This is a guest post by Jamie Raspberry, Director of Policy and Strategic Partnerships at Mississippi Alliance of Nonprofits and Philanthropy.
This was my first year to attend the United Philanthropy Forum Conference and I must say, it was one of the best conferences I have ever attended in my career. Also, it was my first-time visiting New York City, so that added to the great experience I had!
I joined the Mississippi Alliance of Nonprofits and Philanthropy in April of 2021 and began my journey of working in the nonprofit and philanthropy sector, after having a 20-year career in for-profit healthcare. It has been quite an adjustment to understanding the sector as a whole, but also being that the Alliance is a hybrid model of serving both nonprofits in the state and as a PSO. Engaging with the Forum has been a huge benefit to me as I have navigated working in this new field and fully grasping how the work we do at the Alliance impacts children, families, and communities in our great state.
My engagement with the Forum has been primarily with attending the monthly Public Policy calls and listening and learning from so many others across the country that are leading impactful policy initiatives that we all care about. Also, this last year I participated in the Racial Equity Learning and Action Cohort and met even more amazing leaders from PSOs within the forum.
What I was most excited about in attending the Confab was actually getting to meet many of those that I have only seen on a screen over the last two years! It was so nice to “put a face with a name” or in this virtual world we have been in, to “put a full body with a face from a screen.” There were so many faces and names I had only seen in a small box during these monthly calls and sessions that I was walking around the full three days looking for the body that matched the face! Many I found and got to talk with and change to look someone in the eyes and sit next to them and have a meaningful conversation, there is great power in that.
If there was one person that I looking forward to connecting with in person the most, it was my learning partner from the Racial Equity Learning and Action Cohort, Laura Riordan-Berardi from the Iowa Council of Foundations. Laura and I were connected together through this cohort, and it was truly a joy and honor to get to know her and learn not just about the work she does with the Iowa Council of Foundations, but to get a glimpse into her personal life as a wife and mother. We met several times virtually through the cohort and I felt a special bond with her in many ways but having the opportunity to see her in real life, hug her and sit next to her was even more special. I would have to say this was the highlight of my attendance at the confab!
I am back in Mississippi, back to my work, back to my life, but I am forever connected to many people across the country, and even the world, after having the experience to meet them, see them, touch them, and connect with them, at the confab.
Thank you to the Forum for an amazing time in NYC and an even more amazing time of connecting with people in person!