Enhancing The Council on Foundations Conference

This post originally appeared on the Philanthropy411 blog, which is hosting this year’s Council on Foundations blog team coverage.

The Council on Foundations has done an admirable job of incorporating social media into the annual conference. From the official RE: Philanthropy blog of the Council, to their official Twitter handle, to their support for unofficial blog teams, the Council has fully embraced the important role of social media in philanthropy.

Now it is time for the Council to blow up their traditional conference model and begin exploring new formats for the annual conference.

A few ideas:

  • Moderated debates over specific propositions between leaders in the field.
  • 20 minute TED-style presentations on fascinating topics from energetic and inspiring people in the field.
  • Three-hour working groups on issues that the field must confront together.
  • Nonprofit showcases featuring 15-minute presentations by grantees nominated by Council members.

During last year’s conference, I wrote:

The opening plenary of the Council on Foundations conference was fine. It was interesting. There was a nice musical piece by a local group to kick things off.

But it wasn’t a rock concert.

The Council on Foundations conference should be philanthropy’s Woodstock. It should be our Octoberfest. It should be our MacWorld. It should be the type of event where people who are passionate about philanthropy and foundations come together to celebrate, learn, share and laugh. It should be fun.

I feel the same way this year. We don’t have to be bound by the traditional format of conferences. We are free to experiment.

If the Council wants the annual conference to be a “can’t miss” event that attracts the very top people in the field, it needs to blow up the conference model and start experimenting with new approaches.