At PEAK Grantmaking, we focus on the “operations” side of the house in philanthropy, supporting the individuals and teams that are responsible for crafting the processes and procedures that uphold and enforce the values and policies of their organizations. Yet, the position is often perceived as low-power and not invited to the decision-making table. In some organizations, the attitude of “We’ll decide; you implement” prevails.
It’s time for that to change. To claim power and a seat at the table. To be the change leaders that advance equitable, effective grantmaking within your organization, and across the sector.
Drive the conversation with these three key resources from PEAK.
Embrace your strategic role
Our Grants Management Professional Competency Model, released in 2018, made clear that not only do grant professionals command administrative and process-oriented skills, they also embrace the role of change leaders within their organizations.
As the role of data and technology has grown in importance in relation to strategic decision-making, grants professionals are mastering cross-functional competencies like operations, technology, finance and compliance, program and mission-based work, knowledge management and evaluation, and strategic management.
This increased breadth of skill has led grants managers to be more focused on the human side of their work as well: change management, collaboration and partnerships, power dynamics, community engagement, and racial equity, diversity, and inclusion.
Since its release, our members regularly use the competency model to help update their job descriptions to more accurately reflect their day-to-day skills and knowledge. It also provides a platform from which they can advocate for themselves for promotions, increased authority, and (combined with our salary report) pay raises. Most importantly, the kinds of skills, knowledge, and behaviors at the center of the model make it clear that grants professionals are making critical contributions to their organization’s success and impact.
PEAK’s 2020 Grants Management Salary Report found that grants management is heavily populated by women, accounting for 80% of respondents. Yet, even with the dominance of women across the field, there remains a troubling difference between men’s and women’s salaries that echoes overall U.S. statistics.
The profession is also more diverse than the rest of philanthropy, with 39% of respondents reporting they are non-white. However, diversity goes down as decision-making authority goes up: Only 16% of those in executive positions are non-white, according to our survey.
It is likely that the historic roots of oppression for these two groups – women and Black, Indigenous, and other people of color (BIPOC) – has cloned itself inside of philanthropy. The result: This incredibly important function – literally the engine that runs philanthropy – is often sidelined in strategic decisions because of the traditional power structures that exist within our society and within our organizations.
Put principles into practice
Back in 2017, PEAK Grantmaking began exploring the concept of values-based grantmaking and what that might look like if it were operationalized. As we talked with our members and other sector leaders, we began to coalesce around five key principles for implementing a more equitable framework for grantmaking practice – those nitty-gritty details around things like database fields, application and eligibility requirements, compliance and due diligence checklists, decision-making workflows, grant agreements, and reporting requirements.
Each of our five Principles for Peak Grantmaking highlights the critical role of the grants management team in defining and implementing the processes and policies that advance equitable, effective grantmaking practices:
- Grants professionals can do the tough work of helping their organizations put a mirror up to themselves, to reflect, and to ask questions about how these practices align with their values: Tie Practices to Values.
- Grant professionals can make strategic efforts around streamlining application and reporting processes, implementing more flexible (and trusting) procedures in due diligence and grant structure, and using feedback from grantees and their community to inform a process that leads to stronger partnerships: Narrow the Power Gap.
- Grant professionals can examine their processes across the grantmaking lifecycle to determine the ways unconscious bias could be impacting decisions, manage diverse and inclusive external review committees, and use their data collection and analysis acumen to collect and use demographic data to inform their organization’s impact in communities of color: Drive Equity.
- Grant professionals can open and support conversations around risk management and apply an equity lens to legal and financial compliance and due diligence “traditions” that have traditionally meant organizations that are led by people of color are chronically under-resourced and over-monitored: Steward Responsively.
- Grant professionals can harness the power of grant reports to find the information that matters most, partnering with grantees and communities to learn together, amplify what works and ask for help with challenges that can be tackled collectively, and to use what is learned to fuel even greater and deeper impact: Learn, Share, Evolve.
Starting in 2019, we’ve been releasing robust sets of member resources and recommendations that deliver practical, in-depth guidance to help put each Principle into practice – including action planners, webinars, and member-exclusive case stories and how-to guides, along with partner workshop opportunities and a roundup of insights from the field. Delve into them to develop your organizational roadmap toward more equitable, effective and principles grantmaking.
Write the new grantmaking playbook
With a pandemic as the backdrop to everything we do and every decision we make right now, we sit in a transitional space: the time in between what we were pre-pandemic, and who we will become post-pandemic.
Things that felt impossible to change, just last year, have changed three times since. Over the past five months, grants management professionals have played a critical role in rapidly adapting grantmaking practice in response to the pandemic, proving their critical and increasingly strategic role. The playbook on how to make grants has been up-ended, and we now have an opportunity to write a new playbook – one that supports a more just, inclusive, and equitable world.
In this moment of opportunity, what is the risk that we will take if we return to “normal” without having examined and broken down each of the ways in which we wield our money and power through policies and processes that direct, restrict, monitor, or exclude? Now that we so clearly see the racial, social, and economic disparities laid bare, how could we even consider returning to a place when we did not see?
Our community is organizing. We are building a network of changemakers in all the spaces of philanthropy: large private foundations, small family foundations, corporate grantmakers, community foundations, donor-advised funds, impact investors. Even some government grantmakers and contractors are joining the conversation.
Grants management professionals are ready to re-write the rules, and we have the skills and knowledge to do it. Now, we just need to claim our power, and a seat at the table.