Leading a New Network for Philanthropy
by David Biemesderfer
President & CEO
Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers
Earlier this month, I moved from Florida to Washington, D.C. to take on a new role as president and CEO of the Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers. A number of my friends and colleagues have teasingly questioned the wisdom of my decision to move north – particularly during the winter and particularly after the blizzard we just endured. But I am incredibly excited to be a new resident of our nation’s capital city, not just because it’s such a vibrant and growing metropolitan region, but because I have an opportunity to lead a vibrant and growing organization.
The Forum is the largest network serving philanthropy in America, consisting of 33 regional philanthropy associations – including the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers (WRAG) – with more than 5,500 participating organizations. The Forum Network’s greatest strength is that we bring together the dual assets of deep regional roots and a broad nationwide reach. No other organization in philanthropy brings these assets to the table in the way that we do.
The Forum supports and advances the work of WRAG and its regional association colleagues in many ways. We offer staff professional development and peer-to-peer networking opportunities to help people be effective in their regional association work. We strengthen philanthropy’s voice in public policy by building regional associations’ capacity to engage in policy work. We provide an effective vehicle to allow regional associations to share data, information, and resources. And we help regional associations pool their resources and expertise to better serve their members.
The Forum operates as a true network that relies on the contributions of all of its regional association members, and WRAG is an active contributor to the network. Some of WRAG’s recent work – like its “Our Region, Your Investment” affordable housing initiative and its “Putting Racism on the Table” lecture series – are shining examples of how regional associations can play an impactful leadership role in their regions, and Forum members will continue to learn a great deal from WRAG’s leadership efforts.
Over the next two years, the Forum will begin implementing a new vision. We plan to broaden our network to bring together the assets of the Forum with the assets of national philanthropy-serving organizations – specifically national issue-based, identity-based, and practice-based affinity groups – to create a “one-stop shop” for philanthropies to find and engage others with similar interests, share knowledge, and advance policy. We will put our new vision into action through an inclusive, collaborative, iterative, and co-designed process with current and new partners, guided by a design team comprised equally of representatives of regional associations and national affinity groups.
I’m honored to be taking over the helm of the Forum at this pivotal moment for the organization and for the philanthropy field, and look forward to being an active member of the Washington, D.C. community (weather challenges aside). Working with wonderful members and partners like our neighbor, the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers, I am committed to making significant progress in how we support, connect and advance philanthropy in our country.
Note: WRAG president Tamara Lucas Copeland served on the Forum’s Board of Directors from 2009 to 2015.