Have you ever wondered what principles to adopt to promote good grantmaking practices at your organization – actually, not just good practice, but the best grantmaking practices possible? Grant managers are a special group of professionals always looking for perfection, order, and improvement. In other words, we are the perfect group of professionals to seek the best practices possible.
This is why I was pleased when PEAK Grantmaking decided to develop Principles of PEAK Grantmaking and looked to the membership for guidance. The five Principles of PEAK Grantmaking, in their current draft form, are:
- Align grantmaking practices with values [Values]
- Be responsible and responsive stewards of the resources entrusted to us [Stewards]
- Mitigate the power imbalance in grantmaking [Mitigate Power Imbalance]
- Implement equitable grantmaking practices [Equity]
- Take a learning approach to achieving impact [Learning for Impact]
Last spring at the PEAK Grantmaking Conference, I was honored to be asked along with other seasoned grantmaking professionals to participate in a “Principles of PEAK Grantmaking Working Session.” As you might expect, the conversation buzzed as grantmakers from every type of funding organization grappled with both how and why we do our work. No one wanted to leave the room when time was up – even in Orlando where the sun was shining.
Since last March, PEAK Grantmaking has organized and staffed five work groups, comprised of members and other philanthropic experts, to delve into and craft Principles of PEAK Grantmaking. The principles are not being created in isolation. One by one, during 2019, through discussion, research, interviews, surveys, and workshops, each principle will be introduced to the PEAK Grantmaking community (PEAK members, foundation executives, consultants, and other philanthropic thought leaders). To get us started, three working groups with 7-10 members each have been gathering, by conference call and google-doc, to do this work collaboratively. A fourth working group will begin meeting in early 2019 and the fifth in April 2019. An Overall Working Group has been seated to ensure consistency and compatibility across the five principles.
The work groups began meeting via phone last May and, together, will continue meeting and responding to drafts through 2019. Under each principle, a set of position statements specify the practices grantmakers can adopt to align their grantmaking with that principle. Work groups have discussed, debated, revised, and added immeasurable insight into each principle. As you can imagine, our conversations have been energetic. This has been a dynamic, iterative process. Each work group is committed to identifying the set of practices that will take philanthropy to the next level.
Those who know me will not be surprised to learn I volunteered for Steward working group as well as the Overall Working Group. I am passionate about stewardship and believe my experience in the field can add the most value in this area. Nevertheless, every working group call has given me the chance to learn from colleagues in different settings and with diverse experiences. During one call, I recall a lengthy discussion/debate about stewardship and the role grant managers play in ensuring good stewardship of the resources. I had considered stewardship a board responsibility, but as my peers spoke, I realized all of us have responsibility for being good stewards of the resources entrusted to us. This process allowed all our voices and perspectives to be heard and valued. Our discussion ultimately led to a decision with which the whole group could agree. I have been volunteering at PEAK Grantmaking for about 10 years and always find the experience rewarding – my most recent experience with Principles of PEAK Grantmaking is no exception. Every one of us has experiences and opportunities to add value. The more voices that contribute, the more successful the principles will be.
Principles of PEAK Grantmaking has the potential to raise the bar for grantmaking organizations. These standards will help my own organization and my peers in philanthropy embrace what’s next in grantmaking practice and, most importantly, achieve more impact. Over the next year, opportunities to volunteer for this project will be multiple and varied. I encourage you to consider volunteering for this important work. Volunteering for PEAK Grantmaking is very rewarding – PEAK’s staff and consultants keep us organized and do most of the heavy lifting. All they need from us is our knowledge and expertise. For those who cannot volunteer directly, rest assured, you will have opportunities to respond to drafts during the member review and revision phases.
We are all responsible for the ‘how’ of grantmaking – and for making it as effective and principled as it can be. Be on the look-out for invitations to participate in this creative and rewarding process! Steeped in the experience of grants management professionals, this project will expand our reach, share our collective insight, and seek commitments to embrace the five principles to achieve even greater impact!