A post to Exponent Philanthropy's blog

Are Face-to-Face Meetings Obsolete?

Originally published by PEAK Grantmaking (November 17, 2017)

A few weeks ago, I got the opportunity to attend a full day, in-person event with PEAK Grantmaking’s Midwest Regional Chapter. As a millennial (albeit on the older side of the generation) who started her career taking trainings online and conducting webinars, you might be surprised to hear that I was actually excited to attend the event and meet colleagues face-to-face.

In the association-world, we hear this debate all the time: do people really want to meet face-to-face? Doesn’t the younger generation just want to email, snapchat, and use social media? Are face-to-face meetings obsolete?

The Midwest Regional Chapter’s fall meeting (held in Chicago and cohosted by the Grand Victoria Foundation, The Coleman Foundation, and The Chicago Community Trust) showcased exactly why there is so much value in face-to-face learning and connecting opportunities. Here are a few key take-aways:

You can learn a lot during the non-learning portions of a meeting.

The evening before the meeting, many of the attendees (about 20 or so individuals) went out for dinner together. During the meal, I got to meet many philanthropy professionals and learn informally about their job functions, their passions, the amazing contributions of their foundations, and even a bit about them more personally. The face-to-face meeting offered many of these moments- during networking breaks and the working lunch- to really get to know people on a deeper level. This is invaluable to me and cannot be matched by a webinar or conference call.

Being inspired in person is really invigorating!

Getting to listen from individuals in the field- and see their enthusiasm and passion- was truly wonderful. Kendall Bilbro, Public Affairs Analyst at Health Care Service Corporation, who was attending her first regional chapter meeting ever, said: “The speakers from Benefit Chicago and Illinois Partners for Human Service (IPHS) were so enlightening. To be able to look into social enterprise in the Chicago area was incredibly valuable since I am part of a company headquartered in Chicago that values innovation and problem solving.”

Kendall thought that Judith Gethner of IPHS look “into the way her organization is reframing Human Services in Illinois was inspiring. She really showcased the hard data that supports her mission! It also opened my eyes to the way we speak about the programs we support and how the market themselves.”

Nothing beats connecting with people face-to-face.

When I asked Kendall about her experience at the meeting and with PEAK Grantmaking, the connections are what stood out for her most:

“It was great to connect with colleagues at different organizations and learn about how they are solving problems. Since I am from a corporation and many members come from foundations, it’s wonderful to be able to work together as a cohort. Though we fund different areas and in different ways, we share fundamentals and missions that connect us and can help us work together to do social good. Since we are from the same area, we share a lot of the same challenges and are working to address the same problems in our local communities. At the same time, since our area is large we have a diverse chorus of voices in discussions that may bring new insights.”

Sara Sanders is PEAK Grantmaking’s Regional Chapter Manager and focuses on supporting regional chapter officers to lead thriving, successful organizations. Sara plans to learn the needs chapter officers, develop new tools and resources to meet those needs, and help officers share common challenges and great ideas.

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