As philanthropy evolves, the challenges for those working in grantmaking continue to become more complex. The why (strategy) and who (grantees) may still be easy to understand, but the how of grantmaking (practices of actual grantmaking) is changing at the speed of technology, data, policy, and practice.
In an effort to get at the core of what matters for the how of grantmaking, Grants Managers Network developed a new Blueprint for the Future that has implications for individual practitioners, grantmaking foundations of all types, and for philanthropy as a field of practice.
Starting with our core audience—our members—we listened to grants managers expressing the need for greater knowledge and expertise in the field of grantmaking. Most grantmaking organizations have their way of doing things, but few of those ways are tried and tested and even fewer take into account some of the best scholarship on grantmaking. It is critical to develop core knowledge on the practices of grantmaking and to develop an education practice that puts grants managers in control of their field of learning. Educating practitioners at the fundamental level also ensures that knowledge will flow upward through grantmaking organizations, creating impact at every level.
At the same time that grants managers are expanding their knowledge, there is a real need to expand the knowledge of the entire field of philanthropy about the most effective practices. Getting at those practices, and getting those practices into the grantmaking organizations that need them, will require a concerted effort by all practitioners working together to develop a core understanding of practices that matter. This is where knowledge will flow from grants managers, who are in a position to comment on practices that are effective and efficient and that work best for grantmakers and grantseekers. Increased transparency and a mobilized field of practice can help tackle key barriers to effectiveness and bridge the gap between effective grants management and successful grants outcomes. Through a new field-wide campaign—Practices Matter—all philanthropy experts will have the opportunity to help identify and communicate what is most effective, working toward the goal of showcasing smart grantmaking and better results.
To achieve the educational levels that grants managers need and get the entire field working on effective practices will require closer connections than philanthropy has seen before. But by connecting grants management professionals, and the organizations they represent, these individuals can learn from peers and work together to advance the field. Grants management professionals are playing increasingly important roles in the success of their organizations and philanthropy as a whole. Creating more spaces where the profession can come together to share challenges and solutions is essential to its continued growth and impact. Intensified efforts to grow the network of grants management professionals, strengthen connections among members, and help them develop their leadership abilities and voices in philanthropy can alter changes in philanthropy from merely an evolution to a true revolution of mission-meeting initiatives.
Everyone working in philanthropy recognizes the goal of achieving the greatest outcomes possible, but few work on a daily basis in the trenches of the practices that influence those outcomes. Grants managers do this work on a daily basis and can be our guides to how to do it better, so that we can all maximize philanthropic impact together.