On October 25, 2023, Philanthropy Roundtable President and CEO Christie Herrera delivered remarks welcoming the Roundtable community to its Annual Meeting in Rancho Palos Verdes, California. Herrera, who took the helm as the organization’s new president and CEO earlier this month, spoke about why private philanthropy, rooted in the values of liberty, opportunity and personal responsibility, continues to be the best way to solve society’s most pressing problems. As the Roundtable enters its next era, Herrera also highlighted the organization’s commitment to fighting renewed threats to philanthropic freedom and to working with donors in pursuit of philanthropic excellence.
Below are excerpts from Herrera’s remarks, as prepared for delivery:
A nation, anxious and off balance, grappling with historic inflation, rising campus radicalization and divisive identity politics.
A philanthropic sector set adrift, out of ideas, incapable of meeting the moment and often making things worse.
These may sound like issues before us today, but they’re actually what our founders faced in the 1970s, when they formed what eventually became Philanthropy Roundtable.
This small but mighty network of grantmakers aimed to create an organization that truly believed in the promise of philanthropy. An organization that, unlike its peers, wouldn’t just turn to the government for the answers.
These founders knew that private solutions, especially those rooted in values like liberty, opportunity and personal responsibility, offered them the best way to tackle society’s greatest challenges. And they believed the smartest way to solve those challenges was by bringing together like-minded philanthropic leaders to stimulate new ways of thinking, to share best practices and to advance what they called “effective philanthropy.”
In 1991, that network became the Roundtable we know today. Kim Dennis, our first executive director, translated that vision into reality, and laid the path for success. John Walters built up the organization. Adam Meyerson grew things exponentially. And, of course, my predecessor Elise Westhoff infused a bold new voice that’s positioned us for the future.
These are the incredible leaders who came before us. Adam hired me. I worked under Elise. They’re my friends. They’re our colleagues. Some of them are here today. And now, the Roundtable enters its next era.
I’m so excited to tell you about all of the great things happening here, about what I want us to accomplish together, and how our past makes all of this possible.
But first, I want to say thank you. Thank you to the predecessors I just mentioned. And thank you. You are the reason we do what we do. And it is thanks to you that the Roundtable has had so much success over our long history, and it’s why we’ll continue to have that success long into the future.
I want us to remember this. The key to doing something new and doing it well is first to look to the past: to learn the right lessons, to remember where you came from and to know where you’re going. That’s what this year’s Annual Meeting is all about. It’s also what the Roundtable’s next era is all about.
“Honoring our roots.” That’s the mantra. It means remembering our purpose. And it means never backing down.
The Roundtable is your home. We are the only place for donors who share our values.
We’re standing on the shoulders of the people who came before us. And like them, we’re facing some pretty big challenges.
It can feel overwhelming. But it’s helpful to remember that these challenges aren’t new. And the opportunities before us, they’re even greater.
In fact, our community has been knocking it out of the park lately. And the best part is we did it together.
Let’s start with the Roundtable’s advocacy work. You need air cover to protect your philanthropic freedom. That’s why we fight against any effort to restrict giving—and we protect everydonor’s freedom to give how, where and when they choose.
We didn’t just try to push back against bad ideas. We didn’t just try to get good laws on the books. We actually did it.
The Roundtable is the undisputed leader when it comes to protecting philanthropic freedom, and the good news is we’re just getting started.
Let’s talk about the Roundtable’s philanthropic excellence work. You need a real partner who understands what you care about and what you want to achieve in your giving.
Led by my colleague Joanne Florino, our team knows the nuts and bolts of how to effectively run a giving operation.
This year alone, we are working with dozens of the most inspiring and influential donors in America, ensuring that their legacies protect their donor intent and advance our shared values.
And of course—you look to the Roundtable for Values-Based Giving.
Led by my colleague Micah Sagebiel, over the last three years alone, we’ve helped donors invest more than $80 million dollars in nonprofits all across the country.
These groups are moving the needle and getting results … from challenging the status quo on mental health to taking back higher ed. But even more importantly, these groups are putting your values at the heart of everything they do.
Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention our world-class convenings, led by my colleague Jessica Browning. Nowhere else will you find a meeting like this one. A room filled with thought leaders, values-aligned practitioners, and smart and savvy donors strategizing together for a common purpose.
You know this: the Roundtable is special. We occupy such a unique space—not only in the charitable sector, but also in the conservative movement. This community, our community, is everything.
Together, we have had so much success. And we will continue to rack up those successes long into the future.
Why am I so confident in saying this? Well, one—because we’ve SEEN it so many times before. With Kim. With John. With Adam. With Elise.
But here’s the other reason: we’re just built differently from our peers.
We believe in liberty, opportunity, and personal responsibility. We know that philanthropy is the best hope for a flourishing civil society.
And rather than just talking about helping people or talking at them about equity, our donor community takes action to help individuals realize their full potential.
That’s why that small group of rebels banded together back in the 1970s. They knew that an organization would always be needed to advance philanthropy’s highest ideals and, most importantly, advance the values we share. An organization that could hold the banner high when others fell short.
Because, look, finding the right solutions, defending our shared values and protecting your freedom to give, that’s just us.
It’s what you depend on. And it’s what the Roundtable will continue to deliver. It’s also exactly what honoring our roots is all about.
So, stay tuned. The Roundtable’s best days are not only right now — they’re also ahead of us, just like they’ve always been.
Thank you for being a part of the Roundtable community. Thank you for all of the work you’ve done to improve lives. And thank you for placing your trust in me to lead this amazing organization. Thank you.