The first month of the year is appropriately named after the two-faced roman god, Janus, who is looking at both the past and the future. This is a time of endings and beginnings, of the transition from yesterday to tomorrow.
As I complete my tenure as president of Ohio Grantmakers Forum I look back at the evolution of Ohio Grantmakers Forum. From its beginning in the mid-1980s as Donors Forum of Ohio (in Columbus) and Grantmakers Forum (in Cleveland), the state’s grantmaking community has grown in numbers and impact. There’s not a town or village in the state that has not been positively affected by the generosity of Ohio’s grantmaking foundations. It has been my privilege to be associated with Ohio Grantmakers Forum since the merger of its two predecessor organizations in 2000; and continue to be amazed at the commitment of foundation trustees and staff to improving the quality of life in our state.
However, like almost everything else, philanthropy is changing. Technology is revolutionizing how and when people connect with one another and support causes that interest them. Mobility is changing our attachment to place and our worlds have become so much more intertwined than ever before. In order to represent and serve a more diverse and textured philanthropic sector, Ohio Grantmakers Forum has become Philanthropy Ohio and now facilitates a network of all those organizations and individuals actively involved in giving in our state.
To lead us into the future, Philanthropy Ohio has a new and experienced leader. Suzanne Allen, Ph.D. assumes her new post as president on January 1, 2013. She will have the honor of working with board, staff and members to provide more connections across the sector, more exchange of information and hopefully more effective philanthropy in Ohio. I am jealous of the exciting adventure ahead of her and wish her and all philanthropists in Ohio the very best in the future.
Thank you for all your help and support through these years.
Keep in touch,
For the last twelve years, the name of this organization has been Ohio Grantmakers Forum. Before that time there were two regional associations of grantmakers in Ohio – with Donors Forum of Ohio based in Columbus and northeast Ohio’s Grantmakers Forum headquartered within The Cleveland Foundation. In 2000 the two organizations merged to form Ohio Grantmakers Forum. At this year’s annual conference, OGF members will be asked to approve a recommendation that our name be changed again, from Ohio Grantmakers Forum to Philanthropy Ohio.
The rationale for this change is to ensure that our organizational name matches our mission. As a result of a two-year long planning process, we are expanding our statewide network beyond just grantmaking foundations to include other organizations and individuals actively engaged in philanthropy in Ohio. In addition to private, community and corporate foundations, other grantmaking public charities and corporate giving programs, membership in OGF is now open to giving circles, federated funds, governmental agencies and individual philanthropists. And while we expect that grantmakers will continue to comprise the great majority of members, we want our name to indicate that membership is open to all those engaged in philanthropy in Ohio.
OGF’s strategic direction is based on belief that as philanthropy slowly evolves, the organization that represents and serves philanthropy needs to change as well. Donors now have more options than ever before to achieve their charitable goals. The more awareness, information sharing and collaboration we can foster among all those involved in philanthropy, the greater the potential impact on issues of common concern.
A new chapter for OGF begins at this year’s annual conference. I hope you are there to cast your vote for more effective philanthropy in Ohio.
An important new approach to social change is called “collective impact.” A recent issue of the Stanford Social Innovation Review described the approach as “… the commitment of a group of important actors from different sectors to a common agenda for solving a specific social problem.”
The point is that some community issues like homelessness, education and equitable access to health care are so “big” that no one entity can solve them alone. Evidence is mounting that a more effective approach is for various parts of the social sector to come together in common cause to address the problem.
In essence that is what is behind OGF’s new strategy – helping philanthropy achieve greater collective impact on important issues facing Ohio. For nearly 30 years OGF has been a membership association for organized philanthropy alone. Participation is limited to foundations and corporate giving programs. However, over the last 30 years the sector has become more diverse, with new “players” taking the field and ways other than grantmaking developed to achieve philanthropic objectives. United Ways, social venture partners, donor advised funds, venture philanthropy, giving circles and online giving are examples of some of the non-traditional ways philanthropy is practiced in 2012. And while organized philanthropy will remain the primary vehicle for philanthropy in Ohio for years to come, these additional actors play important roles in addressing community issues all across the state.
After two years of careful planning, OGF’s board has begun the process of reaching out to connect all types of philanthropy in Ohio. We are creating new membership categories, making better use of technology, and in the months ahead, inviting others involved in philanthropy to consider the value of establishing closer connections with Ohio’s foundation community.
The board expects that the core of OGF’s membership, as well as the bulk of our programs and services, will remain focused on foundations and grantmaking. And we will always maintain the “safe space” for proprietary discussions of various groups of members; but since “some community issues are so ‘big’ that no one entity can solve them alone,” we want to help create the conditions and provide the infrastructure for Ohio philanthropy to achieve greater collective impact on the important issues of the day.
What better time for philanthropy to do this, than in an era of economic uncertainty, when resources are challenged and needs are increasing. OGF is about to embark on an exciting journey … one that will benefit both our members and the communities they know and love. Welcome aboard!
Do you remember the movie “Groundhog Day?” Bill Murray plays an egocentric TV weatherman who, during a hated assignment covering the annual Groundhog Day event in Punxsutawney, PA, finds himself repeating the same day over and over again. In many ways, annual conferences seem like that movie. The structure, agenda, sights and sounds are so much the same from year to year that, if you didn’t check your calendar, you might not know what year it was.
OGF’s 2012 annual conference will break that mold! This will be the first 21st century conference OGF has ever presented, and possibly the first truly contemporary conference you’ve ever attended.
We are re-designing the event from beginning to end. There will be greater coherence of conference content, with relevant, cross-cutting themes tying together individual sessions and large group gatherings. We’re throwing out the regimented agenda where all sessions begin and end at the same time. Content will now determine schedule, not the other way round. In place of the usual 10 minute breaks between sessions, we’ll build in more “white space” to digest, reflect and share learnings. Pre- and post-conference components will be offered, to whet your appetite for what is to come and have learnings reinforced afterwards. Recognizing that adults learn in different ways, greater variety in format and presentation styles will be the norm throughout the conference.
We’ll also be taking advantage of opportunities presented by nearby venues, and not conduct the entire conference within the confines of the hotel. Menus will change; we’ll do more with visuals; and we’ll incorporate technology more than we’ve ever done before. This year you’ll be able to design your own conference experience with lots more options from which to choose: you can stay with your constituency group, follow your funding interest, be exposed to new ideas, get some hands-on training, stick with the lectures, try out more interactive workshops. And, there will be plenty of time along the way to connect with old friends and make new ones. Finally, and for the first time ever, as OGF expands our funder networks beyond “organized” (foundation) philanthropy, we’ll be inviting giving circles, United Ways and individual donors to join us in a consideration of what Ohio philanthropy writ large is doing to make the Buckeye State a better place in which to live and work.
This year’s annual conference will be a celebration unlike any we’ve had before. It will inform, excite, engage and energize you in ways we didn’t think possible. This may be the most valuable conference you’ve ever attended!
If you usually come to OGF’s annual conference, be prepared for something even better than you are used to. If you don’t usually attend, THIS IS THE YEAR TO COME! We promise a return that will substantially exceed your investment of time and money.
Date: November 14-15, 2012
Cleveland Marriott Downtown at Key Center
Cost: NO increase over last year, $495
REGISTER NOW at ohiograntmakers.org
President, Ohio Grantmakers Forum
In today’s digital age, most of us are familiar with “apps” that are downloaded to mobile devices to link us to needed data. OGF is about to launch an “app” that is much more than an icon on a digital screen. By expanding our electronic and in-person networks, all forms of philanthropy in Ohio will eventually be able to share ideas, exchange information and promote preferred practices. We’ll be explaining more about this in conversations with members being held in 7 cities across the state from February through April.
Whether an Ohio funder’s interests are place- or position-based, determined by funder type or funding interest, OGF’s interconnected network will become an indispensable “app” for achieving greater impact, more effectiveness and better results. Our new strategy will add value to personal and professional life whatever role a person plays in their grantmaking organization, whether trustee, program officer, CEO, grants manager or CFO.
OGF members can contact Melissa Forbes, for more information about these meetings:
President, Ohio Grantmakers Forum
2012 is the year when OGF will begin its three-year transformation into a more inclusive, dynamic and impactful network of funders. The months ahead will see OGF gradually open the doors and windows of our association to other organizations and individuals involved in the enterprise of philanthropy in Ohio. Building on the existing network of “organized philanthropy” – community, private foundations, corporate giving programs and other grantmaking public charities – OGF will start to develop a more comprehensive, interconnected network of funders in the Buckeye State, a network that not only allows for easy flow and access to information, but enhances opportunities to align giving to achieve greater impact on problems of shared concern.
Why are we doing this? The board’s new strategic plan, developed after three years of intensive research and discussion and announced at this year’s annual conference, recognizes that philanthropy is growing and changing…that giving is not limited to the traditional “foundation” form and that, if better linkages existed among more of those involved in charitable giving, philanthropy would be better informed and perhaps more effective in addressing the issues of the day.
What does this mean for the current members of OGF? Simply put, it means that while OGF will continue to provide leadership and service to its existing members, over the next few years additional linkages, information and opportunities will become available that add to the value of OGF membership. As Ohio’s philanthropic network expands, OGF members can expect that desired programming will continue, “safe space” will be respected and “organized philanthropy” will remain the core focus of the association for the foreseeable future.
What does this mean for Ohio philanthropy as a whole? It means that a vehicle will exist whereby all those involved in the practice of philanthropy in Ohio will have access to a vibrant network that will enable the exchange of information and ideas, access to programs and training, trusted representation before important external audiences and increased potential for greater effectiveness and impact.
OGF’s new vision will be presented to members in a series of 7 regional convenings, beginning in February, 2012. Watch your “in box” for details about the convening nearest you.
George E. Espy
President, Ohio Grantmakers Forum
The familiar expression “May you live in interesting times,” while purported to be an ancient Chinese blessing, turns out to be neither Chinese nor a wish for good fortune. Rather the phrase was coined in America in the mid-1930s, and later cited by John F. Kennedy as an “ancient Chinese curse.” The point is not the hope that you, too, will be fortunate enough not to be bored to death by the tedium of existence, but rather that you may suffer with more than your share of life’s challenges and difficulties.
Interestingly enough, this exclamation is purportedly the first in a series of curses of increasing severity. The next one is strangely prescient: “May you come to the attention of those in authority” (sometimes rendered “May the government be aware of you”).
Placed within the context of current events, philanthropy seems to be experiencing the fulfillment of both of these curses. Not only do we have to navigate some very troubled economic waters, but the magnitude of the upheaval is resulting in considerably more scrutiny by government at all levels.
It remains to be seen whether philanthropy responds by seeking the safety of the familiar or finding more relevant ways to make private investments for the public good.
George E. Espy
President, Ohio Grantmakers Forum
It has been four years since the bottom dropped out of the stock market and America was plunged into the deepest recession in nearly a century. In its immediate aftermath, foundations took steps to reduce expenses, redirect giving and prepare for an increasingly uncertain future. Since then, organized philanthropy has had to adjust to an ongoing series of unexpected economic, social and political upheavals.
With little consensus about what the “new normal” will mean for philanthropy, and in an effort to prepare for what may yet come to pass, it may be useful to see what lessons OGF members have learned from the experimentation of the recent past.
Reflecting on your foundation’s decisions and direction over the last four years, what have you learned about grantmaking, operations and communications? What did you do that worked out well? And what would you change, if you could?
Let’s consider each of these separately:
Grantmaking: What did you learn about grantmaking during a time of recession? How can you ensure that changes in grantmaking don’t adversely impact the foundation’s ability to accomplish its mission? What did you learn about “strategic” vs. “responsive” grantmaking? “
Operations: What did the economic crisis teach you about the internal operations of the foundation? What did you learn about the relation between foundation efficiency and foundation effectiveness? Would you make the same operational changes again or react differently? How are you preparing for the next unexpected upheaval?
Communication: What did you learn about internal and external communications as a result of this crisis? Did your communication strategy adequately convey your foundation’s intentions? How did input from others affect your decisions? What would you change in your approach, if you could?
OGF members are always interested in upgrading their knowledge and skills. Please share the lessons you’ve learned in the last few years with your Ohio colleagues. You can email me directly or post your responses below. We will summarize your responses in an upcoming edition of OGF Connection.
President, Ohio Grantmakers Forum
Budget deficit reduction is now the overriding issue for governments at every level of our country. From the halls of congress to the chambers of village councils, elected officials are confronted with high stakes decisions, destined to be unpopular with many of their constituents.
While the current struggle necessarily focuses on “fixes” for the upcoming fiscal year, concern is growing about the long term need to reduce the national debt and federal deficits, lest we put our entire economy at risk. That’s why over the next few months, we can expect to hear lots of debate about the need for comprehensive tax reform, including charitable giving incentives.
We should welcome this conversation as an opportunity to articulate more clearly the benefits of philanthropy to American society. What would life in the cities and towns of Ohio be like without foundations, corporate giving programs and other grantmaking public charities? What are the contributions – financial and otherwise – that philanthropy makes to the fabric of our society? Do the public benefits generated by philanthropy offset the cost to federal, state or local budgets or are there better ways to achieve the value added through charitable giving?
In the months ahead, OGF will provide an Ohio-based platform for this national conversation. The overarching goal is not only the development of consistent and persuasive messaging for future policy debates, but the prompting of a critical examination–by the field in general and each of our members in particular–of how we enrich the common good. Since the outcome of these discussions may affect us all, I urge your active participation. Watch for program details in upcoming editions of NewsLine.
George E. Espy
This post is the President’s Pen column from the newest edition of OGF Connection, available online.
The relationship between philanthropy and government has always been complicated. At times philanthropy is welcomed as a needed complement to governmental programs – an important “value add” to society. But there are also periods when the public is suspicious of philanthropy – seeing it as a way the wealthy use tax-free dollars to advance their private interests. While it’s likely that both attitudes are always present somewhere, one or the other is usually in the ascendancy. Today’s economic crisis, with its dramatic increase in social sector needs, has created a mutual desire to leverage limited resources, evidenced by the increasing number of public-private philanthropic partnerships.
OGF members, recognizing the opportunity to do more with less, are taking advantage of the government’s current willingness to work with philanthropy to address community needs. For example, in northeast Ohio the Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland is the lead partner in a multi-stakeholder application for a federal 2010 Promise Neighborhood grant to transform the “Central” neighborhood of their city. In northwest Ohio, the Toledo Community Foundation is working to bring federal dollars earmarked for cities impacted by the downturn of the auto industry to their region. And of course, OGF itself, through our education initiative, has been very involved in the state’s recently successful Race to the Top application, bringing $400 million additional education dollars to Ohio.
In the midst of today’s relatively cordial climate, cautionary voices are also being raised. Is it in the long term interests of either philanthropy or government to be so closely aligned? Is the business of philanthropy to help government do its work or should we be setting our own agendas? Do these partnerships inhibit government’s ability to exercise its regulatory responsibility? And are we endangering our independence if we are so closely associated with the priorities of one party or the other?
In the weeks and months to come, the balance may shift yet again as circumstances and policies change or as philanthropy weighs the risks and rewards of public-private-philanthropic partnerships. For now at least, both sides seem to be getting what they want out of working more closely together, and communities all across Ohio are the beneficiaries of this arrangement.