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PEAK Grantmaking

Member of the Moment: Lisa Torres

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 ( 

Meet Lisa Torres, Grants Manager at The Coleman Foundation.

Q. How did you get into grants management?

I got into grants management by chance. I had been working for Northwestern University and was looking to make a change, when I ran into a former student. She suggested I try working with a downtown recruiter and gave me a name. I called and met with the recruiter, and a few days later, I interviewed at the Fry Foundation. As I learned about the Foundation and the work they do, I realized that it was exactly the kind of work that I would truly enjoy. As luck would have it, they thought I would be a good fit, and so it began. I stayed because, as a single mother, I needed to balance my work and life issues. I am pleased to say that all the Foundations at which I have worked, have supported me as I navigated that challenge.

Q. What’s your background (education and work)?

My first job after having children was at Northwestern University where I worked as a department assistant. A department assistant is the administrative support for academic departments and was the place where I was first introduced to databases, scheduling on a large scale, and managing workflows. While I loved working with the students and professors, it was starting to get hard saying goodbye all the time as they graduated or moved on to a new university. I began college at the University of Chicago, but interrupted my studies to start a family. Several years ago, I enrolled at Northwestern University’s School of Professional Studies. Last August, I finally completed my bachelor’s degree. Go Cats!

Q. What’s your favorite part of the grants management job?

Mailing out the checks! Knowing that efforts that the grantees and the foundation staff have put into the proposal, it is extremely gratifying to part of the process that recognizes the work and the aims of our partners. While I know that foundation processes are moving away from paper checks, it is still fun to imagine the good works that are contained in the envelopes.

Q. What frustrates you about your job?

That people often aren’t aware of how much work goes into making processes run smoothly. Things happen smoothly, and because there are no hitches, people assume that you did not have to put in much effort. They fail to recognize that there is much prep work and monitoring that is done to make things look effortless.

Q. What do you wish your colleagues and coworkers knew about what you do?

It’s good for you in the long run. As my former executive director once said, “great nags are made, not born.” There is a lot of prodding that I do, but if they go with it, they will have time when they really need it. We are a tight organization and the various workflows interact in many ways that are not immediately apparent.

Q. What do you wish every grants manager knew about their job?

That no matter how small your organization, you don’t have to go it alone! A colleague who has gone through that exact same thing is always just a call away.