Reflections on GEO's 2018 National Conference: Matthew Henkes

  • By Matthew Henkes, April 25, 2018

As GEO’s national conference approaches, our members share their hopes for our time together. We invite you to consider your aspirations as we gather in San Francisco next week.

The Iowa West Foundation is a place-based foundation that serves Southwest Iowa and Eastern Nebraska. As a place-based funder, the communities we serve have a high amount of ownership over the work we do. In fact we often say that “we are a private foundation that acts like a community foundation.” This local focus helps us to have a deep understanding of our region. However, it also requires us to be careful to avoid becoming disconnected from some of the industry and national conversations around philanthropy.

This is one of the reasons that I find participating in opportunities such as the GEO National Conference to be so helpful. 2016 was my first year attending the conference and I found the experience energizing. As a first timer, I participated in the ambassador program, through which I was set-up with a conference veteran as a mentor (thanks Rebekah!). She helped introduce me to other attendees and checked-in as I was moving around between break-out sessions. During the conference, I was able to immerse myself in conversations around how others were structuring their evaluation and capacity building programs. Also, a project management tool used by the U.S. Education Delivery Institute and the Hawai’i Community Foundation made an appearance in Iowa after I returned (thanks Tom and Lauren!).

At the Iowa West Foundation, we work hard to make sure that our giving incorporates the most effective practices to support our partners and our communities. I’m looking forward to reconnecting with my peers from around the country, exchanging ideas about what is working in our part of the country and what is working elsewhere, and maybe even grabbing another great tool while I’m there.

See you at the conference!

Matthew Henkes is a senior director of grants programs at the Iowa West Foundation. At Iowa West, He is responsible the Placemaking focus area, leading the evaluation work, and manages the capacity building program. Prior to joining the foundation, Matthew worked with a USAID Contractor on community development / economic growth programs in Africa and the Middle East, including managing a grants program in Southern Africa.