A Few Notes from a Newcomer
“Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action.” – Peter Drucker
It’s not very often life gives you time to pause and take a step back from your work. For a lot of us, seeing the forest through the trees, while a tired cliché, can be a real challenge. Finding myself with a brief pause as I transition roles at Foundation Center from graduate intern for GrantCraft to research assistant, it’s timely to reflect on what I’ve observed during my nearly 18 months here.
Working at Foundation Center has been a sort of supercharged introduction to the philanthropy sector for me, and a lot has happened during that time. From the launch of Foundation Maps to the overhaul of our taxonomy, not to mention the re-launch of the GrantCraft website and the emergence of a host of new platforms providing greater insight into areas the sector is working in, it’s been a bit of a whirlwind.
At GrantCraft specifically, we’ve followed along with the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies as they document their experience as a spend down foundation, kept up on Lucy Bernholz’ Blueprint series (and are eagerly awaiting the next installment), and released new guides on pressing topics. With the new website has come a greater emphasis on diverse forms of content and key takeaways, and a proliferation of content translated to other languages and contexts has broadened our community.
Out of this all these developments, a couple of themes emerged for me that I think are key for the sector to continue to work on:
Keep sharing and collaborating
There is already a chorus of calls for increased collaboration in the sector, so much so that occasionally we need to remember that collaboration isn’t always a silver bullet. Even so, there are so many great examples of gains made through effective stakeholder convening, supporting collaboration among grantees, and smart partnerships.
But beyond that sort of high-level, institutional collaboration, there’s also potential for learning and field-building when funders share on a peer-to-peer level. I’m going to be a GrantCraft cheerleader for a minute here, but in hearing stories from youth engaging in grantmaking for the first time, or seasoned program officers sharing a moment that changed the way they approached grantmaking, or the any number of guest blogs, comments, and video interviews that make up GrantCraft, I’ve learned such a great deal about the sector. So please, stay actively engaged and continue sharing your wisdom.
Keep striving for transparency
It’s no secret that at Foundation Center, we care about transparency; after all, encouraging the sector to be more transparent is one of our strategic priorities. There’s good reason for this: as more and more foundations open up their data and knowledge, it’s amazing to see what can happen.
Now that I’m beginning a research role here at Foundation Center, my primary interest in transparency is the access to timely and accurate data on the sector. This is where I have an actionable request for you: become an eReporter. Sharing your data gives a more complete picture of the sector, and you even get a free, interactive map with your own data for doing it.
A more dynamic and responsive sector
Transparency and collaboration are important to me because ultimately, they result in a stronger sector better positioned to meet the challenges we face in this line of work, and we at Foundation Center get to help with that. When you have a sector that works together, opens up its data, and shares its knowledge and resources, you make possible platforms like Foundation Funding for U.S. Democracy, a hub for democracy funding timely released in the heat of an election cycle. Or SDGfunders, similarly launched just as world leaders were signing on to the latest round of global development goals. These multi-content landscapes give the sector not only a better picture of its work but a firm footing to leverage its leadership on important issues.
I know my Foundation Center-centric view of the sector shows through in this post. I can’t help but be excited about the work going on here, as to me it’s just a reflection of what’s happening across the sector. And as I move (not too far) away from being directly involved with GrantCraft, I’m so thankful for the knowledge generated by this community and look forward to staying tuned in to your stories and wisdom.