Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Let's Talk

Over the past two days I have been in several discussions with SECF board representatives and members about the work of SECF's Government Affairs Committee. As foundations we find ourselves at an unusual and somewhat uncomfortable place...a place we have not been for some time. We face increasingly scrutiny and are challenged to both preserve what is necessary to do our best work while responding to unprecedented times of financial and social upheaval. We have tough choices to make and important constituents to defend. We have to be creative and flexible and smart. We have to do what it is that foundations do best.

As an organization of member foundations, SECF has to determine when and how we best communicate the vital role of philanthropy in society. How much do our members know, want to know or need to know about policies affecting our sector? How do we build critical, sustainable relationships with executive and legislative branches of government? How do we think and speak and act in a way that honors our members' interests and intent? How do we present distinct and sometimes opposing member perspectives on issues that affect the communities we are committed to serve?

Not unlike the topic of religion, policy conversations -public action, advocacy, politics - make the hairs on the back of our neck go up. Yet as individual foundations and as a cohort, can we afford not to have them? Can we authentically claim to seek a better society without understanding, deliberating, debating and engaging in how that society functions?

If you believe the conversations are necessary, there's no time better to begin than now. What do you think?