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Actionable Ideas for Non-Traditional Community Foundation Strategies: Knight Foundation Media Learning Seminar 2013

Lori Larson Lori Larson

Last week I had the unique experience of attending the Sixth Annual Knight Foundation Media Learning Seminar (MLS) 2013 in Miami, February 10-12. The speakers included a confluence of thought- and strategy-challenging leaders from diverse industries and sectors. This was my first Knight Foundation MLS and it was full of outstanding and engaging speakers who encouraged non-traditional action toward new insights in the changing media and technological landscape. The MLS showcased several concrete examples of how foundations are helping to fill their community's information needs and forging through traditional barriers and attitudes. The Twitter community was lively with the hashtag #infoneeds and in-person networking and dialogue was robust. You can view the agenda, speakers, scribe reports, and archived session videos here.

The prominent themes and ideas of the content and dialogue at MLS of how community foundations can affect positive social change and improve quality of life are below:

  • Community foundations are uniquely positioned to become civic leaders to distribute community information to facilitate and support positive social change.
  • Collecting data for clarity of community needs and issues can be transformative for effective decision making and positive social change.
  • Social change will not occur without experimentation and managing risk through a non-traditional lens.
  • Positive social change cannot be accomplished without relationship building and community engagement of the broader community.
    • Community foundations must overcome traditional barriers and attitudes in strategies, collaborations, and partnerships.
    • Digital media is the entryway for broad distribution and engagement.

Bottom line: Community foundations have a unique opportunity (and arguably responsibility) to be the change agents for building civic infrastructure, distributing community information, supporting positive social change, and ultimately improving quality of life in their communities.

In addition to meeting new friends and colleagues, I also enjoyed spending time with five of our DonorEdge customers in the DonorEdge Learning Community:

These five community foundations, as well as the other thirteen community foundations in the DonorEdge Learning Community, have taken to heart and action the core message expressed at MLS, in addition to other market and technology challenges. DonorEdge is the technological platform and the DonorEdge Learning Community is the community of practice, selected by these sector leaders to achieve their larger organizational goals of sustainability, community knowledge and leadership, social change, and ultimately improving the quality of life in their communities.

If you are interested in learning more about DonorEdge or the DonorEdge Learning Community, please contact Lori Larson, senior director GuideStar DonorEdge,

Lori Larson is senior director of GuideStar DonorEdge and is responsible for GuideStar’s market and product strategy for DonorEdge, as well as working with the DonorEdge Learning Community and increasing the number of community foundations adopting DonorEdge as part of their larger organizational strategies. Prior to joining GuideStar, Lori worked for the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation, leading teams including knowledge development, nonprofit outreach, and donor relations. Previous to her foundation work, Lori was the operations manager of a multi-entity oil and gas corporation in Houston, Texas, and was assistant publisher of a software company in Shreveport, Louisiana.

Lori holds a B.A. in Economics, With Distinction, from the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and an MBA in Finance from Baker College Center for Graduate Studies. Lori is a Ph.D candidate in Leadership and Organizational Change at Walden University. Her dissertation, Adaptive Business Models for Community Foundation Resilience, is in progress with expected graduation December 2013. You may reach Lori directly at

Topics: Nonprofit Leadership and Practice