Inside Foundant – the Blog

SPARK Talks, Team Building, and Foundations 101: 2015 Foundant Mid-Year Planning Meetings

Daren Nordhagen, President

Daren Nordhagen is the President of Foundant Technologies


We just completed our annual mid-year meetings and I wanted to share the experience with our community of friends. We focus on culture and learning during these annual meetings, and I’m very excited about the progress we made on both fronts this year.

Our all-staff meetings are always a good reminder of how much we’ve grown over the past couple years, and it was a little shocking to stand up in front of over 40 people as our session began. We tend to add team members one at a time so the total number of new faces was a little surprising. In fact, it’s the first time we’ve had to go around the room to have everyone introduce themselves and their role since many of our team hadn’t met face to face. It was literally just one year ago when we held our mid-year meetings in my garage, and we’re now at the point where we’re challenged to find a space that can hold all of us. As they say, it’s a good problem to have, but we’re very conscious of how hard we need to continue to focus on maintaining our culture as the team grows.

The first day of our meetings focused on reviewing our highlights and lessons learned from the first half of the year. I’m not always very good about celebrating past successes and often get too focused looking ahead, so it was great to hear the presentations from our internal teams. It’s amazing how much we accomplished over the past six months! Just to name a few:

-98 new Grant Lifecycle Manager clients joined our community

-94% of eligible GLM clients chose to renew their subscriptions for another term

-GLM 5.0 was released as probably the most significant software upgrade in our history

-We hosted over 150 of our clients, partners, and internal team members at our Summit National User Conference

-GrantHub released to production with over 20 early clients now using GrantHub to manage their grant seeking efforts

We also rolled out a concept for sharing information that we hope will become a new part of our culture. Six team members volunteered (with a little coaxing from me) to present our inaugural runs of SPARK Talks. SPARK is an acronym for Strategic, Practical, Applicable, Responsive, and Knowledgeable – and the talks are similar in nature to miniature TEDTalks. Our 4-7 minute presentations covered broad topics – from how specific clients are using our software, to lead generation campaigns being run by our marketing team, and all the various tools that are used in the development of our software. I learned a ton from these fast-paced presentations and I’m very excited about our next SPARK jam session which will be scheduled soon.

After a summer of hot, dry weather here in Montana we were sure we’d be safe scheduling a river float and picnic to close out the first day of our meetings. However, Montana weather is known for being extremely unpredictable, so a thunderstorm forced us inside and we had a great time competing at the bowling alley.

We were very honored to be joined by our friends Henry Berman and Lauren Kotkin from Exponent Philanthropy on the second day of our meetings. Henry and Lauren spent the day teaching their Foundations 101 course to our entire company. We have a great deal of experience helping grantmakers manage their grant programs, but it was useful to gain additional knowledge into other areas of foundation operations such as legal, accounting and investments. This additional context will help us all as we continue to work on our mission of helping the philanthropic sector operate more efficiently and strategically.

We closed our meetings with a tour of the construction site of our new office space. It was the first time for any of us to see the space with the sheet-rock installed, so it was exciting to be able to visualize working in the new building. Our current quarters have become quite cramped these days and we’re looking forward to a more fun and productive work-space after our move this fall.

Foundant Team

The Foundant Technologies Crew
Plus, Henry Berman and Lauren Kotkin of Exponent Philanthropy


  1. Thanks for keeping us all in the loop. The numbers are good all the way around! Looking forward to seeing the new space, post photos!

  2. Cathy Heutmaker says:

    Hi there Foundant Family!

    We (Heidi and I) here at the Dan Murphy Foundation are wondering if Hollie had her baby??

    Let us know!

    • Kristin Laird says:

      Hello! Yes, Hollie had a beautiful baby girl last month named Taylor Elaine. Maybe we can convince her to share a picture on social:)