Exponent Philanthropy 2018 National Conference

what a TREMENDOUS time –

The Walters Family Foundation attended the Exponent Philanthropy 2018 National Conference in Philadelphia, PA on September 28 – 30. This Conference offers timely and relevant educational content for staff, donors, and trustees at all levels of experience and serving all types of foundations (including community and family foundations) as well as individual donors, donor advised fund holders and managers, philanthropic service professionals, and thought leaders in the field of philanthropy. Henry Berman, CEO of Exponent Philanthropy, kicked off the Conference festivities with a warm welcome.

Over three days, Clifford Walters (President of the Walters Family Foundation) and I had the opportunity to attend the opening plenary session and various interactive learning sessions, as well as share knowledge and insights during networking opportunities with fellow peers. One insight that really caught my attention during the Conference was about how perpetuity is a really long time and given this concept, we need to be thinking not only for the now but also our future generations who will run the Foundation.

Some of the sessions we attended included:WFF

  • Opening Plenary: From Biases to Strength with Dr. Suzanne Barakat
  • A Governance Tune-Up
  • For Impact: Get Your Team and Funding Processes on the Same Page
  • Transitioning from Awarding Grants to Making Investments
  • Investing in Game Changers
  • Technology for Better Grantmaking
  • Let It Go: Streamline Your Application and Reporting

During the session For Impact: Get Your Team and Funding Processes on the Same Page, I learned some new perspectives to take back to our Foundation including the importance of ensuring our mission, vision and values align between our Foundation and the grantees, how communication is critical to building trust with our grantees, and the keys to success is to provide explicit expectations to our grantees. The speakers also provided this excellent guide for successful funding and evaluation:


I categorized the Walters Family Foundation as a “Strategic Partner” where we seek to help understand where our non-profit partners have gaps and provide support both from an educational consulting perspective during site visits as well as a funding perspective. Over the past few years, we have focused our grantmaking towards helping non-profits in their capacity building efforts through funding a story-telling video. This approach allows our partners to tell their stories of success and promote these videos to help with their fundraising goals.

One of the most memorable moments during the Conference, was learning about successful case studies from our peers and sharing our own impactful case study at the Hall of Outsized Impact.

Hall of Outsized Impact

Exponent Philanthropy created this unique opportunity for presenters to discuss and showcase grants with impact beyond the dollar amount. The Hall of Outsized Impact was dedicated to telling funder stories where peers could hear about transformative work, have an opportunity to ask questions, and get ideas to solve issues in their own communities.

We were honored to be selected to present a case study on our partnership with the Oregon Symphony at the Hall of Outsized Impact. President of the Walters Family Foundation, Clifford Walters, shared with fellow attendees the success story of the grant we awarded the Oregon Symphony to help grow their capacity building efforts through a story-telling video.WFF

Here we showcase the published case study:


Walters Family Foundation

What kind of activity was it?

Grant support, capacity building, arts and culture

What was the dollar amount?


What was your objective?

The Walters Family Foundation’s objective was to fund a video grant to help tell the story—for fundraising purposes—of the Oregon Symphony under the direction of Associate Conductor Norman Huynh and Music Director Carlos Kalmar at the symphony’s 2018 gala event and on its website. The symphony’s mission is to inspire youth to play and appreciate music through classes, lessons, and “kinderkonzerts” for more than 10,000 children, many of whom are from low-income families. The hypothesis was: If donors can see the outsized impact the musicians have on at-risk children, they will donate more money.

What were the results?

The 2018 gala resulted in a record 65% increase in donations with the same number of attendees as the year before. The symphony had a speaker, held paddle and silent auctions, and showed videos, including two short videos in key areas and a longer video that told the full story of the musicians’ work with at-risk children. The symphony raised nearly $1.2 million from the more than 400 guests.WFF

Why would you say this effort had outsized impact?

The foundation’s funding of this video grant for the symphony translated into significant donations to the symphony’s general budget. Leveraging this video grant to tell the symphony’s story and help the organization grow proved to be far more effective than a $10,000 donation to the general budget alone.

What did you learn from this project that other funders should know?

When considering if an organization is worthy of a video grant, look for leaders who know their mission and have a clear strategy for growing their organization. Through site visits, the foundation discovered that some nonprofits do not have a strategy for growth. As a partner, the foundation has used the phrase “grow it or close it.” This may sound harsh, but organizations have reported that this is what they needed to hear.

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Thank you Exponent Philanthropy for an informative, inspiring and thought provoking Conference! We are looking forward to the next Exponent Philanthropy National Conference in Anaheim, CA in October 2020!