Philanthropy Emerges: Coast-to-Coast Reconnection with TAG

Nov 5, 2021

On a flight home from the last event of our in-person series called “TAGreconnect,” I find myself surprisingly hopeful about the future. Across the United States over the course of the past month, I could feel energy building; I could feel philanthropy re-emerging as we held a series of micro-conference events for the U.S. members and friends of TAG, the Technology Association for Grantmakers.

“I feel like a 13 year-old with social anxiety,” quipped one attendee entering the 40 person event in San Francisco on October 21st. And yet, by the end of the event, this person was one of the last to leave and later remarked, “I talked so much yesterday that I almost lost my voice.” For many in attendance, their local TAGreconnect micro-meetup was the first professional event they’d attended in nearly two years. For some, it was the first gathering of any kind with their fellow humans and the relief was palpable.

The past two years have hardly been easy and I could see the stress on everyone’s faces (including my own) from DC to Chicago to San Francisco to the final event in New York City last week. The tech and operations staff joining these events have kept their foundations functional for the past 22 months, pushing unprecedented grant dollars out the door and shifting to fully remote delivery, all while balancing their own families and health. “I hit the wall this summer,” said one panelist candidly. “It was time to take my own wellness seriously after working such long hours with constant adaptation.”

In many ways, the protective isolation of philanthropy, like several sectors, has been an immense privilege. And yet, there has also been an immense cost as human connection is vital to our health and ability to innovate. What have we lost as an inherently collaborative sector by physically isolating ourselves from each other?

TAG Reconnect collage

The TAGreconnect events were an exhale. They were a sigh of relief that we are not alone in our exhaustion nor in our sustained commitment to tech for good. “I’m still feeling the enthusiasm and energy,” says an attendee from the New York City event last week. She is hardly unique: Each micro-event sparked a flame in regional networks that has kindled new momentum and illuminated the sense that philanthropy is re-emerging.

TAG members are the architects of future philanthropy. They are the tech leaders, data scientists, visionaries, and tireless problem-solvers equipping the charitable sector for a post-pandemic world. And if there’s anything made clear by the coast-to-coast events this autumn, it’s this: We are ready to create the future together.

3 Tips for Safe “Re-emergence” Events

Is your organization beginning to re-emerge? Consider the following tips when crafting an approach that’s both safe and approachable.

Alternate Space & Place

Consider an agenda that mixes the use of indoor and outdoor spaces. At each TAG event, we alternated physical spaces between panels and lunchtime, requiring face masks during panel sessions (if held indoors). Additionally, the latter half of the day provided activities that enabled outdoor time with ample ventilation.

An example agenda follows:

10:30 – 11:00 – Welcome & Warm-Up Networking
11:00 – 12:00 – Opening Panel
12:00 – 1:00 – Lunch Conversations (In a separate room or outdoor space)
1:00 – 2:00 – Trendspotting Panel2:30 – 4:00 – Art or Architecture Walking Tour
4:00 – 6:00 – Social Event (Rooftop or Outdoors)

TAG followed all local regulations for COVID-19. For example, in both San Francisco and New York City, proof of vaccination was required for all attendees.

3 attendees at event

Enable Social Acclimation

“I’m an extrovert and yet I feel overwhelmed right now” said one attendee at our first event with 30 people in Washington, DC. Easing into social gatherings is far from easy. Consider starting with a short segment of structured networking at small-group tables. Use low-stress questions that enable attendees to bring personal stories into the conversation as desired. For example, we led every event by inviting tables to explore using the question: “What’s one thing you stopped or started during the pandemic?” At lunch, consider providing table topics so that attendees can focus on a topic at hand and then ease slowly into more free-form conversation.

dark exhibit with several silhouettes of attendees

Uplift the Whole Human

Given that we’ve spent the past 22 months blurring the lines between personal and professional, consider event programming and policies that support the “whole human.” Starting with dress code, TAG made it clear at our events that we were more concerned with safety and quality connection than business attire. “Wear whatever is comfortable for you” was our official dress code. For some that meant their first sport coat in two years while for others that meant hoodie and sneakers.

Regarding holistic programming, consider weaving meaningful cultural or volunteer activities into your day’s agenda. Following our two panels in San Francisco, for example, we attended the teamLab: Continuity exhibit at the Asian Art Museum which offered attendees the chance to elevate their minds and be immersed in something wonderful and new. In DC, we took a fascinating and bespoke women’s history tour with “A Tour of Her Own.”

In addition to the above suggestions, I’d offer that your presence matters too. As you reopen your organization and communities, rather than send an emissary, ensure that you are able to make a personal commitment to joining fully at each event. Your energy as a leader is one spark among many and yet, all are needed right now to light the way forward.

Special Thanks

Eight months in the making, TAGreconnect was made possible through the courageous and intuitive leadership of Dr. Brian Yim Lim (Wellcome Trust) and Carly Maready (JPB Foundation), co-chairs of TAG’s Engagement Committee. Endless thanks, Brian and Carly, for your stewardship, commitment, and creative hashtagging.

Special thanks to TAG Engagement Director Tracie Mooneyham, our events team from AK Consulting, as well as the generous sponsorship of our flagship sponsors Submittable and Avanade. Social hours were generously provided by Fluxx. Supporting sponsors include Exponent PartnersImagineCRM, and Resilia.

Learn More

The TAGreconnect series replaced the annual conference for members of the Technology Association of Grantmakers. Rather than shift to a virtual event, we decided to explore something unique and personal as TAG members were deeply weary of online events. Thus the TAGreconnect coast-to-coast series of micro-conferences was born.

View photos from the entire TAGreconnect series.

About the Technology Association of Grantmakers

TAG is a 501(c)(3) non-profit membership organization that promotes the strategic, innovative, and equitable use of technology in philanthropy to solve problems and improve lives. With over 2000 members in 300 foundations throughout North America and beyond, TAG is the voice of technology in the philanthropic sector, providing technology professionals, tech funders, and “accidental techies” with knowledge, networks, mentoring, and educational opportunities.

Since 2008, the Technology Association of Grantmakers (TAG) has built a global community, conducted groundbreaking research, and become an advocate for investment in tech infrastructure throughout the charitable sector. For more information, visit