GDConnect 2023 Takeaways
In September, GivingData’s community came together for our annual user group, GDConnect, in sunny Scottsdale, Arizona. Attendees gathered to participate in a series of thought-provoking discussions, insightful workshops, and active networking, leaving them with a new wealth of knowledge and a sense of empowerment to make a difference at their respective organizations.
It was our biggest event yet. As this community has grown over the years, so has the diversity of knowledge and experience among its members. This ensured that GDConnect 2023 would a) have the highest GDConnect attendance to date, and b) provide the most varied and impactful sessions and discussions yet.
One of the downsides of hosting this event in person is that much of the magic of these discussions can’t be captured through photos or videos, though you can relive a lot of those memories through the photo album. As such, we were able to gather a few impactful takeaways from the event from the GivingData team and the community as a whole.
A Culture of Learning
One of the goals of GDConnect is always to facilitate and foster learning. Among our community, we want to ensure better user experiences and knowledge-sharing in every aspect of philanthropy. At this year's conference, our speakers and session facilitators created an environment designed to empower attendees to gain valuable insights, engage in meaningful discussions, and collaboratively shape the future of philanthropy.
Each day offered a wide array of sessions spanning topics like developing a learning and enablement strategy, grasping the basics of evaluation, and using financial data to strengthen grantee partnerships.
As Stefania Ramirez from the Perenchio Foundation put it, ‘GivingData is a partner to think and dream big.’ Her words resonate with the core of our mission to empower foundations to drive positive change.
“We're always teachers and students.”
This year we held our first ever GivingData 101, a pre-conference session for users new to the platform, preparing them for the weekend ahead and showcasing how they can get the most out of GivingData. This session received amazing feedback and we can't wait to incorporate it into next year’s agenda and provide even more resources to new users throughout the year.
Highlighting Trends in Philanthropy
BDO’s Jennifer Pedroni, Director of Nonprofit and Grantmaker Advisory, and Megan Morrison, Senior Manager of Nonprofit and Grantmaker Advisory, gave an insightful session on the interpretation and analysis of crucial financial metrics to foster understanding and strengthen relationships between foundations and grantees.
"When you speak to a grantee about financial health, create a container for the conversation. Establish a safe, supportive space. Why are we having this conversation? What are our goals for this conversation? What are we looking at?"
This session equipped attendees with the tools and understanding needed to effectively support nonprofit organizations in a manner that aligns with their foundation's values. The focus was on being responsive to grantee needs and adapting to the ever-evolving social and economic landscapes in which organizations operate.
The keynote speech given by Kevin Boldoc, Vice President of Assessment and Advisory Services at The Center for Effective Philanthropy, focused on the slowly evolving philanthropic landscape and how now more than ever we need to begin utilizing new models of giving.
“For most of the last 20 years, philanthropy has been marked… by a kind of stasis,” said Bolduc.
Boldoc brought attention to the social challenges of 2020 and the impact the philanthropic evolution of that critical period had on grantees and grantmakers. He emphasized that this isn't merely about acknowledging change—it's about acting on it. The work is far from complete, but the time is now to increase learning and active listening within the space, giving the required and deserved attention to underserved communities.
On day three, attendees gained hyper-relevant knowledge through the “Supercharge Your Productivity with GivingData and ChatGPT” session given by Megan Muneeb from the Overdeck Family Foundation, Richelle Pittella from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, and Rachel Wiegardt-Egel from the Perenchio Foundation. This session focused on the increased presence of AI tools like ChatGPT and ignited a conversation about how foundations adopt these tools in their interactions with grantees.
Attendees got the chance to learn from these grantmakers who have already begun utilizing these tools to increase their productivity and maximize their impact without giving away too much control to these intelligence tools.
“Chat GPT is a powerful tool but should be a draft-maker, not a decision-maker,” said Rachel.
Learning and Growing through Connections
GDConnect is about more than just GivingData as a company or product—it's about creating a welcoming and collaborative environment where grantmakers come together to learn, share, and make a meaningful impact on the world at large.
Meaningful connections at GDConnect happen at and in between sessions. Attendees have ample opportunities to network, exchange ideas, and establish impactful relationships. As the community continues to grow, GDConnect must always be a valuable and welcoming space for both new and returning attendees.
As Alicia Baird at Strada Education Foundation put it, "As a first-time attendee and new user of GivingData, it's exciting to be in a thoughtful and collaborative space. I feel very welcomed and at home."
Looking back, GDConnect fostered the growth of user knowledge and powerful connections within our community while setting the stage for another successful year ahead in grantmaking. We look forward to seeing everyone once again at GDConnect2024 in Atlanta!
Sign up for the GivingData Insights Newsletter
Receive actionable insights to streamline your grantmaking processes straight to your inbox.