I began as a children’s advocate, landed in corporate community relations, transitioned to grants management, and then jumped into executive leadership. My path was to seek a next step, and a next step. And my journey has now brought me to PEAK and you.
As my career has evolved, I’ve been heartened by the many folks who have cheered me on—along with others who have advanced to leadership roles like Dolores Estrada, Nicole Buggs-Howe, Ashley Dietz, and Aiko Bethea—and inspired by the possibilities for grants and operations professionals.
But not everyone wants to be a CEO. There’s room for us all, and—in the true spirit of inclusion—let’s not tailor our approach to only one type of aspiration. You don’t need to make promotion or elevation your goal to advance your talents and competencies. Many of us have taken this career journey and found our love—our place to shine and thrive—in grants management or grant operations.
I have our members to thank for helping me to understand this and keeping me from inadvertently leaving anyone behind. Quietly, in the amazing way we support each other in the PEAK community, you’ve helped me become conscious of ways I have been othered and how I might other people, lessons that directed my career journey toward greater empathy and inclusion.
In fact, I would be disingenuous if I didn’t give credit to the individuals who make up the PEAK network for, quite simply, lighting a fire under me. Since I first became part of the PEAK community, you have provided the light and heat I needed in my career: to transform myself, to mentor and support those reporting to me, and to reimagine my home institution as a more efficient, effective, and equitable grantmaker.
But let’s talk about your journey. Elevating the field of grants management and empowering all philanthropy professionals is at the core of PEAK’s mission is—irrespective of their title or the type of organization they work in—to operationalize equity through grantmaking practices. As CEO, a key component of my role is advocating for you as we work to collectively transform philanthropy. I am at my best when a peer reaches out and asks me to serve as a thought partner to help them weigh their next move, or try to decide if working in philanthropy is their highest, best service in this moment of so much chaos. At PEAK, we get to meet our members where they are. Sometimes we are changing the world. Sometimes we are changing ourselves.
Though it may be happening more slowly than we desire, philanthropy is also transforming—and grants management and operations staff is the critical lever of change for institutions ready to reshape their practices. This was just as true before the pandemic, though it might not have been evident to everyone. It surely is now. This is the moment we need to light that fire for each other, and for our colleagues.
To activate and build the movement for changes long overdue, and more urgent than ever, we must be equipped with a wide range of skills and a specific set of knowledge. PEAK is uniquely capable of providing the resources to establish those skills and knowledge sets, to elevate you in your position as grants professionals, and to help you transform the sector writ large.
Inside this edition of the Journal, you’ll find loads of insights and inspiration from across our community, including highlights of my recent conversation with Storme Gray, Executive Director of Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy, who shares how she’s approached her first year at the helm of EPIP. I think you’ll find, like I did, that her insight sparks some musings on your own career, and what it means to follow one’s destiny.
Everyone needs support to advance their career journey, wherever they dream of it leading. I’m committed, along with the PEAK team and our board, to helping you find your path, make steady progress, and persevere through any setback. I hope this issue of the Journal makes an enduring guide and motivator—a ready source of light and heat—as you journey onward.