speaking of Peter Manzo’s negative take on the plenary video (he called it “abysmal”), I think Peter and I were both surprised by the attention the post got (Both the Chronicle of Philanthropy and the blog of Philanthropy News Digest reported on his comments). It was a bit “shocking” to read something so negative within the halls of “institutional philanthropy”, but here’s the thing. I asked a LOT of people what they thought of the video and I’d say 80-90% agreed with Manzo. So his take wasn’t really something new, it was just airing publicly what many people thought. I think that’s a good thing.

Personally, I thought the “mega-conference” format turned out quite well. I really enjoyed meeting people from all aspects of philanthropy and getting their takes. However, for any given time slot, there were about 25 session to choose from and I often wanted to attend 2 or 3 of them.

Speaking of the format, a couple people have asked me to follow up on my horrendous experience checking into the hotel. The Gaylord was just opened in March and it showed. Without boring you with details, even after check in I continued to not have my room cleaned and routinely put on hold for 10-15 minutes (at which point I usually gave up). To their credit, the Gaylord did comp my room the first night. But I will say that I liked that so many people could fit in one space. When writing and editing the blog, I would often set up camp at a table in the main breeze way by the coffee shop. A lot of people stopped by to say hi and as they always say “the best part of the conference is in the hallways.”

I’ll just wrap up saying the same thing I did last year. The conversation does not have to stop now and wait for next year! I realize there were a lot of new readers here during the last week and I want to encourage you to keep posting your ideas and thoughts. Conferences are great, but we can still come together as a group all year round in online forums like this one to discuss these topics. I know I enjoy it and learn a lot. I think you will too.


  1. Kristen says:

    Sean, great to meet at the conference, and congratulations to the blogging team.

    I’ve found this blog to be a wonderful resource in the past few days, and I look forward to following along in the future (and throwing in my application for the blogging team next year).

  2. Thanks Kristen, nothing like having people from a media focused foundation on the blog team. Next year I going to have to redesign the blog to handle all the blog posts that come in.