Professional Certification for Grants Managers, Where We Stand, Part 2
Since our Spring 2008 GMN Examiner update, GMN’s Certification Team has continued exploring the path to a professional certification program. For such a program to be credible, a profession must have a clearly defined Body of Knowledge (BOK) that has been validated by a broad representation of its practitioners. In a field like ours, where there are nearly as many approaches to grantmaking as there are grantmakers, this can be a challenging endeavor.
Ten GMN members, representing a variety of grantmaking organizations, geographic areas, and levels of experience were strategically selected to serve as subject-matter experts on a Body of Knowledge Task Force. The group met for two days at the Ford Foundation in early 2009 to brainstorm and organize 15 knowledge domains-- topical outlines of grants management knowledge.
The meeting was followed by several rounds of review, including an interactive session with over 60 GMN members at the March conference in Denver. The domains were then passed back to task force co-chair Joe Behaylo and certification consultant Joan Knapp, who synthesized them into the 12 domains we have today:
- Nonprofits and Philanthropy
- Guidelines and Applications
- Grantmaking Practices
- Monitoring and Evaluation
- Accounting and Financial Analysis
- Legal and Tax Compliance
- Staffing and Operations
- Policies and Procedures
- Project Management
Each of the 12 knowledge domains has been expanded to resemble course outlines you may recall from college. While a discrete topic like project management is outlined on a single page, a topic as far-ranging as Staffing and Operations is outlined on five pages with four levels of sub-topics. Altogether, the document is a 30+ page roadmap of what grants managers should expect to learn over the course of their work, particularly if they are exposed to the practices of multiple funders. The topics also introduce a deeper knowledge of the philanthropic and nonprofit environment and raise strategic awareness. GMN’s BOK is not a study guide for a potential certification exam, but rather a guiding framework in which generally accepted and testable knowledge is housed alongside more specialized and leading-edge knowledge. It establishes the shared framework and common language required for an improved flow of knowledge. Used in conjunction with the GM Guide, the BOK will enable GMN to more efficiently develop and adapt its content, training, and educational materials as the profession changes.
To validate the draft BOK, an online survey of practitioners was launched in January, with the results to be shared in a session at the annual conference in Baltimore in March 2010. You may have in fact participated in the survey as GMN Examiner readers were on the email distribution. The conference session will also provide an opportunity to explore how you can use the BOK in charting your own professional development, hear an update on the development of the certification program, and join a discussion of how GMN can utilize the BOK to pursue its strategic goals and better serve its membership.
A business plan for certification was also under development in 2009. When professional certification was first proposed for GMN in 2005, some thought that developing the exam and infrastructure could be done in just a few years. We have since learned that most certification plans take 6+ years and many hundreds of thousands of dollars to develop. Certification is an expensive and long-term commitment for an organization, and since some concerns have been raised and we only have one chance to do this right, GMN is moving cautiously. The business planning research has helped us more clearly define a target market for certification. We looked at the pros and cons of existing grantmaker educational opportunities as well as best practices from a variety of successful certification programs. Improving GMN’s role in providing educational products and training services was examined in light of the needs of grants managers today and tomorrow. To address the most common concerns about a certification program, a marketing plan was drafted to elicit how a quality certification program might be valued by grants managers, their supervisors, and the sector. Governance, infrastructure, staffing, and financial issues were also examined. The business plan will be discussed at the March GMN Board meeting, as well as the next steps in GMN’s efforts to enhance the role and development of grants managers and increase the professionalization of the field.
See the Certification Team section of the GMN web site -- www.gmnetwork.org -- for more information. If you have any questions or would like to volunteer for this important and challenging project, contact either Chad Gorski (gorskic [at-sign] hhmi [dot] org) or Joe Behaylo (jbehaylo [at-sign] sorosny [dot] org).
The GMN Body of Knowledge Task Force:
The Certification Business Plan Volunteers:
2010 Conference Preview
The GMN Examiner Editorial Team
The GMN Examiner is published three times a year through the dedicated efforts of GMN members and volunteers.
Ericka Novotny – Editor
Allison Gister – Associate Editor