Enthusiasm, storytelling and terrific weather were all part of the Seattle setting for NCFP’s 2015 National Forum on Family Philanthropy. More than 400 registrants and presenters gathered around current themes in effective family grantmaking. What characterizes this program from any other is the overwhelming percentage of trustees and family members. CEOs and those representing other forms of grantmaking – donor advised funds, social venture groups, family office giving and more – fill out the rest of the hallways with colleague to colleague conversations.

Programming tackled both the need for strong data and the power of storytelling. Rather than positioning these as separate strategies for advancing great grantmaking, presenters spoke of the interconnectedness of having credible information and the inspiration of the well-told story. Opening plenary speaker Andy Goodman made sure that every single member of the plenary audience told a two-minute story during his session. What a way to make a point and break the ice!

The National Center for Family Philanthropy's 2015 Trends Study, the first national benchmark survey of family foundations, was included in a “sneak peek” plenary conversation. Discussion focused on themes from the study including perpetuity, issue and place-based grantmaking, founder participation and the strong interest of family foundations in effectiveness and impact. The 2015 Trends Study will be formally released in mid-November. 

Whatever your preferred learning style, it was in Seattle: Retreats for board chairs, those interested in family dynamics, and courageous leaders surrounded case study sessions, full open discussion programs, “Phil” talks, interactive panel/audience conversations, and chances to ask a lawyer or tell your story.

Sometimes I feel I miss so much running from one activity to another but there is always time to meet a new donor family or spend time with friends of many years. One of my favorite conversations was with the family who came together and are relatively new to managing a foundation. “We have to go home and re-think everything we’ve spent so much time laying out! There are so many good ideas and great people here to inspire and guide us!”

To everyone who participated – as registrants, speakers, sponsors, funders, NCFP staff managers, and advisory committee and board members – my deepest respect and gratitude.