The Philanthropy Roundtable had a good year in 2009, and thanks to the loyalty of our members and the commitment of our Board, we enter 2010 in a strong financial position.
Our Annual Meeting at the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs attracted 415 donor participants, one of our highest turnouts ever. Keynote speaker Jim Collins asserted that times of economic crisis separate good philanthropists from great ones—those who have the discipline to define and measure their success and to focus on their core missions. Phil and Nancy Anschutz, winners of the William E. Simon Prize for Philanthropic Leadership, explained the inspiration of their work with the Foundation for a Better Life—and “passed it on.”
More than 550 philanthropists—the highest ever—participated in our K–12 meetings. Rebecca Stewart, director of K–12 education programs, organized world-class events in New York, Washington, Atlanta, and Silicon Valley. And 90 philanthropic leaders from 28 states joined our conference on entrepreneurship at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation in Kansas City, a testament to Kauffman’s reputation as “the foundation of entrepreneurship.”
Our Alliance for Charitable Reform (ACR), run by senior vice president Sue Santa and Sandra Swirski of Venn Strategies, ramped up its work to protect philanthropic freedom from growing legislative and regulatory threats. We challenged the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy’s narrow criteria for philanthropic excellence; maintained an active self-defense legislative presence in key congressional committees and four state capitals; and published a definitive monograph demolishing the argument that foundation assets are “public money.”
There are many reasons for the strength of the Roundtable, but the most important is the leadership and oversight of our Board of Directors. Our seven Board members are extraordinarily generous with their time, wisdom, and financial support, and they ensure that the Roundtable remains committed to our mission and guiding principles.
Our chairman, Mike Grebe, president and CEO of the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, combines a deep understanding of the Roundtable’s principles with a wealth of wisdom, practical judgment, and leadership experience in philanthropy, management, law, politics, and public policy. Vice chair Heather Higgins, president of the Randolph Foundation, co-founded ACR and has served as one of its intellectual architects and most persuasive spokesmen. Kim Dennis, executive director of the Searle Freedom Trust and the first executive director of the Roundtable, brings a deep understanding of public policy research, donor intent, and the interests and concerns of the Roundtable membership. Jim Piereson, president of the William E. Simon Foundation, has recently rejoined the Board. He was executive director of the John M. Olin Foundation before it closed its doors. He brings a deep understanding of effectiveness in public policy and academic philanthropy. Ana Thompson, executive director of the Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation, brings to the Roundtable a deep knowledge of social services and K–12 education, as well as financial acumen. Serial entrepreneur Jeff Sandefer, founder of the Acton School of Business, is helping the Roundtable strengthen our services to entrepreneurs who want to be as successful in philanthropy as they have been in business. And Donn Weinberg, a newly elected director, is chairman-elect of the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation. Donn’s guidance will be enormously valuable as we expand our “Helping People to Help Themselves” programs.
The Roundtable also expresses our gratitude to two exceptional directors who are stepping down from the Board.
Dan Peters joined the Board in 1995 and served as chairman from 2002 through 2008. During his chairmanship, the Roundtable tripled its revenues, with a comparable increase in influence. Together with Heather, he launched and initially directed ACR, working 20 hours per week in the crucial first months. Dan has been an enthusiastic backer of our K–12 programs and other breakthrough groups, and has participated in an amazing 56 of our conferences. With his good cheer and genuine interest in others, he has been a superb ambassador for the Roundtable.
Checker Finn joined the Board in 2000. He has been the intellectual godfather of our K–12 programs. A genius at asking the right questions and stimulating debate, while also keeping audiences entertained, he has been the moderator par excellence at our conferences; indeed, the communications vice president of a leading foundation, herself a former TV anchor, once told me Checker was the best discussion moderator she had ever seen.
We are delighted that Dan and Checker will remain active in the Roundtable, and we look forward to working with them closely in the years to come.
Adam Meyerson is president of The Philanthropy Roundtable.