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Passing it On

Publication date: 
Saturday, March 1, 2014
Annie HernandezExecutive Director, Frieda C. Fox Family Foundation and Youth Philanthropy Connect

My first GEO conference was in 2010 in Pittsburgh. At the time, I working for The Lumpkin Family Foundation based in Illinois. While I had been a fan of the GEO publications and resources for quite a while, I wasn't sure what to expect of the conference and its attendees. As a way to meet new people and become oriented to the conference, I signed up for the Ambassador program for first time attendees. I was paired with Ken Saxon of the Saxon Family Fund and the Santa Barbara based nonprofit, Leading from Within. Little did I know at the time, the care and attention the GEO staff puts into making the Ambassador matches. Ken made me feel immediately welcome and we had a shared connection in our passion for leadership capacity building. Ken's welcome was the first of many, as the GEO community seems to be one of the friendliest philanthropy conferences around!

Fast forward to 2012 when I moved from rural Illinois to the Santa Barbara, CA area to work remotely for the Studio City, CA based Frieda C. Fox Family Foundation. Wanting to learn about and engage in my new community, my first connection and call was to Ken Saxon. Once again, Ken was generous with his time, and additionally, his connections and engaging me in his work developing emerging leaders in the nonprofit sector. What a gift that I may have never received without GEO!

My capacity building work has recently been focused on building networks for social good and helping individual organizations explore what is means to be networked. Of course, one of the critical elements is intentionally building and sustaining relationships. I like the term 'network weaving', coined by June Holley to describe the act of deliberately connecting others in an effort to strengthen social ties. I try to be very intentional about my role as a network weaver as you never know when and where connections, like mine with Ken, will take you. (Please sure to also check out GEO’s publication Cracking the Network Code: Four Principles for Grantmakers.)

As my way of thanking Ken and GEO for the gift of connections and to continue to build my GEO network, I am an Ambassador at this year’s conference for two first-time attendees. My conversations with both have provided me with new information and inspiring ideas. I definitely feel I have gained more than I have given!

I would encourage you to intentionally build your GEO network through being a conference Ambassador in the future but also by following up with the people you meet at the conference to share resources or deeper conversations…and don’t forget to take advantage of the amazing network weavers that are the GEO staff. You never know, you could find yourself being the next transplant to the sunny beaches of Santa Barbara...

Find Annie on Twitter: @anniehernandez


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