Recapping Our 2023 Annual Conference in Baltimore - Exponent Philanthropy
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Recapping Our 2023 Annual Conference in Baltimore

“When philanthropy partners, communities prosper.” This theme resounded throughout our 2023 Annual Conference, where members from all 50 states and every type of community gathered with 500+ peers in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor to learn and make meaningful connections. Here are some highlights from the event:

Creating Lasting Impact

In our opening plenary, Wizipan Little Elk Garriott, principal deputy assistant secretary for Indian Affairs at the U.S. Department of the Interior, Diana Bucco, president of the Buhl Foundation, Adam Sanders, president of the Roy & Gwen Steeley Foundation, and Dr. Rahsaan Harris, Exponent Philanthropy board chair, discussed advancing Catalytic Leadership in Philanthropy (CLIP). The speakers emphasized the importance of honest and transparent relationships in reshaping systems, addressing inequities, and fostering vibrant collaborations that create lasting impact.

Nothing About Us Without Us

Inclusive Leadership in Philanthropy panel

WUSA9 Weeknight Anchor Lesli Foster led a panel discussion during our lunch plenary on inclusive leadership in philanthropy with members and representatives of our Disability Funders Peer Circle. Ryan Easterly, executive director of the WITH Foundation, Jessie Galloway, program officer at Ability Central, and Giovana Kallas, health & social services program officer at the Nord Family Foundation, talked about promoting disability inclusion in philanthropy by actively valuing and amplifying the voices, needs, and experiences of people with disabilities.

Fostering Authentic BIPOC  Connections

BIPOC Connection, Community, and Belonging gathering

Exponent Philanthropy’s director of equity and inclusion, Afia Amobeaa-Sakyi, facilitated two intimate gatherings called BIPOC Connection, Community, and Belonging. Afia designed these gatherings specifically for participants who identify as Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. She encouraged attendees to embrace their true selves as they engaged in profound dialogues about their resilience, professional journeys, and the lived experiences that have shaped them. One participant said,

“This space provides a remarkable opportunity not only to learn but also to forge genuine and enduring bonds of solidarity with fellow philanthropy professionals of color.”

Baltimore’s American Visionary Arts Museum

We hosted our community reception at Baltimore’s extraordinary American Visionary Arts Museum—America’s official national museum, education center, and repository for self-taught and intuitive artistry. The museum specializes in original thematic exhibitions that combine art, science, philosophy, humor, and social justice and betterment. The event also featured smooth jazz from Baltimore-born guitarist Kevin Jackson. Everyone agreed the night was a definite and inspiring highlight.

Session Takeaways

Busting Myths: The Strategic Case for Unrestricted Funding

Multiyear, unrestricted funding gives nonprofits space to dream, innovate, and respond to things. It lets nonprofits cover costs rarely covered by project grants (rent, utilities, operations, infrastructure), helps with staff retention, and signals to nonprofits that you trust them to know how to allocate funds.


Making the Most of Your Foundation for Catalytic Impact

Many foundations use only a fraction of their capabilities and potential. They should consider the full range of assets and strategies as to their portfolios, operations, communications, outreach/advocacy, grantmaking, and DEI/IDEA.  


Actionable Ways to Support Nonprofit Leaders of Color

Here are three things your foundation can do right now: 1) Ask and listen. 2) Identify leadership development program partners. 3) Shine a light on leaders through your foundation’s communications


Mission Aligned Investing in Practice

Globally, one in three dollars invested focuses on sustainability. And 99% of millennial active individual investors are interested in sustainable investing.


Casting Vision: Setting and Tracking Your Strategic Plan

The difference between setting goals and objectives: Goals are broad, long-term outcomes that are reasonable to achieve within a time frame and with available resources. Objectives are specific and break down goals into more explicit directions by providing quantitative measurements.  

2023 Outsized Impact Award Winner

2023 OIA recipient Sheena Solomon

Catalyzing change, creating connections, engaging closely with her community, and inspiring others. These are some of the many ways our 2023 Outsized Impact Award winner, Sheena Solomon, has positively affected her community. As executive director of the Gifford Foundation, Sheena’s programs and leadership reflect a deep commitment to inclusive philanthropy. Sheena said,

“It’s my job and duty to pay it forward. Particularly as a black woman in philanthropy with a leadership role, it’s my duty to do this work even when nobody is looking.” 

Continue Reading About Sheena and the Other Finalists’ Work »

Leadership on the Frontlines

In our closing plenary, we heard from Jan Rader, the first woman to lead a professional fire department in West Virginia and one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people of 2018. Jan talked about the challenges of being on the front lines of our local communities as they undergo economic transitions, address injustices, and combat substance use disorder. She discussed embracing a holistic approach in her work. She said that lean philanthropy can be a strong partner for the community and its first responders in helping address these challenges.

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About the Author

Paul D. Daugherty is the CEO of Exponent Philanthropy, the country’s largest association of funders and the only one dedicated to serving foundations, philanthropic families, and individual donors who are lean, but have a mighty impact. As someone who has served in different philanthropic roles for nearly 25 years, Paul recognizes the influence and importance of funders, foundations, and private giving of all sizes.

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