Being Ready for the Big Questions

When people ask me what I do for a living, I give them my best 2 minute explanation of foundations and grantmaking and I inevitably end up telling them that I love my job. And I really mean it. I feel incredibly fortunate to do this work - and I would be willing to bet that you do too.

Caring deeply about this work means compelling ourselves to continue growing and refining our efforts - both as individual practitioners and as grantmaking organizations. One of the reasons I find myself returning again and again to GrantCraft resources is that they shed light on both the personal and organizational dimensions of the topic at hand. It's simultaneously refreshing and sobering to acknowledge that the "how" of our personal day-to-day practices affects the success of our organizations’ big-picture strategies. The beauty of GrantCraft lies in its ability to help us understand this dynamic for the opportunity that it is. For me, this has often meant finding new depth within work that is already familiar territory for me. Roles@Work and Personal Strategy: Mobilizing Yourself for Effective Grantmaking are two great places to begin or revisit periodically. 

Not surprisingly, getting serious about personal professional practices around existing work has made me feel much better equipped to navigate changes in organizational strategy. Given how difficult it can be to predict when these opportunities will arise in an organization, it's important to have a solid foundation from which to act on new strategies.

An opportunity like this occurred in my own organization last year, when our board decided to create a new strategic framework for our primary grant program. Having been mindful of the patterns I observed with our existing framework and drawing on the feedback I'd been open to receiving from our nonprofit partners, I was able to speak confidently to the strengths and weaknesses of our current strategy and suggest key changes to include in the new version. I was also able to back up my recommendations with research and best practices from GrantCraft and other resources. 

My most significant lesson learned from this was to maintain a baseline readiness for these kinds of questions and conversations. There is no way I could have put all of these pieces together in the short window of time we had if I hadn't already been thinking about the issues and gathering information and insights on an ongoing basis. I was lucky these questions came my way at a time when I was well-prepared for them, but going forward I find myself thinking about how I can intentionally be prepared for these conversations the next time they occur.

If your organization's leadership were to ask you these questions right now, what would you tell them?

  • What is the greatest challenge with our current grantmaking strategy?
  • What changes would you recommend?
  • What aspects of our current strategy would you keep?
  • Or what could we do to make our grantmaking more transparent? 

Give some thought to what knowledge or resources you would draw on in your responses. If you're unsure of your responses, what information or understanding do you wish you had and what steps could you take to gain it? Even if you feel fairly certain of how you'd respond right now, make it a practice to revisit the question every few months and take note if anything changes, and if so, why.

About the author(s)

Vice President of Community Impact
Community Foundation of the Holland/Zeeland Area