Following is a guest post from Jen Bokoff, Director of GrantCraft, a service of the Foundation Center in New York and the European Foundation Centre in Brussels. Follow her on Twitter at @grantcraft and @jenbo1.
When I started work as a program officer at a small private foundation, I had my street smarts, book smarts, and experiences as my compass. There were articles here and there about fascinating trends in philanthropy, some meetings on special topics with other grantmakers in the region, and I followed some doers and shakers in the field on Twitter to hear their 140 character snippets of wise words. What I didn’t have, however, was a toolkit for how to be a thoughtful funder. I didn’t have a go-to resource, and therefore grappled with issues that arose in the course of our foundation’s work that were as simple as, “How do I say no?” and more strategically geared like, “Is our partnership with the government similar to that which other funders experience?” Over time, these questions were explored and answered with my team, but it would have been nice to also learn from the experience of other, more seasoned funders.
If only I had known about GrantCraft.
Now in its 13th year, GrantCraft is a service that harnesses the wisdom of funders worldwide to create comprehensive resources for the philanthropy field. The resources are available online for free in a guide format around topical issue areas, which all offer case studies, practical steps to improve your work, and additional resources. There’s also a newly revived blog, on which you can add your comments to a growing mix of funder voices, and which will soon have a few EPIP guest bloggers featured. As emerging practitioners in philanthropy, you don’t have to navigate blindly through the philanthropy landscape like I did. Let me show you how GrantCraft can be your guide. Here’s your customized GrantCraft roadmap:
Step 1: Figure out your personal strategy. There’s a lot you can contribute, even when you’re not the most senior person on staff. Visual thinker? Print out the Roles@Work and think about what hats you wear naturally, and what hats you want to try on.
Step 2: Become savvy in the philanthropy field and your funding area. Learn how to scan the landscape and figure out how to integrate scanning practices into your daily work plan.
Step 3: Learn how to say yes or no to applicants; when there is money, there are tough decisions to be made. Make those decisions wisely.
Step 4: Before you even enter a funding relationship, it’s good to think about exiting effectively. This was the first GrantCraft guide I read and it helped tremendously with my thinking around a tricky funding scenario.
Step 5: Hone your craft by reading up on a specific type of partnership or investment your foundation is a part of. Pick from working with the business sector, government, or startups; funding individuals; or program-related investing and learn how these strategies have worked for others.
There are other tools, too, but by following that roadmap, you’ll have a great foundation (pun intended) for building additional knowledge. In my new role as the Director of GrantCraft, I want to make it easier for our diverse funder audience, which includes newer grantmakers like you, to find content relevant to their needs and day-to-day experience. In a website overhaul, set to launch in 2014, we’ll be adding tools for engaging directly with other funders and generating more user content so that you continue to find in GrantCraft a go-to resource for the field. I’m excited about where we’re headed, but also want to leverage the fantastic content that has already been developed. Let me know what you think about the resources available and what would be helpful to you going forward.
As funders, we sometimes have the tendency to operate in silos, where we think of our situations as unique and without precedent. But, the more we listen to one another using resources like GrantCraft, the more effective we can be as philanthropists and the stronger our field will become.