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Council on Foundations Annual Conference

Updated: Jul 29, 2021

The Council on Foundations is hosting its annual conference this week. Thanks to the Internet, those of us who could not attend are able to read articles and summaries of the sessions. The keynote speaker today was Bill Somerville. He is the author of Grassroots Philanthropy and the President of the Philanthropic Ventures Foundation. In his speech, he called for reform in philanthropy. He believes that too much time is spent on small grants and that this is ineffective. There is a huge burden on nonprofits to go through a lengthy and time consuming application process. He told young people in the field, “We need to do better.”

He challenges foundations to go paperless, to turn around grant requests in 48 hours and to give discretion to staff. Bill believes it is about trusting people. He had some pretty tough words around metrics and outcomes. I agree with him that funders need to ask the nonprofits how they measure success, but I do believe a lot of good work is being done around performance.

Given my background in investment management, I like this line the best. “We’re investing in people who are worthy of that investment. You are all investment managers.”

I found his speech inspirational. Check out the work of Philanthropic Ventures Foundation at

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