Lonni Jackson is Executive Director at The Mustard Seed Foundation, in Falls Church, VA, where he oversees their granting in Europe and Africa. He has been on PCP’s steering committee since 2017, serving as its chair from 2019 – 2022. Ask Lonni about raising service dogs, working at a foundation as it sunsets, and anything related to the Seattle Seahawks. Lonni has three adult children: Charlie, Nathan and Grace, and lives with his wife Cheryl in Falls Church, Virginia. You can email him at ljackson@msfdn.org

Thirteen years ago I attended my first PCP conference, at Reynolds Plantation, Georgia.  The group was winsomely known as PIGS (Professionals in Grantmaking Society), and the vibe was very much an “Old Boys” club.  That is not to say people were uninviting or cliquish.  I was simply intimidated walking amongst the giants of Maclellan and Murdock, Cornerstone and Stewardship.  These people knew what they were doing, had been doing it a long time, and spoke philanthropy lingo I had not yet mastered.  What could I contribute to such a group? 

Yet I also detected something special there. I sensed that important conversations were happening all around me – conversations that went deeper than a desire just for “professional development.”  Because I felt out of my league, I didn’t seriously consider returning to PIGS. But in the ensuing years I also couldn’t shake the sense that there was more for me in this community of believers who, like me, sought to build God’s kingdom through an unusual profession working in unique spaces. Moreover, I began to wonder if perhaps I might have something to give back to the community as well.

In 2017 that nagging sense finally prompted me to return to PIGS, now renamed Professionals in Christian Philanthropy. The gathering immediately felt different. Christian philanthropy was (and continues to be) changing rapidly, with lots of new staff, and even new foundations, launching into the work and grappling with challenging issues and questions. The vibe was more dynamic. The “giants” were still there – thank goodness! – but in a group that was growing and had many new faces, they helped keep the gathering intimate; grounded.   

PCP now seemed like a true community of give and take. I did both – give and take – at that conference in 2017, and was delighted to realize how valuable both were. I’d found both my voice and my people, and decided I’d be coming back every year. I also wanted to find ways to get more involved, and doing so proved incredibly rewarding.

Last month, sitting in the Great Hall at Glen Eyrie’s Castle during our conference, I scanned the room and marveled at how far we have come since my first conference in 2010, and even since my “renewal” in 2017.  PCP continues to grow, with our membership now twice what it was just six years ago. We’re enriched by the perspective, experience, questions, and wisdom each new member brings, and enlivened by the give and take across all members of our community. Our offerings to our community are also more robust than ever before.

But more than the numbers, I marveled at the expanded senses of purpose and community that animate PCP. These have always been embedded in our group, but now they have become our hallmarks. On the final day of the conference Steve Mayer shared a vision for PCP that the Steering Committee is asking us all to consider, and I am excited about it.  He spoke about every member being plugged into an active network that will enable us to realize our collective potential and kingdom impact. He also spoke about making the big room small, working to keep that sweet sense of intimacy we all value. Still scanning the Great Hall, and with this vision for PCP in mind, I wondered what our annual conference might look like five or six years from now.  

I believe it will be a room full of colleagues. Some will be greeting friends they’ve known for years or even decades. Others will be coming for the first time, but they will be meeting in person people they’ve worked with in cohorts or communities of practice. The conference will still be a major touchstone for our community, but will be only one of many times throughout the year that members gather (virtually or otherwise) around shared questions, problems, and opportunities. New and old PCP members will explore new topics, pilot new ideas, and find new shared interests with each other.

The future envisioned for PCP is one in which the relationships in our community grow deeper even as they grow in number. It is one in which the community enables its members to grow their kingdom impact, and one in which we can accomplish more together than we could apart. Being a part of this purposeful community has been one of my true joys over the past six years. I can’t wait to see what the next six years bring.

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2 Comments

  1. Marcus Witzke on June 21, 2023 at 11:57 pm

    Dear Loni, great to hear your story. I still have a similar feeling from my first conference in 2015 till now. Working more togher globally to reach our goals and fullfil the great commission is joy and inducement for me.

  2. Lonni Jackson on June 25, 2023 at 3:35 pm

    Thanks for your kind words Marcus. God calls us to live and work in community. PCP has been (and is) such an important part of my journey.

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