Within the network at PEAK Grantmaking, we talk a lot about the ‘how’ of grantmaking. What are your processes? How do you practice philanthropy? These are important questions, integral to achieving your organization’s mission. But grantmaking doesn’t stop with ‘how.’ Organizationally and personally, ‘why’ is just as important. Your foundation fulfills a mission, and how you make grants expresses that mission and the values behind it.
My role at the Missouri Health Foundation is to collaborate with all areas of the foundation to make grants management an integrated part of achieving the foundation’s objectives. In addition to playing an integral part in establishing grantmaking practices, grants management staff are part of every funding team and participate in the program development, proposal review, and post award processes. We also analyze award data, and that analysis plays a role in deciding how we’ll make grants in the future. Equally important to those responsibilities is how we apply our mission statement and core values — equity, integrity, humility and commitment — to our grantmaking practices and decisions.
In practical terms, this means applying a values-based lens to our processes, and answering some tough questions: Are we being equitable in how we consider proposals? Are we focusing on the right organizations and populations? How transparent are we to applicants and grantees? What are we doing to remove barriers?
And so, we work with grantees to help make their projects successful. We consider ourselves and behave as a partner from the beginning of the proposal submission and, if funded, through the life of the award by providing technical assistance, assessing their progress and asking questions, as well as allowing mid-course corrections.
Your personal values play an important role here, too. What’s important to you? Why does the work you do, as a grantmaking professional, matter? How do the two connect?
Philanthropy is talking about values and practices, and PEAK Grantmaking is leading the conversation. One of the key goals in the 2017–2019 Strategic Plan is, “Grantmakers align their values with their grantmaking for increased effectiveness, and meet practice ideals.”
Beginning this year, you’ll experience — and, I hope, participate in — the field-wide discussions PEAK Grantmaking will lead about grantmaker values and how practices express them. Topics will include practices related to strategy and policy, approach and structure, requirements, workflow and processes, communication and relationship, knowledge and information management.
Without this dialogue, without this thoughtful discussion, we grantmaking professionals risk straying from our missions and not serving our constituencies. With it, we’ll create a framework that incorporates values and identifies, organizes and prioritizes ideal practices that bring more consistency to grantmaking. It’s a critical conversation, and I encourage you to take part in it.
Deena Lauver Scotti is Director of Grants Management, for the Missouri Foundation for Health. She’s currently participating in GMN’s Thought Leaders program, and has been an active GMN member for over a dozen years.