Melissa Eystad, 2010 Annual Convening planner

One of the biggest challenges in planning an event like the 2010 MCF Annual Convening is designing how people are going to “be together.” How often have you attended events where the old lecture method is alive and well? Or there’s a panel of talking heads with no time for participant interaction or questions? Or how about the PowerPoint presentation where every slide is read to you – verbatim?

For many years MCF has been giving members the opportunity to gather as a whole to discuss and learn about philanthropy opportunities and issues.  Can you think of a conference format or feature you’ve experienced? Well, we’ve probably tried it.

It would be easier to offer the same design and format year after year.  But our goal is never what is easier for us, but what will make each event interesting, informational, engaging and energizing for as many busy grantmakers as possible. And ultimately, to create an event that plants the seeds for new ideas, solutions and relationships that will increase philanthropy’s impact into the future.

One of the first changes you may have noticed about our 2010 event is the name.  Planning committee members and staff felt strongly that we needed a different image for our annual gathering.  A conference is a conference. The term “convening” conveys more — that it’s about bringing people with common interests and purposes together to learn, discuss, and be inspired about the work ahead.  This will be a truly participatory event.

So, to “break the mold” again with new features and formats at the 2010 MCF Annual Convening, we are:

  • Exchanging the traditional CEO/trustee dinner with a dynamic morning of presentations, conversations and explorations between CEOs, top philanthropy executives and their boards of trustees. These peers will join together to hear about innovative governance and philanthropic leadership opportunities.
  • Reframing breakout sessions as “idea sessions.” Our planning committee challenged us to create more engaging small-group formats that deliver three things: relevant topic content, more attendee discussion and sharing, and clear, tangible tools and applicable strategies.  This may be a tall order for 75- and 90-minute sessions on complex topics – but we’re up to the challenge!
  • Partnering with the MCF Arts and Culture Funders Network and Grantmakers in Film and Electronic Media to offer our first dinner and film option on Thursday evening. Special thanks to MCF members Cindy Gehrig and Robert Byrd from the Jerome Foundation for helping to make this possible!

As planning continues, we’ll have more new developments to report. We know that grantmakers’ time and resources  are limited and valuable, especially in these changing times. But we also know that coming together to build our field-wide strengths is essential, too.

MCF members as well as other grantmakers from Minnesota and the upper Midwest are invited to attend.  Stay tuned to this website for more details and to register.  For a whole new convening experience, join us October 28 & 29 in Plymouth, MN!

- Melissa Eystad, former MCF vice president and current 2010 Annual Convening planner from World Spirit Consulting

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