By Eric Kessler
We’ve all been to philanthropy conferences before. But I’ve never been to one where the donors parade down Bourbon Street, following behind a marching brass band, flinging Mardi Gras beads to innocent philanthropy bystanders. Family philanthropists, professional grantmakers, industry insiders, clapping, dancing — having fun. It was philanthropy revelry at its best here in New Orleans this week for the Association of Small Foundations-inspired Katrina@5 conference. Participants concluded Day One in traditional NOLA Fashion with a French Quarter parade and that same appreciation for New Orleans and the surrounding Gulf Coast communities has been a common theme over the past three days.
ASF and about thirty other partners arranged this event to convene philanthropists nationwide interested in disaster response, recovery and preparedness. Through workshops, discussions, and disaster site visits, participants are hearing from local funders and nonprofits about their triumphs – and frustrations – in rebuilding their communities after the storm. These stories are real, heartfelt and inspiring, but reach an entirely new level of influence when surrounded by what was a disaster zone just five years ago.
These stories along with the rich New Orleans culture are inspiring conference participants to look back at a difficult time and think creatively of solutions to move us forward. A common web portal for disaster philanthropy information, evaluation metrics on recovery and preparedness, improved collaborative grant-making platforms are among the ideas we’re taking home and hoping to execute together.
And this conference, with its singular focus on a narrow topic, diverse participation from so many sectors of the philanthropy and NGO community, intentional integration of grassroots stories and concluding moments focused on solutions to widely acknowledged gaps in philanthropy sets a new bar in my mind for future donor gatherings.
I’ll bring my Mardi Gras beads to Council on Foundations, Global Philanthropy Forum and Grantmakers for Effective Organizations…