WDN Connect 2014: A recap of our annual conference

The Women Donors Network gathered for our annual meeting this year in Berkeley, California. With a crowd of more than 110 members and guests for Imagine 2030, we stepped into the future and used three different potential scenarios as fodder for engaging in deep conversations and action planning about who we are as a community and where we want to go. 

Read on for some key highlights of the program, which began with a pre-conference Movement Building Learning Lab, and ended with a rousing keynote address from Georgia Rep. Stacey Abrams. You can also view more photos in our online gallery, here.

WDN member Quinn Delaney and Women’s Foundation of California President Surina Kahn share lessons and insights of social justice funders.

Our well attended pre-conference event was facilitated by Manuel Pastor, back by popular demand after keynoting our 2013 conference in San Antonio. Attendees got to hear from dynamic movement leaders about their work, which ranged from organizing for an increase in wages for tipped restaurant workers to helping formerly incarcerated people become leaders in their communities. In the afternoon session, funders including WDN’s own Quinn Delaney shared their “true confessions” about what has worked and what hasn’t worked in funding social movements.

Members and allies enjoy the sunset at our special reception.

We hosted an energizing and very successful welcome reception with WDN members, prospective members, and allies from the Bay Area community. More than 150 people joined us, with a beautiful sunset backdrop, for casual mingling and connecting. This event was so well enjoyed by all that we hope to include it as a new tradition at future conferences. A big thanks to WDN member Celeste Worl, who provided excellent music at the reception and throughout the conference.

Angela Glover Blackwell delivers the opening keynote address.

We kicked off our opening night with an overview of WDN’s accomplishments this year by President & CEO Donna Hall, and an inspiring speech by PolicyLink Founder and CEO Angela Glover Blackwell. Donna introduced the WDN Board of Directors — which will be led next year by Chair Kim Oxholm, Vice Chair Jessica Ozberker, Treasurer Jamie McMahon and Secretary Margery Goldman — by asking them all to share “six word memoirs” about their board service. She also introduced the newest Board member, Mary Willis. Angela then picked up on the six-word theme and shared one of her own as the title of her talk: “Equity is the Superior Growth Model.”

Throughout the conference, the leaders of WDN’s nine donor circles hosted meetings with members to review their work from 2014, and to plan for next year. Stay tuned for a summary report soon about the collective action work WDN members have accomplished through circles this year.

Leaders share insights about future trends.

Some of the brightest leaders of the day helped us frame our discussion about the future, asking us to think about major trends that will be coming into play over the next 15 years. Heather McGhee, the new President of Demos, a public policy organization that works on democracy and economic opportunity issues, Shayda Edwards Naficy, Director of the International Water Campaign at Corporate Accountability International, Ian Inaba, Executive Director at Citizen Engagement Lab, an organization that leverages technology to fuel social change, and Ai-jen Poo, Director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, Co-Director of the Caring Across Generations campaign, and Co-Founder of the Make It Work Campaign, set up the discussion for us. Read more about what they shared in this blog post.

On Saturday afternoon, we took a field trip for lunch at Los Cilantros, a woman-run restaurant incubated by La Cocina. La Cocina helps low-income women of color in the San Francisco Bay Area who want to open their own small food businesses, and was founded by two WDN members who shared their stories with us at the lunch.

Shanthi Gonzales and Georgia Rep. Stacey Abrams

To wrap up the conference, we were treated to an informative and energetic capstone speech by Georgia Rep. Stacey Abrams, an up-and-coming leader, progressive champion, and a shining example of reflective democracy. She started out sharing a personal story about how she became the author (under the pen name Selena Montgomery) of several science-fiction romance novels, and ended by laying out her bold plan to register all 800,000 eligible but unregistered voters in Georgia by 2020. Included here is a photo of Rep. Abrams with our own newly elected official, Shanthi Gonzales, who will be serving next year as a member of the Oakland School Board!

Another treat on Sunday morning was a special performance by WDN member Mary Ford, who sang with a piano accompanist a beautiful rendition of “Alive in the World.”

Please save the date for next year’s WDN Connect, which will be held Nov. 12-15 in New Orleans, Louisiana! On the 10-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, we return to the Gulf South, where we have previously held conferences in 2005 and 2009. We will spend time studying and celebrating women’s leadership in rebuilding the region, assessing the role of race, class and gender, and taking away lessons learned. Hope to see you there.


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