Member Voices Improve Philanthropy, Improve the World

With the right investments in civil society’s supporting institutions, we can reach new levels of efficiency, ethics, and excellence.

One of the reasons I’m proud to be PEAK Grantmaking’s executive director is because our members do such important work. According to the Foundation Center (, 86,726 foundations distributed more than $60 billion in 2014 alone — transforming countless lives, communities, and ecosystems. Grants management professionals brought those philanthropic missions to life.

However, all of us who watch philanthropy know we can do better, and doing better matters. Doing better gives you greater impact and the ability to make resources go farther. With three of our goals focused on improving grantmaking practices, PEAK Grantmaking’s 2017–2019 Strategic Plan is driving philanthropy to a place where better grantmaking is achievable:

  • Grantmakers align their values with their grantmaking for increased effectiveness, and meet practice ideals.
  • Practices, programs, and relationships are the strategic drivers of grantmaker success.
  • Grants management professionals increase their knowledge and take the lead in the evolving field.

To get there, we’re going to open up some critical conversations, like a discussion on how individual grantmakers and the field as a whole can bring values and practices into greater alignment.  We’ll identify and make the case for more consistent practices—not just best practices, but practices that grantmakers should consider as standards for their work. These practices will be both possible and impactful for the grantmaker, grantseeker, or both. We’ll integrate discussions of ideal practices in strategy and policy; approach and structure; requirements, process, and workflow; interface, communications and relationships, and knowledge/information management.

We believe what you do is more than a function; that when practices are seen as integral components of strategy, better grantmaking happens, and that how you make a grant is as important as who receives it. To be successful in grantmaking, you must understand the connections between data, systems, and strategies and how they affect philanthropic goals — and we will work toward that goal.

We’re also enhancing our educational offerings, because the people implementing and managing grantmaking practices need to be experts in this work. You’re the ones who must connect the dots across knowledge, relationships, and systems to improve grantmaking decisions and design, and you’ve made your thirst for knowledge clear. From 2008–2015, we saw a 72 percent increase in participation in our learning programs, and in 2015, we improved the knowledge, skills, and abilities of grantmakers through nearly 1,600 engagements. This hasn’t been learning strictly for learning’s sake or even for career advancement. It’s learning so you understand — and have — the tools you need to advocate for ideal practices in your organization. It’s about being an expert in your work, a leader in your organization, and a change agent, driving philanthropy and your organization to higher levels. And, so we’re sure members are putting knowledge into practice, we’ll demonstrate that participants are applying what they’ve learned to improve grantmaking practices.

Your beneficiaries make things happen. With better grantmaking, funds go farther, faster. With the right investments in civil society’s supporting local, state, national, and international institutions, we can reach new levels of efficiency, ethics, and excellence.

2017-2019 will be an exciting time. It’s about the opportunity to make real changes in grantmaking, and everything PEAK Grantmaking does is through the lens of being an organization for and by grantmakers. We’re informed and driven by what philanthropists have said they want and need. Our evolution is coming from within.

Michelle Greanias has been PEAK Grantmaking’s Executive Director since 2008.