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 Nakia Horton, GIFTS Administrator/Executive Assistant at The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation.
Q. How did you get into grants management?
In 2006 I was offered the opportunity to work as a Program Assistant for The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation. I had never worked in the non-profit field, but I wanted to learn everything I could about grant making and especially grants management software. As a Program Assistant, I was responsible for managing the administration of our grant work, while working directly with the Foundation’s Program Directors. I had the opportunity to learn about each of our grant portfolios, as well as gain a complete understanding of the grant making process. In 2008, I was promoted to Executive Assistant to the Executive Vice President and continued to gain advance knowledge of the grant making process. In 2009, the opportunity to become GIFTS Administrator was presented and I jumped at the chance. Since then I have helped to cultivate the Foundation’s grants management through redefining our processes and procedures, managing the integrity of our grants database and documentation, and managing process workflow and tracking. The opportunity to serve as a leader of the Foundation’s grants management has been an honor and privilege that I do not take for granted.
Q. What’s your background (education and work)?
I began my undergraduate studies at Georgia State University, with a concentration in Political Science; but put my studies on hold to start a family. In 2012, I began taking courses at the Community College of Baltimore County, and in 2015 transferred those credits to the University of Baltimore. Currently, I am attending the University of Baltimore studying Business Law. My career prior to working with the Weinberg Foundation was, oddly enough, in dentistry. I am a certified Dental Assistant and Front Office Coordinator.
Q. What’s your favorite part of the grants management job?
Working the process! I enjoy dissecting our grants process and implementing new strategies and ideas that help both the staff and our Grantees reach our common goal… helping people. I often joke with staff that I have epiphanies when brushing my teeth in the morning. It is those times that I have uninterrupted moments to think about the day ahead. And my thoughts almost always focus on our grants process. One of my most treasured accomplishments is writing the Foundation’s first and only process manual. It excites me to know my work helps our staff fulfill the mission of the Foundation.
Q. What frustrates you about your job?
Being faced with a lack of patience from staff. Change is hard, and doesn’t happen overnight. I love bringing up new ideas that can help improve our grant making. Ironically, it can be very challenging when those ideas are accepted because the reaction can be “great, do it… and do it now.” If we could embrace that change and implementation takes time (time to plan, time to implement, and most importantly… time to test), it would make for a smoother transition for all.
Q. What do you wish your colleagues and coworkers knew about what you do?
I wish they knew that I have a responsibility to everyone. I think when you are focused on your own work you can get lost in all the things that need to happen for you to get the job done. As a grants manager it is my job to ensure that all parts are moving for everyone, and that means I may not be as accessible to one person as they would like. But, everyday (even on those days when I’m not seen) I am working for them—to make their day run a little smoother, and ultimately to ensure our Grantees get what they need.
Q. What do you wish every grants manager knew about their job?
It matters! We are more than process and paper pushers. We are the heart of the grant making body. We keep the flow. We keep everyone moving. There are so many moving parts to grant making, but there has to be a place from which everything draws, where everything meets, where everything gets what it needs to keep going. Grant managers provide the insight, organization, and know how to those moving parts to ensure they are running efficiently and smoothly. We work hard and never stop. And I salute you all!
Connect with Nakia via Twitter: @horton_nakia