July 1, 2016

At the end of May, a group of foundation CEOs and program executives gathered in New York State to share how and why they invest in talent development at grantee organizations and across the nonprofit sector. They included funders who are deeply-experienced “talent investors,” and those who are just beginning such work.

They traveled from across the country – from Georgia to Boston, from California to Ohio to Manhattan. They came from small family foundations, large national independent foundations, corporate foundations, community foundations, and health conversion foundations.

The gathering was organized by Talent Philanthropy, and was generously hosted by the Pocantico Center of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund* in Tarrytown, New York. This was an invitation-only event; most invitees had participated in previous funder briefings that we’ve held at Regional Associations of Grantmakers around the country in the last several years. Additionally, colleague organizations including Grantmakers for Effective Organizations, the Southeastern Council of Foundations, and Leading Edge helped us identify invitees.

In the post-event assessment survey, participants testified to the value of the experience:

“It was truly an exceptional experience! It is so rare to be able to delve so deeply into a complex topic like this with such a brilliant and thoughtful group of peers.”

“The experience added a lot of value-it helped me see what we were already doing in the leadership space in a totally different light. It also helped me push my thinking on how we could be most effective moving forward.”

“This was a terrific retreat! An energizing, relaxing, opportunity to recenter and reconnect with the work. So appreciate the well-facilitated and organized space in which to do this!”

“I had not previously thought about just how integrated diversity, equity and inclusion and [investing in nonprofit talent] can/should be – this challenged me in a healthy way! I have a commitment to both, but had not fully appreciated the multitude of ways that the two intersect in this work. I want to keep learning about what this looks like in practice from the role of a funder – and especially to apply it to the nonprofit talent work we are already funding.”

The retreat explored how to bake-in talent investing during all points in the grantmaking cycle – from initial conversations with a prospective grantee about the strengths and weaknesses of their “human capacity”, all the way to assessing and communicating the value of investments.  We held sessions on:

  • Addressing the deficit of foundation investment in nonprofit talent;
  • Making the case for talent investment at your foundation;
  • Having honest conversations between funders and nonprofits about talent needs;
  • Assessing or diagnosing the talent strengths and weaknesses of grantee organizations;
  • Structuring talent investments; and
  • Assessing and communicating the value of talent investments.

In addition to these topics, we offered a workshop on the role of funders during grantee executive transitions, and how to support diversity, equity and inclusion during these important moments. The issues of diversity, equity and inclusion ran across the entire retreat. In fact, we shared Talent Philanthropy’s initial thinking on why the Talent Philanthropy agenda and the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion agenda are inextricably linked.

This retreat was just the beginning. We are already offered follow-up education opportunities for participants, including webinars for further discussion and an online learning community. And we plan to hold more retreats and other professional development events like this around the country for funders and nonprofits. Join our email list to stay informed of our work. And contact us if would like to apply to attend a future retreat.

* As is the case with all materials resulting from meetings held at The Pocantico Center, the views expressed in this post are not necessarily those of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, its trustees, or its staff.

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