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The CEP Conference: A Retrospective and an Invitation

Date: February 9, 2023

Grace Nicolette

Vice President, Programming and External Relations, CEP

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As our team here at the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP) begins planning in earnest for our fall 2023 conference, I am reminded of the power of this gathering. There is something invaluable about coming together in person in this way: a unique time to learn from others, to have thoughtful conversations (both planned and spontaneous), to meet and re-meet friends both new and old, and to take a pause from the normal course of day-to-day work to think big. All of this energizes, inspires, and revitalizes us in our everyday work.

On that note, I reflect with gratitude on (and to) the incredible individuals who have shared their knowledge and expertise at CEP conferences past. Our biennial conferences bring together senior foundation leaders, program officers, senior learning and evaluation officers, trustees, and major donors, with the chance to learn together as a sector. But don’t take it from me. You can get a sense of what CEP’s conference has been from our past conference sessions on YouTube.

For starters, you can see the kinds of new research CEP often releases at our conferences, like our 2019 session, “Philanthropy and Policy: Undue Influence or Crucial Strategic Lever?” which featured my colleague Ellie Buteau presenting new findings from CEP, and then a standout panel including then Marguerite Casey Foundation Board Member (and now President and CEO) Carmen Rojas, Wilburforce Foundation Executive Director Paul Beaudet, and New York Community Trust’s now-retired President Lorie A. Slutsky.

And our sessions go far beyond discussions of new CEP research to explore other practical topics relevant to funders no matter their area of focus. Take this session in 2017 by the Harvard economist Raj Chetty on “Improving Economic Opportunity in America” or the unforgettable exhortations to the field of philanthropy by Equal Justice Initiative’s Bryan Stevenson. The latter, like several of our sessions each year, are unrecorded by request of the speakers, but I hope you’ll take my word for just how powerful these messages are.

Looking forward, we are excited to once again bring together some of the sharpest and most thoughtful minds in the philanthropic and nonprofit sectors — those tackling the thorny issues and asking the tough questions. As the world grapples with the long-term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on communities and youth, increased exposure to natural and human-made disasters, and in a time of economic uncertainty, it is more vital than ever to come together and take stock of how to best steward our roles in philanthropy for the common good in this moment.

This fall, it will have been four years since our last CEP conference (sadly, we had to cancel our 2021 one). I know for me, personally, beginning to plan this conference has revived memories of the energy and vitality of past gatherings, and I wanted to share that sense of excitement with you. I also wanted to extend a personal invitation to the senior foundation leaders, learning and evaluation folks, program officers, and trustees to join us in Boston next October. If you’d like a preliminary list of who you’ll see there, check out our attendee list (updated regularly). I sincerely hope you will join us for this unique moment of reconvening after four change-filled years; there’s a lot to learn together and discuss.

Grace Nicolette is vice president, programming and external relations, at CEP, and co-host of the Giving Done Right Podcast. Follow her on Twitter at @gracenicolette.

Editor’s Note: CEP publishes a range of perspectives. The views expressed here are those of the authors, not necessarily those of CEP.

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