Ways to Use Roles@Work Explore role concepts with this interactive resource

How do I shape my role as a grantmaker, inside my foundation and with grantees? How do I manage the different roles I need to play? These are questions every grantmaker asks.

GrantCraft’s Roles@Work card deck is designed to help you explore those questions more intentionally. Like other GrantCraft products, the role cards are based on stories from grantmakers in all kinds of foundations. Experiment with the Roles@Work cards. Use our suggested activities or make up something that works for your group.

Learn more about role concepts from our Personal Strategy guide or leadership-in-role workshops.


What's missing?
(for program staff)

  • Jot down tasks you do most frequently during the day, week, or year.
  • Now check the cards. Which roles are important for getting those tasks done?
  • What’s missing? Make a list of any cards you would add.


What's essential?
(for program staff)

  • Sort the cards for the six most essential roles to being effective on the job.
  • Look for commonalities and differences.
  • Which roles are least common? What makes them essential for some but not others?


Too much, too little
(for more experienced program staff)

  • Choose the cards that represent what you do too much of and what you don’t do enough of.
  • What would it take to change the balance?


Lessons learned
(for a mixed group of new and more experienced program staff)

  • Invite experienced grantmakers to pick a card and tell a story about a lesson learned in that role.
  • Organize people into “fishbowls” by forming circles around grantmakers holding the same card. Ask them to compare notes on what they learned from each other’s stories; the rest of the group can listen in and comment.


What roles do we value?
(for an all-staff meeting or with trustees)

  • Display or read the cards, then invite discussion.
  • What are the most common roles inside our foundation? What are the least common?
  • Are there roles that are not acceptable inside our foundation? Why?


Telling Trustees
(for staff and trustees)

  • At a retreat or another appropriate setting, give board members the cards.
  • Ask each trustee to choose a few roles they’d like to hear more about and say why.
  • Invite staff to tell stories about successes and challenges while in those roles
  • Or, ask staff members to pair up with trustees to tell stories that explore their favorite and/or most challenging roles.

Additional Activities

Activity: Using the deck in front of you, identify 3-5 roles that are most explicitly required of you as a professional. From the remaining deck, select 3 roles that you do in the ‘white space’ of your job description.

  • Are you surprised by any roles that you selected?
  • What about any that you didn’t select?
  • Do any of the roles that you selected ever conflict with one another? Ie mediator and idea mover. A master strategist recognizes that there will always be competing demands; you have to figure out how to execute both roles without sacrificing the integrity of one or the other.
  • Do you think your supervisor/peers are aware of your ‘white space’ roles?
  • Did you select a role that you really wish they didn’t, but it’s just who you are? 

Activity: Find 2-3 roles that you don’t like playing.

  • What about these roles is not appealing to me?
  • If there’s a role that you don’t like playing that you have to play anyway, what will you do about it?

Activity: Identify 3-5 roles that you are most excited by, the ones that feel most purposeful and bold.

  • Where do you see these roles in the course of your day?
  • You might see these roles in the context of family or friends, in folks you interact with on a daily basis, on the news or online… what exemplifies these roles?
  • How do your personal assets help you in these roles?
  • Are you surprised by any that you selected?
  • What are the challenges to taking on this role? Personal challenges? Context/Environmental factors? The role itself? Why? If it is important to you to take on, what will be your gameplan?