When I started at the Meyer Foundation over a decade ago, after 20 years working in the nonprofit sector, grants management was the office with huge stacks of proposals waiting around to be “processed.” It was the place an urgent grant request hung out for weeks until it was paid. It was the residence of a magician who could pull information out of arcane Gifts Classic. Then, one day, I landed the Grants Manager job and found myself in that office full of paper and no idea how to move forward.
Lucky for me, my supervisor had already signed me up for the 2006 GMN conference in New York City. Four months into my new job, I walked into the Terrace Room at the Roosevelt Hotel and I thought “I have found my people!” These were wonderful, smart, well-read, fun and creative types—definitely not the paper-pushers I had imagined. I made an enormous professional development leap at that one conference and at so many others that followed. Fairly quickly I formed a network of smart grants managers to whom I could pose dumb questions or tease out a tricky issue. At one point I co-chaired the DC chapter and met more of these smart people who worked within a quick walk of my office.
Over the years, the resources for in-person and especially remote learning have grown exponentially. While I now have additional tools in my toolkit beyond PEAK Grantmaking, I’m coming back around to my early enthusiasm. When the online community took a short hiatus in recent years, I mourned it deeply (and loudly!), but now I spread the news about our new Connect community as if I were welcoming home the Prodigal Son.
PEAK Grantmaking’s new strategic plan lays out renewed dedication to professional development, even for a seasoned grants manager like me. In fact, members will be key drivers of the content, so the more we are all involved in shaping it and communicating our needs, the more useful it will be to each of us. The plan envisions building competency but also leaving “room for imagination and innovation” and becoming better stewards of knowledge and data in service of change. This exactly what I need to move our foundation forward and I’m thrilled to be starting another educational journey with the real experts in grantmaking practice.
When I remember the office I walked into over a decade ago, it is hard to imagine that I still have the same job title. Truth is, grants management now has much greater influence at the Meyer Foundation, and I’ve got PEAK Grantmaking to thank for helping to get me where I am. So let’s roll up our sleeves, grants manager friends, some good fun awaits us!
Jane Robinson Ward is grants manager at the Eugene & Agnes E. Meyer Foundation in Washington, D.C. She has been a member of GMN for more than ten years and has served as a co-chair of the national annual conference.