Did you know there is a professional conference for philanthropy-serving organizations (PSOs)? Before I began working at Arizona Grantmakers Forum, I didn’t, but why wouldn’t there be? There’s a conference for everything, right? The United Philanthropy Forum, formerly the Forum of Regional Association of Grantmakers, held its annual conference July 17-19, and a host of PSO staff descended upon downtown San Francisco in a bevy of excitement.

While I am still new to this world, I was happy to represent one of more than 60 Forum members from across the United States and share nuggets of wisdom with our peers.

My hope for this conference was to learn more about this world of PSOs and how to better serve AGF members; however, this experience awarded me far more.

Leading change was the theme that resonated throughout the conference. I was inspired after many discussions during the breakout sessions and the calls to action during the breakfast and lunch keynotes.

For instance, what makes a great leading philanthropic-serving organization? We had the good fortune to find out during a breakfast plenary with Dr. Robert K. Ross, President and CEO of The California Endowment.

From Dr. Ross, I learned five ways philanthropy can play a moral and civic role in the community that ensures meaningful opportunity, inclusion, social justice and equity:

  1. Begin our efforts using the organization’s values and principles.
  2. Stand tall on inclusion.
  3. Double our current efforts of civic engagement.
  4. Support the work of a positive shared narrative of our community and nation.
  5. Increase efforts of engagement with millennials/youth.

Before concluding, Dr. Ross asked everyone to think about the day before our first day in philanthropy. He then talked about the current state of our nation and asked us to reflect on the hardships our ancestors faced to provide better opportunities for future generations. Without a dry eye in the room, he challenged us to go beyond ourselves and take a stand towards making change.

It was certainly an honor to engage with and listen to Dr. Ross and other experts in the field of philanthropy. Here is a quick list of my takeaways from these experts during #FORUMCON17:

  • Involve members in your diversity, equity and inclusion efforts
  • Create unique value for your members
  • Make a difference for your members
  • Lead the change in your community (organizationally and individually)

All of this is interesting, right? But the real question is: how do I apply this to my own work? Here is my commitment:


I will commit to diversity, equity and inclusion efforts through my role at AGF.

I will commit to making a difference for our members.

I will work to make our organization more cutting edge.

I will commit to making a change in our community.


My time at the Forum conference was definitely well spent and I have already taken full advantage of the resources I obtained. Furthermore, the invaluable information I learned will help me and the team find new ways to provide value and engage our members!

Finally, I would be remiss in not thanking the United Philanthropy Forum and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation for awarding me the opportunity to attend this wonderful conference. It was an incredible week getting to meet my peers, laugh together, cry together and learn together. I hope I have the pleasure of attending again next year!


Kalisha Bass

Member Engagement Manager