Donor-only Salon Dinners


At the 2019 National Forum, we were excited to offer donors the opportunity to attend small-group salon dinners the at several top-notch restaurants in Denver.

Salon dinners consisted of a group of eight to fourteen donors engaged in a thought-provoking conversation around a specific topic as they shared a meal together. There were neither formal presentations nor solicitations regarding an issue, organization, or social challenge.

Attendees prioritized their top three topics of interest from the list below, and were placed in a group based on availability and preference.


Salon Dinner Basics:

  • The main rule: Dinners are centered around a singular conversation, the whole time. That’s 8 to 14 brains on one topic!
  • A mix of guests: The goal is for attendees get to know new people from different parts of the country via an engaging conversation in an intimate setting.
  • Pre-reading and questions to consider in advance: Dinner attendees were asked to complete pre-reading (<10min) to provide context for a given topic. Attendees also received a thought-provoking icebreaker question in advance of the dinner. 
  • Discussion leader: Each dinner was led by a donor peer to pose questions and encourage every participant to contribute to the overall conversation. 



Transcending Split Coalitions

  • Frederick Hess, Resident Scholar and Director of Education Policy Studies, American Enterprise Institute

Civic Education Renewal

  • Adam Kissel, Director of Civic and Higher Education Programs, The Philanthropy Roundtable

The Evolution of the School District

  • Hanna Skandera, Founder, Pathway 2 Tomorrow

Character and Culture in the Classroom 

  • Anne Snyder, Director, Character Initiative, The Philanthropy Roundtable

Startup School Models

  • Pat Burke, Program Manager of K-12 Education Programs, The Philanthropy Roundtable