Highlights of CMF’s 42nd Annual Conference in Traverse City

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Mike Gallagher, CMF Editorial Correspondent

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Annual conference session materials located here [member login required].

Combine the beauty of one of northern Michigan’s most vibrant cities, a line-up of some of the state and nation’s most respected thought leaders, add hundreds of Michigan’s dedicated foundation leaders and staff and you have the Council of Michigan Foundations’ 42nd annual conference held recently in Traverse City!

This year’s conference – “Growing the Impact of Michigan Philanthropy” - met its promise to provide an exceptional experience for the more than 520 attendees who participated in 38 break-out sessions especially designed to engage and inform on challenging issues, best practices, and new approaches to philanthropy.

From the networking and camaraderie of old friends and new to the fun of attending a Broadway-style musical performance at Traverse City’s historic City Opera House and a dine-around town experience, the gathering provided something for everyone – and more, according to the conference’s three co-chairs.

Emma Harrington of the Chippewa County Community Foundation, Kathryn Huschke of the Oleson Foundation and Gregg Smith of Rotary Charities of Traverse City and the Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation, along with a dedicated conference committee of 25 members worked tirelessly through the year to design the conference.

“We wanted to make sure we had the best speakers, presentations and information so every single person could take away something new and important from the annual conference that they could use and share with others…and I think we accomplished that,” said Smith.

CMF’s new board chair Ellen Crane of the Harvey Randall Wickes Foundation in Saginaw – who took the reins from outgoing chair Brenda Hunt of the Battle Creek Community Foundation – summed up the feelings of those gathered by saying, “This is an exciting and dynamic time for those of us in philanthropy.

“To be with so many people who are dedicated to making a difference, so giving of their time and talents, is just an amazing experience. I look forward to the year ahead. It holds so much promise.”

Carolyn Sparks of the Library of Michigan Foundation, applauded CMF’s staff and its members for “not only putting on such a wonderful conference, but for bringing together foundation people so they can share stories and ideas and learn new ways to be successful. It’s always good to know there are others in our field who face the same problems and concerns … and looking for best practices to move forward.”

Other foundation leaders said they found the vast selection of break-out sessions individually geared for each foundation constituency – community, family, corporate and private – a tremendous opportunity for learning new concepts and program models that they could put into practice immediately.

Praise at the conference also was not limited to foundation members.

Many speakers cited audience members’ depth of knowledge, desire to accept and incorporate new methodologies and embrace best practices from other philanthropic leaders and locales as “simply awe-inspiring,” according to Dione Alexander, principal, Roundbox Consulting.

Plenary speakers provided plenty of food for thought as well, with Jim Clifton, CEO, Gallup, sharing his beliefs on how philanthropy can help “re-energize Americans and get them to realize they can have a life that truly matters.”

Hildy Gottlieb, co-founder, Creating the Future, shared her wisdom and insights on finding ways to change people’s assumptions on how best to create thriving communities.

And Melody Barnes, chair, Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions and CEO, Melody Barnes Solutions LLC., presented an inspiring talk on the best way to ensure success of community projects through philanthropic-driven collaboratives.

Joining Barnes in a panel discussion on the roles and opportunities government, business and nonprofits can play in fomenting positive change within communities were: Tonya Allen, president/CEO, The Skillman Foundation; Brenda Hunt; and Bill Rustem, former director of strategy for Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s Office of Strategic Policy.

The conference was also a time for honoring those who continue to work diligently without fanfare for those in need in their communities.

The 2014 Russell G. Mawby Award for Philanthropy was presented to David and Lynne Robinson who have dedicated themselves to helping the people of Newago County and the 2014 Community Foundation Philanthropy Award went to Lawrence E. Moon, the longest-serving trustee in the history of the Community Foundation of Greater Flint.

CMF President/CEO Rob Collier thanked all members not only for their attendance, “but their continuing dedication to serving the needs of their communities throughout Michigan. Each and every one truly is making a difference in the lives of so many!"

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