How to Get the Most Out of CEP’s 2019 Conference

Grace Nicolette

It’s hard to believe there are only a few months to go before CEP’s 2019 national conference in Minneapolis-St. Paul this May (62 days to be precise, but who’s counting?). As the leader of the conference-planning team here at CEP, I wanted to share an update on the program and offer up some tips on how to get the most out of one of the most important gatherings in the field of philanthropy.

But first: if you or your colleagues haven’t registered yet, I recommend reserving your spot as soon as possible. The conference is now 90 percent full and we are expecting it to sell out soon. Register here to reserve your spot today.

The conference program is nearly set, and we are looking forward to engaging attendees in a number of interactive sessions. Here’s a snapshot of some of what’s on the agenda:

  • Rockstar political philosopher Michael Sandel will kick off the conference by leading a discussion on justice and the role of markets in a moral society.
  • CEP leaders will share new research on what foundations are doing in the policy realm, followed by a discussion of what the implications are for philanthropy in our current political moment.
  • An expert panel, including Pulitzer Prize-winning author and MacArthur Fellow Matthew Desmond, will discuss the housing crisis in America and what philanthropy can do to address it.
  • A moderated plenary will focus on philanthropy’s role in healing political divisions, with a breakout session to follow led by trained facilitators from Better Angels, a citizens’ movement that seeks to overcome political logjams.
  • One plenary will be a dialogue between philanthropy critic Anand Giridharadas, whose new book Winners Take All has been the talk of the town, and Jeff Raikes, philanthropist and former head of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
  • There will also be 21 interactive breakout sessions to choose from on topics such as impact investing, applying a racial equity lens to grantmaking, evaluating social change, board governance, when to use intermediaries, bridging the rural/urban divide, cybersecurity, and so much more.

If you’ve already registered, we look forward to seeing you in Minneapolis-St. Paul! Whether it will be your first or fifth time joining us, here are some tips to help you get the most out of your time with us:

  • Make sure you’re registered optimally to take advantage of all the conference as to offer. In particular, be sure to check out our pre-conference sessions and register for them, if you haven’t already!
    • The Challenges and Opportunities of New Grantmaking Entities (free): This session will be based on an upcoming CEP report on the opportunities and challenges that major new grantmaking entities (foundations, LLCs, DAFs) face. Come hear from trustees of new foundations on what advice they would offer those who are setting up grantmaking entities now. This session is sponsored by the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Trust on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of its founding.
    • CEP assessment subscribers session: If your foundation has conducted a CEP assessment in the last five years, join us for a highly interactive and thought-provoking session with your peers on the science and art of making change. Attendees will come away with specific ideas on how to make their change efforts stick.
    • New CEO lunch (free): If you’re the new CEO of a grantmaking entity who has been in your role for less than three years, join your peers and CEP’s president Phil Buchanan for a special welcome lunch.
    • If you’ve already registered for the conference but are interested in joining any of these sessions, please reach out to my colleague Ying Tao at yingt [at] to update your registration.
  • Bring a trustee (or two)! Sign up a trustee to bring with you so they can join the sector’s discussions on effective philanthropy. Trustees receive a 10 percent discount if they sign up with a staff member using the code TRUSTEE2019.
  • Check out the list of attendees to learn who else is coming. Plan to catch up with familiar faces and make new connections! We design the agenda so that you can have opportunities to meet peers and have meaningful conversations.
  • Expect to hear a range of outside perspectives on philanthropy, including those of nonprofit leaders, constituents, academics, and yes, even harsh critics of philanthropy. Some of these voices are calling on philanthropy to do better, and we hope our attendees will listen with an open mind.

For more information and to register, please visit

Grace Nicolette is vice president, programming and external relations, at CEP. Follow her on Twitter at @gracenicolette.

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