Insights and Strategies from the 2024 Confluence Practitioners Gathering for Next50

By Sekhar Paladugu, Next50 Trustee

This March, I had the privilege of attending the 14th Annual Practitioners Gathering of Confluence Philanthropy in Denver, Colorado, alongside Next50’s CEO, Peter Kaldes. From March 4th to 7th, the event marked our foundation’s inaugural participation in a forum dedicated to impact investing. Confluence is a membership network of over 250 values-aligned investment organizations, representing over $75 billion in philanthropic assets under management and over $3.5 trillion in combined managed capital.

Attending the Confluence Gathering marked another critical milestone in our journey towards aligning our corpus with our values and to accelerate our mission of serving older adults and caregivers. The experience was as enriching as the Mission Investors Exchange (MIE) conference I attended in December 2022. As in Baltimore with MIE, I met foundations at every stage of their impact investing journey, from having done one program-related investment or mission-related investment to aligning their entire corpus and grants portfolio for impact.

Conference Insights:

The Confluence Philanthropy Gathering distinguished itself through its intimate setting, catering to 200-300 participants, and focusing on a diverse range of topics within mission-driven investing. This format facilitated deep conversations and meaningful exchanges with peers, particularly from more medium-sized foundations akin to ours. The warmth and camaraderie felt throughout the event underscored its value, making it a unique complement to the larger-scale MIE conference.

As aging was not an obvious part of the program, a trio of themes dominated my agenda: the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) into society as it relates to philanthropy, innovative solutions to climate change in impact investing, and the potential of shareholder activism by foundations. These sessions provided a comprehensive overview, from foundational knowledge in values-driven investing to the latest advancements in each field. Networking was also a highlight, with dozens of deep connections fostered with foundation trustees and staff, echoing the community spirit experienced at MIE.

Key Highlights:

  1. The Value of Risk-Taking: A recurring message was the necessity of embracing failure to pioneer new solutions. Our foundation’s substantial endowment positions us uniquely to take bold risks in pursuit of transformative impact, especially in addressing the complexities of the field of aging.
  2. Local Leadership and Learning: Hosting the event in Denver and engaging with entities like Gary Community Ventures and the Colorado Trust enriched our understanding of local leadership in impact investing. A visit to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) also offered a glimpse into cutting-edge renewable energy technologies, notably in solar energy through advancements in perovskite materials.
  3. Civic Engagement and Advocacy: Denver Mayor Mike Johnston’s insights highlighted the interconnectedness of philanthropy and public policy, especially in addressing issues around homelessness and immigration. His administration’s proactive stance, despite federal legislative setbacks, serves as a model for impactful civic engagement. Mayor Johnston also described Denver as the perfect local lab for impact investing nationally.

Strategic Takeaways for Next50:

  1. Leadership in Aging-Focused Impact Investing: Next50 is poised to lead by integrating an aging lens into impact and ESG investing, a largely untapped area with significant potential for impact. Many Confluence attendees of every stripe emphasized to me the importance of selecting expert investment advisors adept in mission-driven investing. We can and will be major pioneers in impact investing focused on older adults and caregiving.
  2. Knowledge Dissemination and Collaboration: By sharing our learnings and hosting discussions on mission-driven investing for aging within the philanthropic community, we can catalyze broader engagement and investment in aging-related issues. This approach not only amplifies our impact but also encourages a collective shift towards aging-focused philanthropy, particularly with our other large aging funder peers through Grantmakers in Aging.
  3. Advancing Change through Shareholder Activism: Leveraging our investments for shareholder activism offers a pathway to influence corporate practices and governance, especially in sectors like technology, climate change, and social responsibility. Foundations can do this efficiently and powerfully with nonprofit partners like Shareholder Commons and As You Sow, as well as through their limited partner relationships with their chosen funding vehicles.
  4. Engagement in Local Challenges: Addressing Denver’s immigration crisis through collaborative initiatives exemplifies our commitment to leveraging our resources for community impact. The City of Denver collaborating with other parties on the ground has moved quickly to build new programs to tackle this crisis in the absence of federal leadership. We can help showcase the potential for philanthropy to drive local solutions.


The insights gained from the Confluence Practitioners Gathering underscore the potential for Next50 to significantly enhance its impact on older adults and caregivers. By embracing innovative investment strategies, fostering collaborations, and leading in areas uncharted by others, we position ourselves at the forefront of a movement toward a more inclusive and impactful approach to aging.

The path laid out by the conference’s learnings offers a promising direction for Next50. I look forward to us leading the way as we strive to embody the future of philanthropy in aging. We will mark our contribution with a blend of innovation, leadership, and community engagement.