Forum’s New President on Reducing Duplication and Increasing Collaboration in Philanthropy’s Infrastructure

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Originally posted with Philanthropy New York

By David Biemesderfer, President & CEO, Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers

In January I took on a new role as President and CEO of the Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers.  I am incredibly excited to have an opportunity to lead a vibrant and growing organization in the philanthropy sector.

The Forum is the largest network serving philanthropy in America, consisting of 33 regional philanthropy associations—including Philanthropy New York—with more than 5,500 participating organizations.  The Forum Network’s greatest strength is that we bring together the dual assets of deep regional roots and a broad nationwide reach.  No other organization in philanthropy brings these assets to the table in the way that we do.

The Forum supports and advances the work of PNY and its regional association colleagues in many ways.  We offer staff professional development and peer-to-peer networking opportunities to help people be effective in their regional association work.  We strengthen philanthropy’s voice in public policy by building regional associations’ capacity to engage in policy work.  We provide an effective vehicle to allow regional associations to share data, information and resources.  And we help regional associations pool their resources and expertise to better serve their members.

The Forum operates as a true network that relies on the contributions of all of its regional association members, and Philanthropy New York is an active contributor to the network.  PNY President Ronna Brown serves on the Forum’s board of directors, and numerous PNY staff members contribute to the Forum Network through committee service and in many other ways.  PNY adds expertise and leadership to our national network in many areas, including public policy, communications, community engagement, knowledge management and diversity and inclusion.  Forum members will continue to learn a great deal from Philanthropy New York’s leadership in these and other areas.

Over the next two years, the Forum will begin implementing a new vision.  We plan to broaden our network to bring together the assets of the Forum with the assets of national philanthropy-serving organizations—specifically national issue-based, identity-based and practice-based affinity groups—to create a “one stop shop” for philanthropies to find and engage others with similar interests, share knowledge and advance policy.  In short, we envision the Forum as the place where philanthropy’s infrastructure comes together.

National affinity groups have deep content knowledge in their specific areas of expertise, whether it is knowledge of a particular funding issue, population group or philanthropic practice, and RAs have deep knowledge and connections in our regions.  Under the Forum’s new vision, we will bring the two together in a much more comprehensive and systematic way than what is occurring today.  We believe this will reduce duplication and increase collaboration in philanthropy’s infrastructure, and will greatly enhance how we all work to support, inform and advance the philanthropy sector.

We will be putting our new vision into action through an inclusive, collaborative, iterative and co-designed process with current and new partners, guided by a design team comprised equally of representatives of regional associations and national affinity groups.  The team is co-chaired by Kathleen Enright, President & CEO of Grantmakers for Effective Organizations, and Chris Essel, President & CEO of Southern California Grantmakers. 

I’m honored to be taking over the helm of the Forum at this pivotal moment for the organization and for the philanthropy field.  Working with wonderful members and partners like Philanthropy New York, I am committed to making significant progress in how we support, connect and advance philanthropy in our country.

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