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Jennifer McCrea

Senior Research Fellow, Harvard University

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For more than 25 years, Jennifer McCrea has helped philanthropists, board members, and non-profit leaders think more creatively and strategically about ways to address some of the most pressing needs on the planet. Clients

have included Acumen Fund, DonorsChoose.org, Council on Foreign Relations, Teach for America, Witness, Columbia University School of Public Health, Mercy Corps, Comic Relief, X Prize Foundation, VH1 Save the Music Foundation, Creative Commons, and many others.

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Closing Keynote Speech: Jennifer McCrea ENG

Jeff Walker, Jennifer McCrea, David Saltzman & David Bo ...

R&D | Jennifer McCrea | Salon 12

Speaker Resources


Jennifer McCrea is a Senior Research Fellow at the Hauser Institute for Civil Society at Harvard University. She serves as Chairman of the Advisory Board at the MIT Media Lab and is the co-founder of Born Free Africa. She is a frequent speaker and writer on the topic of money, meaning and social change and the co-author of the best-selling book, The Generosity Network.

For more than 25 years, she has partnered with philanthropists, board members and social change leaders to think more creatively and collaboratively about ways in which to align strategic direction and resources. Jennifer has worked with a wide range of non-profit organizations and companies including Acumen, DonorsChoose.org, Grameen America, Council on Foreign Relations, Condé Nast, Teach for America, NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Credit Suisse, Pencils of Promise, charity: water, Witness, Mercy Corps, Comic Relief, X Prize Foundation, Creative Commons, VisionSpring, Robin Hood Foundation and many others.

Jennifer founded and is Faculty Chair for her popular Exponential Fundraising Course at Harvard. She has also led seminars and workshops for, among others, Ashoka, Skoll World Forum, TED, Board Source, Social Venture Philanthropy, Draper Richards Kaplan, New Profit, Echoing Green, Harvard Business School, Wharton and Oxford University.

Jennifer is a board member at Just Capital, Pioneer Works, Target Zero and the Quincy Jones MusiQ Consortium and on the advisory board of the Blue School. She is a Henry Crown Fellow at the Aspen Institute.

Speech Topics

Never before have we seen so many individuals and communities committed to creating social change.   The challenge, however, is how to move from a “moment” to a “movement.”  A movement requires shared narrative, shared relationship, shared structure, shared strategy and shared outcomes.  The interdependence of these, grounded in core values of agency, voice, moral courage and mutual commitment is what builds the capacity needed to create lasting and sustainable change.  In a true organizing model, leaders move from marketing to clients or customers to creating a consortium of people who are not buying something, but, rather, standing and throwing their fates together and accepting shared responsibility for specific, measurable outcomes.    In her talks on organizing and social change, Jennifer shares her first-hand experience on leading many successful campaigns and the key ingredients required to build the capacity needed to create the change we want.

Traditional philanthropy is generally seen as helping someone or something or fixing a problem.   Generative philanthropy moves out of the realm of helping or fixing into authentic partnership, where each participant is taking equal responsibility for his/her role in the outcome. While money is an incredibly valuable and important resource, it’s just one resource that needs to be mobilized to create change.  Other resources like people’s time, networks, life experiences, skills, plus their moral resources like courage and commitment to change, all must be mobilized in the realm of generative philanthropy.   In her talks on philanthropy, Jennifer, billed by Bloomberg Magazine as “The Billionaire Whisperer,” shares her more than 30 years of best practices working with philanthropists and for- and nonprofit leaders to design and create successful philanthropic campaigns in all areas of social change.

How do we talk about money for our social change work in a way that we don’t feel like we’re in an unequal power dynamic?   How do we not walk away from interactions where money is being discussed feeling exhausted or burned out?   How do we relate with someone more deeply thank on the level of money?   How do we see fundraising as something that is not a necessary evil, but something that is deeply integral to the work we are doing?  In her lectures on fundraising, Jennifer answers all these questions and more, plus gives us practical tips on things like, how to make the perfect ask, how to source new potential partners, how to move from a “nice exchange” to a true commitment, how to create a shared narrative that is rooted in transformation and values and not transactions, how to organize and host powerful small group conversations like a “Jeffersonian Dinners” and more.

We live in a world that all too often infuses money with values like scarcity, power, safety and control.  What happens if we turn that dynamic on its head and start to think about our relationship to money and values likes social justice, chance, courage and even love? Jennifer has worked for more than 30 years with people from every part of the socio-economic spectrum to unpack their relationship with money and how it is impacting and often obstructing their works and lives.   In her conversations about money and meaning, Jennifer explores how to understand our relationship with money, its true meaning and how it can either be a constant barrier or a true resource for change.

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