2020 PowerUP! The Spark That Ignites Change Conference Recap

It’s hard to believe that two months have passed since we hosted PowerUP! The Spark That Ignites Change, the national conference for the network of our sister organizations across the country. These biennial conferences are intended to provide basic information for women leading and running collective giving and grantmaking organizations – from membership recruitment and retention strategies to effective use of social media and other forms of member communication – as well as offer peer-to-peer learning opportunities around best practices in grantmaking and women’s philanthropy. As the host affiliate, Washington Women’s Foundation also had the opportunity to ensure that all Conference programming reflected our commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. 

Responding to the impacts of COVID-19 has been prioritized in our Foundation communications to members over the past several weeks. However, we did not want to let pass the opportunity to share broadly with our membership what a success the Conference was, to thank the many members who helped us plan and execute every aspect of the Conference experience, and to share a few Conference resources with those of you who were not able to attend. 


Women from across the network volunteered many hours over the course of many months to ensure a successful Conference. We especially want to thank the WA Women’s Fdn members who led and supported the Conference effort! 

  • To Laura Midgley and Bo Lee, the Conference Co-Chairs, for their leadership, passion, and dedication. A former WA Women’s Fdn Board member and founding Board member of our national network, Laura devoted her full energies to every aspect of the Conference, from branding and strategy to making seating assignments for our plenary guests. Bo juggled service on our Board, an ex officio position on the network Board, a full-time job as an executive at BNY Mellon, and a young family with Conference duties. These two women did an incredible job of leading a two-year planning effort, no small feat! 
  • To the Conference Leadership Team, including Morgan Dawson and Marion DeForest. Morgan managed our volunteers, venue and venue staff, AV and AV staff, hospitality, many facets of registration, and helped Beth recruit the Conference plenary speakers. Marion worked with Susan Benford, Past President of The Philanthropy Connection in Boston, to oversee the team that planned all of the Conference breakout sessions. 
  • To Conference Committee volunteers, including Aki Shibuya (Social Media and Spotlight Award Selection Committee) and Erika Washburn, Alison Wilson, Anne Barker, Kit Bakke (Communications) and Rosalie Gann and Toby Donner (Spotlight Award Selection Committee). 
  • To the Breakout Session Planning Committee, which included Susan Barley, Cedra DuFlon-Heide, Kris Kaminishi, Kit Bakke, and Sharon Hammel.  They worked with Clare O’Brien (Impact 100 Cincinnati), Lauren Paver (Impact Austin), Vivian Manekin (Baltimore Women’s Giving Circle), Michelle Hynes (ninety-nine girlfriends, Portland), Sarah Carroll (Impact Sonoma), and Sandy Cook (Impact100 Metro Denver).
  • And to those members who volunteered during the Conference – Amy Corey, Amy Zimerman, Anne Barker, Aru Chandorkar, Barbara Fielden, Carla Lewis, Charmaine Stouder, Cheryl Hoffman-Herzog, Christine Atkins, Christina Dawson, Denise Allen, Donna Lou, Gail Ransom, Erika Washburn, Heidi Garcia, Jennifer Sik, Jodi Green, Kathy Edwards, Jamie Weber, Kay Stimson, Toby Donner, Lori Houston, Marcia Bailey, Mary Stevens, Melinda Herrin, Monika March, Patricia Kiyono, Patti Meyers, Rhoda Altom, Rosalie Gann, Rosemary Dunkle, Nancy Elliott, Nellie Allnut, Page Pless, Sharon Hammel, Stephanie Ellis-Smith, Susan Heikkala, and Kit Bakke. These members hosted the registration tables, provided technical assistance for the Conference App, greeted speakers, ran errands, and generally did anything asked by the Leadership Team! A special thanks to Mari Jalbing, who designed and maintained the “Un-Conference Room,” a quiet escape from the conversation and chaos of the Conference. 

Colleen S. Willoughby Award 

While there were many memorable moments during the Conference, Monday night included a special award celebration, recognizing Colleen Willoughby’s leadership of the national women’s collective giving movement. Colleen not only was WA Women’s Foundation’s founding President, she catalyzed the creation of many of the organizations whose members gathered for the Conference. The new award, named in her honor, will be given at future conferences to recognize women leaders for taking philanthropy in new directions and challenging the status quo – as Colleen did first in 1995 – to inspire women to find and amplify their voices.   

Head to the Philanos website to listen to Colleen’s words, watch the tribute slideshow that was played at the Conference, and share the joy felt during this moment of recognition.


The Conference Co-Chairs have reported that the Conference was a terrific success.  Not only did we exceed revenue goals for the national network, in the post-Conference survey, 91% of the respondents rated their Conference experience as either Excellent or Very Good.  We hosted 381 attendees over the course of three days, including 98 guests who are not currently affiliated with WA Women’s Foundation or any other member organization in the network. 

Here is what some attendees said about the Conference: 

“I am so impressed with the caliber of what the conference provided, and the bar has forever been raised.” 

 “The Conference deftly tackled challenging issues around equity and inclusion and also provided ‘basics’ to affiliates seeking [information].” 

 “This may be the best conference of any kind that I have ever attended. It was stimulating and fascinating! The speakers were all terrific!” 

Conference presenters also were impressed by the engagement in their sessions: 

“It was such a great group and I could feel the energy around change in the room.” 

“It was such an impressive gathering of intentional and mindful women change makers–and those themes were reflected in the quality of the keynote speakers and breakout sessions you all organized.” 


If you weren’t able to attend the Conference or if you haven’t yet had a chance to read all of the resources shared by presenters, here is a sample of what speakers had to offer across all of the tracks of programming: 

More links are accessible on the on the Conference website.  If you did attend the Conference, don’t forget that the Conference App is still functional through the end of this December.  You can use the App to reconnect with other attendees as well as continue sharing ideas and additional resources on the PowerUp Wall in the App. 

Looking Ahead to 2021 

At the conclusion of the Conference, Paula Liang, Board Chair, announced a name change for the network – Philanos. The next Philanos national conference will be hosted by Impact100 Cincinnati. We hope you will save the dates – September 19-2021, and hopefully, we will be able to celebrate another gathering of the women’s collective giving movement together in Cincinnati! 

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