National Growing Community Foundations Conference Goes Virtual
When other foundation conferences went on hiatus or were postponed until 2021, the annual national conference aimed at rural and small to medium-sized community foundations decided to go big. The organizers immediately transitioned the conference on-line, making the 2020 Annual National Conference for Growing Community Foundations the only community foundation conference held in the U.S. this year.
Svetlana Pushkareva Hutfles, Executive Director of the Kansas Association of Community Foundations, explains: “We weren't going to let Covid-19 deter us when the needs of our communities have become so much greater and community foundations have relied on us to provide the national platform for exchange of ideas, quality education, and networking, designed specifically for community foundations, especially in rural, small urban, and suburban America.” This year’s conference theme is “Sustainable Community for All.” It will take place October 26-27 with plenaries focusing on the SDGs and social justice issues.
Going on-line means the organizers had to reimagine how to present the conference content while retaining the valuable networking aspects of an in-person meeting. A virtual conference offers opportunities to reach a wider audience, including:
- smaller community foundations that don’t have the travel budgets or time to attend an in-person meeting;
- larger community foundations who might like to pick and choose among the sessions they access, as well as offer the conference as a resource to their new board members, staff, and affiliates;
- community foundations outside the U.S., many of which are smaller and interested in developing appropriate strategies for growth. The learning experience of U.S. community foundations is also enriched by international exchange with their peers.
Additional sessions are being offered in all the major areas of community foundation management. The registration fee, which has been reduced from last year, gives participants the ability to access recorded sessions for one year on the Conference online platform. All sessions, with the exception of retreats, are being pre-recorded to minimize technical issues in broadcasting. However, the presenters will be available for a live Q&A after their sessions that also will be recorded and become part of the presentation for those who access later.
The Conference has found creative solutions to networking and helping attendees meet one-on-one or in small groups. From lunches together and “blind-dates” to special evening events, this Conference promises to connect those who crave learning from their peers.
In 2019 the Annual National Conference for Growing Community Foundations attracted nearly 500 attendees to Wichita, Kansas for the in-person meeting. Two- thirds of those came from outside Kansas – drawn from all parts of the country and outside the U.S. The number of participants in the virtual conference is expected to rise. If this first on-line only format is successful, in the future this Annual National Conference may become a hybrid – a conference that combines the benefits of an in-person meeting in order to maximize peer learning and networking, but also is offered on-line to reach a wider audience.
The entire foundation field has come together to support this Conference. In addition to its National Advisory Group and the host (Kansas Association of Community Foundations), the Conference has attracted numerous supporters, over 80 speakers, and partners, including the Council on Foundations, Kansas Health Foundation, Foundant Technologies, and the Opening Plenary Supporter – the C.S. Mott Foundation. Together, in this pandemic year, these organizations have committed to bringing a national conference of tremendous value to those who are passionate about community philanthropy.
Conference website: www.growingCFs-national-conference.com