Confessions of a First-time Conference Blogger – Grantmakers Without Borders 2010 Wrap-Up

Grantmakers without Borders held their 10th annual conference in San Francisco from June 7-9th.

Why do people love social media?

Because tweeting and blogging are fast, frank and fun.

I liken it to a mini op-ed page from a much more diverse set of voices than your local newspaper. While blogs may yield uneven journalism, it does helps you be in two places at once, physically impossible but virtually I find it is becoming a strange reality. For an anthropologist, I find it both seductive and intriguing.

In this final post to the Gw/oB Conference Blog, I include three things: 1) the wrap-up of our efforts, 2) a description of how I organized the blog effort in 72 hours, and 3) a few reflections on the experience.

1. Wrap-up of the Conference Blog

By the end of the week, our social media effort yielded: six posts by four bloggers, 231 tweets from 35 contributors and a citation in the Chronicle of Philanthropy: 6/9/2010 Daily Update From the Chronicle of Philanthropy that generated 390 unique page views. The blogs ranged from a summary of issues to personal perspectives as follows:

Shouldn’t All Grantmakers & NGOs Work Harder to Fail Forward, Hand-in-Hand?

by David Kramer on June 11, 2010

A commentary on the value of why learning from mistakes and sharing them openly is essential to good grantmaking and social change work.

Networking on Steroids: A Reciprocity Web Defined

by Jennifer Astone on June 10, 2010

A step-by-step guide to the reciprocity web, a fabulous networking tool used at Gw/oB conferences.

Raised at Gw/oB: Critical Issues in International Grantmaking

by Adin Miller on June 10, 2010

Adin highlight four key themes from the Africa convening about the challenges and successes of international grantmakers funding grassroots and community-based efforts.

Anatomy of a Global Donor

by Jennifer Astone on June 9, 2010

A summary of outgoing Gw/oB Executive Director John Harvey’s speech on what he has learned from ten years of listening to and learning from social justice philanthropists.

The Power of One, or the Momentum of Many?

by Peter Laugharn on June 9, 2010

Discussion of what drives social enterprise non-profits: do communities make the organization or do their leaders?

Do Funders Exploit Community-Based Organizations?

by Dr. Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenberg on June 8, 2010

Why funders need to take community-based organizations more seriously.

2. Organizing the Gw/oB Conference Blog

On the Thursday morning before the conference, I was on the phone lamenting the lack of media coverage of the impending Gw/oB conference (June 7-9) with Adin Miller. His response: “Jen, it’s easy to make it happen.” Startled I asked him for advice. Within 48 hours, we had lined up four people to blog, a twitter hashtag #gwob, and set up a protocol for posting on Firelight Foundation’s blog site. Adin is a veteran conference blogger and I am a newbie.

We used a google docs excel spreadsheet to identify who would cover what sessions but that rapidly broke down. We had only a few bloggers and people covered what interested them.

Adin recommended using Tweetdeck for following the tweets. I downloaded it and found pretty easy to use but overwhelming. Let’s just say that tweeting wouldn’t have been half as much fun without the bit.ly sidebar which shortened the URLs for me, although sometimes they are just as long as the original!

While Gw/oB didn’t have a blog platform, one of the member foundations did, so I called up Firelight Foundation Executive Director Peter Laugharn and asked if they would host us [Full disclosure – I worked as Executive Director there for seven years]. His Communications Director Suzana Grego came back with a resounding yes. Turns out everyone is trying to find ways to create interesting content and drive traffic to their site!

Editorial role

As traffic cop for Firelight, I did have to respond to bloggers’ concerns about whether the content of their blog postings hit the right note or not. I decided not to play editor with the content. My rule was if a writer had doubts, give them 24 hours to sleep on it and then decide. I did ask writers to split blog entries that I thought tried to cover too much territory into two different columns, sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t.

Mostly, I played the role of cheerleader.

3. Confessions of a First-Time Blogger

1. I found that I wrote blog posts at night in my jammies at the end of a long conference day and it was less intimidating to speak my mind.

2. I reminded myself that my words were just one experience so I gave up the journalist hat and focused.

3. I was intimidated by both the time pressure and the thought that my ideas may not be fully formed. But in the end felt like some written record of the Gw/oB Conference was important.

Last Thoughts – What did I learn from the Gw/oB Conference?

I learned that, as usual, foundations, both big and small, identify the best and the brightest minds to do their grantmaking. They then bury them in work and expectations that narrow their vision and ability to connect. One of my favorite program officers at a medium-sized foundation is so overloaded that she cannot perceive of taking the time to get to know her colleagues. And I insisted that she do it by making formal introductions to several colleagues that she needs to be working with. It is wrong for us to work in isolation, reinvent the wheel and hold on to the precious lessons we learn every day from the people we care about the most: our grantees and partners.

That’s why we attend conferences, that’s why we blog and tweet about them, that’s why social media is breaking down the barriers in the way email and the internet replaced the telex and faxes and phone calls of the 1980s. Let’s turn conference attendance into a pledge for action by connecting with foundation colleagues and sharing information.

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About jenastone

Consultant. Leverage grant portfolios for greater impact. Small grant guru. Networker. Africanist. Non-profit board development. Avid reader and writer. Mother.
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One Response to Confessions of a First-time Conference Blogger – Grantmakers Without Borders 2010 Wrap-Up

  1. jenastone says:

    Hi everyone,
    This is my first blog posting and I plan to blog from the Association of Small Foundation’s conference in Austin, Texas October 11-13.
    Thanks, Jen

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