Sharing Ideas, Reflecting on Challenges, and Building New Connections: the first Sharing Montgomery Grantee Networking Event

By Anna Hargrave, Deputy Director of The Community Foundation for Montgomery County

On Friday, April 24th, The Community Foundation for Montgomery County (CFMC) hosted its first Sharing Montgomery Grantee “Speed Networking” event. This gathering of 70+ nonprofit leaders was the brainchild of C. Marie Henderson, the new CFMC Director who brings over 20 years of experience in the nonprofit field.

“When I was a nonprofit Executive Director, I was frustrated that too few of my colleagues had the time to network, brainstorm, and  think creatively about how to work together more effectively,” explains Marie.  “When I became the CFMC Director, I knew  one of my top goals would be to help our grantees leverage their time, talent, and resources so that they can make a deeper impact.”

Marie kicked off the session with a “reintroduction” to The Community Foundation.  Since most of the nonprofits are only familiar with the open grantmaking process, the staff explained how The Community Foundation works with its 700+ family and corporate donors to help them give to all the causes they care about.  The staff also devoted time to demystify the open grant application and vetting process, letting the nonprofits know the key points our donor-led committees look for reading proposals.

The highlight of the afternoon was the “speed networking.”  Borrowing the format from speed dating, grantees rotated in a large circle.  With each rotation, everyone got to talk to a leader from a different organization about a question posed by the CFMC staff.

  • What does your organization do exceptionally well that makes a tangible difference in the lives of your clients?
  • What are the 3 key resources or tools that help you do your job?
  • What is a big challenge for you?
  • What is one way that you need help in order to make a deeper/bigger impact?
  • What are your clients often asking you for that you cannot provide?
  • If you have the time & resources how would you work with other nonprofits?

So what’s the result?  We don’t know yet!  But we plan to track progress over the year and report back.

Judging by the number of cards exchanged and conversations that lingered well after the formal agenda, we will certainly look out for some exciting new collaborations to bubble up.

If nothing else, I am glad our grantees came away understanding  we want to have more open conversations with them around how we all can work together to lift up and empower our neighbors.