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PEAK Grantmaking

Operationalizing Equity in Philanthropy


Operationalizing Equity in Philanthropy

Grants professionals play an increasingly critical role serving as change agents and champions of more equitable grantmaking practices. Here, Ashley Clark of The Libra Foundation; Roland Kennedy, Jr. of Carnegie Corporation of New York; and Dan Gaff of May & Stanley Smith Charitable Trust explore the radical evolution of the grants management role, their focus on building deeper relationships with grantee partners, and how their work is centered on driving equity.

Roland Kennedy, Jr., Carnegie Corporation of New York: Typically, in philanthropy, you hear more about the program officers and the programmatic work, but you don’t hear as much about grants professionals.

Dan Gaff, May & Stanley Smith Charitable Trust: Grants management has evolved over the years from what has often been described as a kind of administrative back office role to being one of, really, knowledge and information. Sort of a critical voice at the strategic table.

Ashley Clark, The Libra Foundation: I think one of the ways in which we organize for change is to not be the lone voice and lone person pushing. Change really starts with small groups of people coming together, trying one or two things, and seeing how that works, and seeing what you learn and see who else wants to join the conversation alongside you.

Dan Gaff: In so many organizations, you know you’ve got programs, finance, and legal and IT, right, and so often grants managers sit at the nexus of all those functions. And grants managers have to know something about all those functions because they touch all those things. And that is an incredibly powerful place to be.

Driving Equity in Grantmaking

Ashley Clark: Particularly when I think of the uprisings last summer, and I think of both companies and foundations and individual donors alike really starting to question where their funding is going and how they’re thinking about the solving of these issues and who should be at the forefront of coming up with those solutions.

Dan: The challenges confronting us are massive, and philanthropy will continue to be called upon more and more to help address some of the pressing challenges confronting humanity.

Roland Kennedy, Jr.: To many of us, it’s not just a question about funding, it’s a question about empathy, it’s a question about care.

Ashley: Everything that we’re doing to build deeper relationships with grantee partners, instead of require them to submit paperwork and require them to spend inordinate amounts of time explaining their work versus doing their work.

Roland: I really want grants professionals to think in that spirit of equity that PEAK is positioning now. It’s a question about care, and I think that now is the time for philanthropy to double its efforts on racial equity and fund it in that spirit of care.

Dan: PEAK Grantmaking was already having that conversation years in advance, driving equity and really tying practices to value.

Looking Ahead

Ashley: When I think about your next 25 years, what I hope for you and for all of us is that the “how” of philanthropy, that it’s radically different from the way we that we practice it now. That it allows our grantee partners to focus on the important work they have to do.

Dan: We need organizations like PEAK Grantmaking for the next 25 years to continue to do what they’re doing, which is to catalyze all of this talent and skill that’s out there for bringing about this change and to keep driving us to do better.

Roland: I want to thank you all for all of the work that you have done to invest in me, in the community, and in philanthropy overall and wishing you only success in your next 25 years.