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PEAK Grantmaking

Career Journeys in Philanthropy

About this issue

As PEAK celebrates its 25th year, we reflect on what brought us here: you.

In this issue, we celebrate the journeys of accidental technologists and process pioneers who led critical, formative work to make grantmaking more efficient, more effective, and ultimately, more equitable.

To help tell our story, we’ve asked members of the PEAK community to share their own career experiences; to explore how they are moving within the field to grow their skills, assert their leadership, and rise up as leaders of change to push, pull, and sometimes drag the field forward.

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What's Inside

Letter from the Editors

As PEAK celebrates its 25th year, we reflect on what brought us here: you. In this issue, we celebrate the journeys of accidental technologists and process pioneers who led critical, formative work to make grantmaking more efficient, more effective, and ultimately, more equitable.

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From our CEO

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.

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Guest Editor Reflections

When we decided to create an edition of the Journal that explores the evolution of the grantmaking profession, we reached out to TeQuion Brookins and Lourdes Inga as partners for the endeavor. The insight they bring from their own career journeys have indelibly shaped the stories that follow and we are deeply grateful for their contributions. It’s only fitting that we begin this issue with their unique perspectives.

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Anonymous: how do you lead or influence practice changes in your organization? what barriers have you encountered in trying to lead practice change?

“I am constantly circling back to see if ideas are gaining more traction with each conversation. I see that it works when I keep referencing the change I am seeking to implement.”

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An Unexpected Journey

I joined The California Endowment in 1999 as a program assistant, not even knowing what it meant to have a career in philanthropy. The concept of giving money away for a living in and of itself was strange to me. In my 19 years at that organization, I would hold five different titles and each one allowed me to engage with and learn a variety of staff across the organizations and in the community.

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The Innate Power of Grantmakers

For many, grants management was an unexpected detour along their intended career journey, but it’s a path they ultimately decided to continue traveling. It can be a lonely road, and one where a professional can feel disconnected from peers, misunderstood, and excluded from strategy and decision making. But dynamics within funding institutions are slowly changing, and the unique position in which grants managers sit is now expanding such that their increasing influence is driving change.

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The Importance of Actively Pursuing New Challenges

As the nonprofit I was working for was closing down, I saw an ad for a grants assistant at a foundation. I was five years into my nonprofit career and I didn’t really know what a foundation was. In hindsight, I’d say I was fortunate to be at the right place at the right time.

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Anonymous: Is there heightened interest in racial justice as a result of the pandemic? do you see new career opportunities or barriers?

“My foundation is now less willing to support professional development, so I must seek it now on my own and pay for it on my own”

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A Conversation on Transformational Leadership

The path to a career in philanthropy isn’t always clear-cut. Such was the case for Storme Gray, who as an undergraduate was studying to become a graphic designer. Thankfully for the sector, the combination of a little soul-searching and engaged mentors set her on a trajectory that has landed her at the top of the Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy (EPIP).


Bringing a New Value System to Philanthropy

My first memory of philanthropy was my naming ceremony. It was a hot summer day in New Town, North Dakota. I remember arriving at my grandma Teresa’s house and being met with endless hugs and kisses. It didn’t take long for a display of gifts to appear. When I saw them, I immediately thought back to conversations my mom had with family members about what gifts to prepare. That is the Arikara way of showing respect and giving thanks during this sacred exchange. From this memory forward, my experience with philanthropy has always been partitioned. In my mind, Native philanthropy has always been different from Western philanthropy.

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Seeing the Value of My Perspective

As of this year, I have been in the philanthropic sector for 20 years, having started my career in philanthropy with the Kronkosky Charitable Foundation as a grants manager. At that time, there weren’t many Latinos in working for foundations, even in Texas, a state where Hispanic and Latino people comprise almost 40 percent of the population. It seemed that those of us working for foundations naturally gravitated to each other, drawn together by shared histories, languages, and culturas. Many of my peers have left the sector for one reason or another, and the potential of growing our representation in the sector has all but stalled.

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by the numbers

Advocating for Pay Equity in Grants Management

As the field of philanthropy evolves, grants management professionals have been instrumental in driving and influencing more equitable, effective, and efficient grantmaking practices. And yet, current compensation practices don’t reflect the expanding value of the role, as PEAK Grantmaking’s 2020 Grants Management Salary Report demonstrates. What’s more, the data show inequity within pay bands among people based on components of personal identity. There are also concerning trends across job bands.

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The Serendipity of Life

On October 19, 1987, the day the stock market crashed, the Ford Foundation sent a Western Union telegram offering me a job. My new title: archives assistant. I knew little about what foundations or archivists did, but I was bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, and the Ford Foundation fit the bill for what I wanted in my next job: it was a large nonprofit that was international in scope that was trying to make the world a better place. I’ll work a year or two, I figured, and then join the US Foreign Service. The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.

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Full-Moon Leadership: Reflecting the Brilliance of Community

When I joined Akonadi Foundation in 2015 as a grants manager, I was excited to be working for an organization whose stated mission was to “eliminate structural racism.” I was committed to bringing my full self to propel this mission and build grantmaking practices that promote justice. Over the years, this has encompassed using my position to advocate for practices that more accessibility for applicants, reduce burden on grantees, and explore how we could do more to cede power and bring community partners into the foundation’s decision-making.

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Finding a Career Where Thinking, Feeling, and Leading Aren’t Mutually Exclusive

Like many of my colleagues and peers, I did not go to college to get a degree in philanthropy. I thought that I would follow in my family’s footsteps and become an attorney or maybe even get involved in politics. I went to the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia to work toward a master’s degree in Policy Studies. While finishing a research-related project at the City of Sydney Council, I received an email that would change my life.

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insights from the field

Looking Down the Road Ahead

We have filled this edition of the Journal with perspectives that illuminate the shared experiences of grantmaking professionals as they have grown their strategic influence in the field. As you continue on your own career journey, know that you occupy a unique position from which to transform philanthropy. Unlocking that power and seeing yourself as a leader is easier and less lonely when you can find support within the larger community of grantmaking professionals.

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PEAK Community

What’s new and notable from PEAK Grantmaking – from exclusive member benefits, to member news, events highlights, and what’s ahead.

Charting New Paths for Grants Management

Consider the many ways in which PEAK members and volunteers have blazed new trails over the past 25 years.

Celebrating Our First 25 Years, Looking Ahead to Our Next Chapter

Celebrating PEAK’s first 25 years and looking ahead to our next chapter.

PEAK Community

Read on for our semiannual roundup of news from PEAK’s vibrant network of grantmaking professionals, featuring member news, board election updates, chapter event highlights, and a welcome to new-members.

Program News

A roundup of what’s new and notable around PEAK, and ways you can tap into a growing array of member-exclusive resources to support your work.