PEAK Grantmaking regularly features members on our blog to demonstrate the diversity of our association and expand opportunities for connections. Want to be featured? Email Leah Farmer (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Meet Jenny Morgan, Grants Officer at Robert W. Woodruff Foundation.
Q. How did you get into grants management?
By accident! I was active in community service during college but had never even heard of – let alone considered – a career in philanthropy. I wanted to do communications work for a nonprofit when I graduated, but then I got an email from my scholarship coordinator about a fellowship program at the Woodruff, Whitehead and Evans Foundations. I applied and was blessed to land a one-year opportunity learning about the inner workings of the Foundations and getting a bird’s-eye view of the nonprofit landscape in Georgia. I was invited back three years later to fill a position that includes grants management, program work in early childhood education, and overseeing office technology/IT.
Q. What’s your background (education and work)?
I have bachelor’s degrees in communications and psychology from Georgia Tech. After completing the Foundations’ fellowship, I spent three years at the marketing/communications firm Jackson Spalding, where I did everything from project management to graphic design to pitching news stories. One of the best things I learned at JS was to always “look for the better way,” and I bring that approach to all my work.
Q. What’s your favorite part of the grants management job?
I love helping the Foundations find efficiencies and improve processes. When I arrived, we were circulating memos by placing paper copies on people’s desks. I led the charge to digitize file sharing and storage; updated our website, trustee newsletter and meeting materials; and migrated us to a grants management system with online capabilities.
I also love being part of big-picture conversations about impact and exploring how grants management can support that work. We now have monthly grants team meetings where we unpack major issues, share knowledge about how and why we make the grants we do, provide training on our GMS, and discuss processes to see what can be improved.
Q. What frustrates you about your job?
I wish I had time to delve into issues more deeply and have more conversations with others in the field. There’s so much to learn in the world of philanthropy – issues are constantly evolving, grantees are constantly evolving, and grants management practices are constantly evolving. It can be hard to keep track and keep up, especially when I already have a very full plate.
Q. What do you wish your colleagues and coworkers knew about what you do?
I’m the unofficial IT helpdesk for my office, but constantly fielding technical issues can derail my day. People think I’m a computer whiz, but I’m not (my worst grade in college was in computer science)! I’ve gotten pretty good at guessing why things aren’t working, but I wish everyone knew to 1) reboot and 2) Google your problem. I solve 95% of problems that way – the rest I refer to the experts at our IT vendor.
Q. What do you wish every grants manager knew about their job?
Your job matters. It may not be the out-in-front position that’s making headlines, but you are the strength behind the scenes of your foundation. None of the wonderful work that your foundation does can happen without you, so be confident of the value you bring and don’t be afraid to speak up if you think processes or systems need changing. After all, if our foundations are dedicated to finding a better way – for disadvantaged children, impoverished communities, the sick and elderly, etc. – shouldn’t we be too?
Connect with Jenny on Linkedin.