TPW Member Kevin Shanahan’s Skill Session Reflection

My wife, Connie, and I recently attended TPW’s Skill Session: Investing in a Stronger Democracy. We both felt it was well worth our time to attend. This was a very timely program for us because we have been trying on our own to build a more diverse portfolio of investments that would enable us to support issues that are important to us.

Quite honestly, we have been overwhelmed by the current complicated political landscape and the light speed with which information comes onto the political scene on a daily basis. Further creating stress and confusion has been our limited ability to identify “misinformation,” as well as to successfully identify areas of concern, unbiased by the fear mongering that is common place in the public discourse.

It was our experience that TPW delivered on the claim that the session “….will focus on the unique role individual funders can play in the upcoming U.S. Election and how to complement both large political donors and nonpartisan institutional funders, filling in critical gaps that should be addressed.” We heard from and talked with policy experts from the Democracy Fund and Arabella Advisors who addressed the current landscape in ways we understood and with clarity. This provided us with takeaways we have put to work including research, analysis tools and resources will continue to come back to. We learned best practices from experts and fellow members that are helping us be much more effective as we do our part to safeguard our democracy and prepare for the future beyond the elections in front of us.

We are extremely grateful to TPW for pulling this session together at this critical time. The session included experienced experts, talking factually, not anecdotally, on pertinent subjects explaining where opportunities lie and what methods to employ that drive results. Also, without question, the group of TPW members who attended were knowledgeable and drove the dialogue in directions that met our group’s needs. The interaction between the presenters and the TPW attendees was at times demanding and heated, but this healthy tension drove us as a collective group to an accelerated level of learning that produced valuable takeaways for all of us.

In the spirit of learning and sharing best practices with our TPW community, we leave you with a few nuggets of wisdom from Joe Goldman, one of the program’s speakers and President of the Democracy Fund. His list of the five most important items to remember when working to fix our democracy will certainly inform how we think and question our own strategy as we move forward:

  1. Don’t wait to invest your money. Go with the most efficient way for you to get your dollars out the door.
  2. Don’t re-invent the wheel; it’s too late. Go with the momentum of proven strategies and tactics that are in place and producing results.
  3. Work through organizations that have centralized management systems and capacity.
  4. Don’t look for the silver bullet.
  5. Our democracy is not fixed. And no matter what happens in the election, it will take time and perseverance to make things better. You have to care — and continue to care — about the future of our democracy.

If you are interested in learning more about the session and resources shared, please reach out to Melanie Ormos at for more details.

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