Member Voices Setting a Vision for Our Future

"We need to embrace an aggressive vision for the future."

As 2016 was wrapping us, so was a strategic plan that led Grants Managers Network from 2014-2016. Hard at work was the GMN Board of Directors, staff, and member focus groups in planning for GMN’s future—a 2017-2019 plan that is ambitious yet entirely achievable for the organization and its members. The Board of Directors took the opportunity to do an extensive evaluation of the organization’s capability to serve the philanthropic community. “We had an opportunity to assess what we can and, possibly more importantly, what we cannot do,” says Board Co-Chair Chris Percopo. “The primary focus has and will continue to be what is most important to us as an organization and that is highlighting the criticality of grants management and its evolution to our members and across the philanthropic sector.”

The 2014-2016 Strategic Plan served as a jumping off point for the organization to reflect on successes and lessons learned. That strategic plan was highly focused on “product” development and organizational operations. “Over the past couple of years, we have really tried to ensure that as the organization grew its membership, we had the right programming in place and were listening to understand our members’ needs,” says Percopo. Throughout this assessment, the Board realized that the organization is ready to transition and find ways in which it can be more impactful on philanthropy’s outcomes. “We need to embrace an aggressive vision for the future,” says Percopo. In March 2017, GMN was renamed PEAK Grantmaking.

Driving the Future

Taking a deeper dive allowed the Board to evaluate which focus areas the organization could directly influence—standardizing grantmaking practices, advocating for the profession, developing experts and leaders, and putting more resources toward supporting the membership. This has resulted in targeted outcomes that are highlighted in the 2017-2019 Strategic Plan.

“If we provide a platform for professional development at the individual level, this drives process improvement and change at the organizational level which directly influences philanthropic outcomes,” says Board Co-Chair Marc McDonald. Many of the discussions had as part of this planning process kept leading back to the need to take a holistic approach to grantmaking and elevating grantmakers to a higher ideal. McDonald adds, “We really needed to understand the ultimate beneficiaries of our work – the people and causes we hope to serve through our grantees.”

Making Mission Matter

Grantmaking practices are at the heart how each grantmaker works and should be a public expression of their core values. PEAK Grantmaking hopes to move the membership to evaluating their practices in a way that aligns with the core values of their organization. “We can support members in evaluating their processes and procedures for practice efficiencies and assess whether or not resources are efficiently reaching the intended beneficiaries—the grantees,” says McDonald. This internal shift uses an equity lens as it applies to policies, procedures, and processes. “We know the gap between the haves and the have-nots continues to increase. We think that by focusing on organizational values, we can help members be more effective in achieving their missions,” says McDonald.

Taking a Stand

When looking at the work of grantmakers, there are a variety of practices that lend themselves to ideals. For years, grants managers have been collaborating on requirements, processes, and workflows. Taking these practices and transforming them into a shared knowledge base of ideal practices can position the organization as an industry leader. “It’s now time for us to own our place in the community,” says Percopo, “and let our work be the focal point that drives organizational outcomes.” Expect to see PEAK Grantmaking show up in places and spaces where grantmaking decision-makers are sharing knowledge and learning, as the organization plans to remain a prime source for information and influence around grantmaker practices.

Elevating the Members’ Role

The field of philanthropy is ever changing, as is the role of grantsmakers. Creating efficiencies in how grantmakers operate creates the opportunity for PEAK Grantmaking members to transition from administrators to strategic influencers. “We have highly-engaged members at all levels who are living the realities of their ever-changing roles,” says McDonald. “Our hope is to elevate our membership to the next level by empowering them to look beyond their current roles and responsibilities,” says Percopo. The organization will continue to develop its reputation as an industry leader by leveraging members’ expertise and experience, as well as by collaborating with a variety of strategic partners. “This plan positions the organization to better serve our members. Our members must be the ones leading the charge,” says McDonald, “They are the change makers at their organizations.”

Building on the Momentum

The Board has made a strategic shift to the role of governance with a strong focus on organizational infrastructure and capacity. The strategic plan also continues a focus on growing and diversifying membership and developing dynamic programming and resources. “We know the organization is poised for an exciting change. We now have the capacity and our members our ready,” says Percopo. “We’ve put a lot of pressure on staff to make sure that the organization can successfully implement this plan.” McDonald adds, “We are focused on reaching new heights and achieving our vision of an equitable world, and we are really excited about what the future holds.”

With the release of the 2017-2019 strategic plan, Percopo and McDonald encourage every member to embrace their role in the community and find the ways in which they can engage with PEAK Grantmaking. Together, as leaders and experts, we are driving the future of grantmaking.


Marc McDonald is Vice President, Grants & External Initiatives, at the AARP Foundation in Washington, D.C. Christopher Percopo is Director of Grants Management and Special Program Operations at The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust in New York.