By Pat Smith, TFN President and CEO

We regret to share the news that we have cancelled TFN’s 2020 Annual Conference, which was to take place March 16-18 in San Diego.

As we continued to monitor reports about the spread of the novel coronavirus over the past weekend, including the uptick of cases on the west coast and advisories for those in at-risk demographics to limit travel, it became clear that we could not in good conscience move forward with such a large-scale event.

This was a difficult decision to make, especially in light of the considerable investment of time, talent and resources that we — along with our session designers, speakers and other partners — have committed to the planning of our annual conference as well as the PLACES Fellowship Alumni Gathering and other pre- and post-conference events.

In an abundance of caution, and in consultation with our staff and TFN Board of Directors, we made this decision based on our commitment to keep the health and safety of our attendees, partners and TFN team a topmost priority. We also heard and took seriously concerns from those who were not primarily worried about the risk to their personal health, but feared that attending such a large event may increase their risk of exposing loved ones and others in their communities to the virus.

As an organization committed to equity and economic inclusion, we also considered the financial impacts our cancellation would have on vendors, contractors and small businesses who were counting on our business. But we also fielded concerns from several vendors who expressed reluctance in providing services for an event that would attract hundreds of travelers from across the U.S. and Canada.

We took all of this into account before making what we ultimately felt was the right decision for our network.

Deepest Gratitude

TFN takes tremendous pride in organizing a conference that brings together leaders from across the sector to learn and share knowledge — but it has also been, over the past two decades, an event that brings together friends and colleagues that have forged deep bonds over a shared commitment to creating communities that are sustainable, prosperous and just.

I want to share our profound thanks to our co-chairs, Craig Martinez of The California Endowment, Kellie Terry of the Surdna Foundation and Lydia Van Note of The San Diego Foundation for their incredible support throughout the year-long process of planning the conference. Also deserving of the deepest gratitude: the many sponsors, speakers, session designers, program partners and others, including the TFN board, who have worked so hard to put together what would have surely been an inspiring and enlightening event in San Diego.

Finally, I want to acknowledge the hard work and dedication of the TFN team whose resourcefulness, diligence and grace under pressure never ceases to amaze me.

Next Steps

In the coming days, our team will be looking at ways to re-think conference programming as virtual events or other learning opportunities. Please reach out to Lesmarie Nicholson if you have questions about your session or event.

For those who have already paid registration fees, we will be providing refunds upon request. We ask that you consider your fee a donation to TFN in light of the considerable expenses already committed to planning the conference and securing our venue. (Please reach out to Yleinia Jobe with any questions about registration fees.)

We encourage you to reach out to our venue, the US Grant, to cancel your hotel reservations as soon as possible. The hotel requires 72-hour notice before your arrival day to avoid cancellation fees.

Putting Equity First

Even though we are truly saddened to cancel #TFNSanDiego, we are aware that the potential health, economic and social impacts of the coronavirus on our communities far outweigh any impacts on an annual conference.

We also take heart in the knowledge that TFN’s overriding mission is far greater than any one event.

We will be working to provide resources and other learning opportunities for funders as they and their organizations work to formulate strategies that will support those directly or indirectly impacted by coronavirus. As funders with close ties to the people and places you support and serve, we encourage you to be mindful of the important role philanthropy plays in ensuring responses to the coronavirus pandemic align with our values.

We know that low-income communities and communities of color will almost certainly face a disproportionate impact, including workers who rely on hourly wages or gig-economy jobs that do not have the safety-net resources of paid sick days and other employer benefits. And we have seen reports of xenophobic and racist attacks targeting Asians and Asian-Americans.

Read on for resources for funders that we hope will be helpful in navigating the many implications the pandemic will have for the people and places we care about, while keeping the values of equity, inclusion and justice front and center.

Again, our deepest appreciation to everyone for all of the hard work and long hours that they’ve put into the planning of our conference.

We wish everyone health and well-being today and in the days ahead.

Thank You to our Sponsors!

Even though we have called off our 2020 Annual Conference, we would like to acknowledge and thank our sponsors for their support:

Amalgamated Bank

The California Endowment

Funders for Housing and Opportunity

Gifford Foundation

The Kresge Foundation

Neighborworks America

William Penn Foundation

The San Diego Foundation

TFN Board of Directors

Resources for Funders

Please read, and feel free to share, these resources. We will continue to compile and distribute information in the days ahead via the TFN blog and other platforms. (If you have additional resources to share, please reach out to TFN Communications Director Tere Figueras Negrete)

Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy

• AAPIP statement on how funders can combat xenophobia and other calls to action amid COVID-19 concerns.

The California Endowment

• Get the Facts: Novel Coronavirus 19 Resources for Partners (includes bilingual fact sheets and posters in both English and Spanish.)

Center for Disaster Philanthropy

• Overview and daily updates on COVID-19
• CDP’s critical needs list for how organizations wanting to respond can best proceed.
• CDP also has created a COVID-19 Response Fund that provides an opportunity for donors to meet the ongoing and ever-expanding challenges presented by this virus. CDP has also created a list of suggestions for foundations to consider related to disaster giving.

• Webinar recording: CDP’s COVID-19 Coronavirus: How Philanthropy Can Respond

• Webinar recording: CDP’s Complex Humanitarian Emergencies: Philanthropy’s Role in Recovery

• CDP web page: Pandemics and Infectious Diseases

Council on Foundations

• Coronavirus resource page.

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

• Read this excellent Op-Ed in the Washington Post by RWJF’s president and chief executive, Richard E. Besser (who is also a physician): As coronavirus spreads, the bill for our public health failures is due: “Our nation’s predicament today is both tragic, because so many people will likely suffer, and maddening, because it didn’t have to be this way.”

World Health Organization

• Getting Your Workplace Ready for COVID-19