Philanthropic foundations and their donors have the freedom to direct their donations and social investments in any way they see fit. There is tremendous power in this freedom: it gives them the ability to take risks and support projects, issues, and organizations that others cannot or will not. To achieve their missions, foundations can take risks with both their financial capital and their unique ability to convene people together. Through engaged learning and candid conversation, convenings can spark new insights and partnerships that lead to coordinated and clearly communicated effective action.
Through my experience working with Salzburg Global Seminar and other nonprofits and foundations globally, I have witnessed firsthand the value of convening. Convening creates connections, sometimes in new or unexpected ways, when participants are focused on a specific topic or goal. It also provides opportunities to meeting others in unplanned ways, and often those unintended connections add greater value than many of our planned one-on-one meetings. Investing in convening can sometimes be misconstrued as navel-gazing when there are serious challenges right outside a foundation’s doors, and there is danger in waiting too long to gather all the facts and opinions before making a decision. But foundations are unique in that they can exert their power to bring people together from across places, sectors, and generations to develop thoughtful solutions and foster meaningful collaboration.
Foundations, with their networks in communities, accumulated knowledge among program staff, executive directors, and board members, can convene stakeholders that can augment grants and social investments that increase their effectiveness. Investing in convening, with the long-term view that foundations have, can lead to meaningful action and decisions. It can increase buy-in and generate the kind of insights and contacts that provide returns for many years beyond the initial convening.
Foundations are fortunate to be in a position to be able to be non-transactional in their relationships. What I mean is that foundations do not need something back from a participant or grantee; they do not need money or marketing, or anything else that would be construed as a transaction. This allows for the ability to facilitate open and honest conversations without concern for what may need to be exchanged.
Read the full article about convening by Andy Ho at The Center for Effective Philanthropy.