A Few Observations from the Grants Managers Network 2011 Conference

Below are a few observations from the recently completed annual conference of the Grants Managers Network (GMN).

Social media use continues to grow within the grants management community. But it also reflects the ongoing challenges grantmakers have in embracing social media for their work. Issues commonly voiced at the conference focused on how to best use social media as a funder, loss of the control over communication message, and challenges around internally managing social media demands. Not surprisingly, these concerns also were voiced at the Communication Network conference earlier in 2010 (see this link for all the posts published during and after the conference).

Nevertheless, the growth and use of social media (especially Twitter) at GMN conferences is truly refreshing. Three years ago I moderated a session on social media platforms and was the only person actively tweeting during the conference. This year, 41 people actively posted a total of 409 tweets specifically for the conference content (click here for some more statics). Not surprisingly, most of the tweeter users represent the younger vanguard of grants managers. A full transcript of all the tweets is available here.

GMN has been at the forefront of several projects – such as Project Streamline – that have influenced the philanthropic sector. A separate effort by the GMN community has focused on defining the grants management profession by building the knowledge base for best practices, resources, and opportunities for shared learning related to grants management in philanthropy. Titled the Body of Knowledge, the compendium is organized into 12 sections reflecting 89 topics and additional subtopics.  My hope is that this wonderful tool becomes much more visible within the philanthropic sector.

My last observation links to the closing plenary session by Lucy Bernholz of Blueprint Research & Design and Phil Buchanan of the Center for Effective Philanthropy. In their discussion, much was made of the rich data foundations have at their disposal but the inefficient way in which the organizations make them available.  During the conference, there was a quiet discussion and recognition that the time may be at hand for philanthropic institutions to revisit their coding systems and develop a common codification system for data that would make it much easier to publically share information.


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