April 08, 2013
(Long-time PhilanTopic contributor Michael Seltzer is a trustee of EMpower-the Emerging Markets Foundation and a distinguished lecturer at the Baruch College School of Public Affairs of the City University of New York. He filed this report earlier today from Chicago, site of the Council on Foundation's 2013 annual conference.)
Each year, several thousand grantmakers from around the globe come together at the Council on Foundations' annual meeting to learn, discuss, and network. This week, more than 1,200 donors from 47 states and 17 countries have gathered here in Chicago. Reflective, perhaps, of a longer-term shift in wealth accumulation and the creation of new foundations, the states/regions with the greatest representation here are (host state) Illinois, California, New York, and Washington, D.C., while Canada, Brazil, Mexico, and Great Britain top the list of countries represented at the conference. Another indicator of the changing composition of the field is evident in the large number of new faces. Take it from this philanthropy veteran, a new generation of grantmakers has arrived.
Paul Ylvisaker, the late Ford Foundation officer and a mentor to many veteran foundation leaders, once described foundations as "the passing lane" on the highway to a better world. Entrance ramps to that highway were quite evident in the opening sessions of this week's gathering.
On Saturday, at the annual gathering of the Association of Black Foundation Executives, Maya Wiley, founder and president of the Center for Social Inclusion, focused her remarks on the opportunities available to philanthropy to support solutions to the challenges facing the soon-to-be "majority minority" population in America: people of color. Wiley highlighted examples of grassroots leaders across the country who are working to implement innovative public policies in their communities, cities, and states -- and, through a combination of vision, effective community organizing, and thought leadership, are succeeding in mitigating the structural barriers that for too long have denied access to equal opportunity for people of color, women, and others.