Documenting the Past and Shaping the Future of Philanthropy: GrantCraft
More than 15 years ago, the Ford Foundation developed a comprehensive orientation program for its new program officers. Soon after, said GrantCraft Director Jan Jaffe, “other foundations were calling and saying, ‘could we come?’” They would get into the room and say “We do this differently,” which sparked good discussions, “better than the ones we’d have if we were just talking to ourselves,” noted Jaffe.
Before long, Ford was receiving more requests to participate than it could accommodate, so under Jaffe’s leadership the Foundation began thinking about how to expand the audience and opportunities for learning about the craft of grantmaking. Thus, the vision for GrantCraft was born. Adding to the set of guides and case studies used in Ford’s orientation program, a consultant, Junko Chano of Japan’s Sasakawa Peace Foundation, began to work with Jaffe to develop a set of audio and video interviews with experienced grantmakers about effective practices in the foundation community to share with funders worldwide. The Ford Foundation invested in these efforts, and in the GrantCraft project to collect more insight from hundreds of grantmakers in all kinds of foundations around the world. “Part of the maturation of any field,” noted Jaffe, “is to record its practice.” Prior to GrantCraft, she claims, “there was no collective wisdom about the tools and skills that grantmakers use to make a difference in their work.”
From the start, the intent was to take advantage of the full range of multimedia technology, including the website (www.grantcraft.org), launched in 2002, which made the project’s audio, video, and print products available to anyone at no cost. Over the past 10 years, GrantCraft has created a map (available as a PDF at http://www.grantcraft.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=Page.ViewPage&pageId=730) identifying seven challenges in grantmaking and the practices and skills needed to help grantmakers meet them; produced 29 guides and 13 videos; held innumerable workshops for foundations, and participated in industry conferences and affinity group meetings, including Grants Managers Network events. More than 800 grantmakers and grantees from around the world have contributed stories about their work, and more than 380,000 documents have been downloaded by more than 33,000 subscribers.
Who are these subscribers? About 40% are grantmakers, evenly divided among new, mid-career, and very experienced grantmakers, and running the gamut from organizations with no paid staff to the largest foundations. The other 60% include academics, grant seekers, philanthropic advisors, and government agencies – “anyone who wants to understand how grants are made and are used to create social change,” says GrantCraft Project Coordinator John Naughton. GrantCraft’s “best sellers” include Funding Community Organizing, Communicating for Impact, and Personal Strategy: Mobilizing Your Self for Effective Grantmaking. The latter, which focuses on understanding the depth and rich options in one’s role and why it matters, “gets to the crux of why one person is successful in taking up this type of work, and another may have greater difficulty,” says Naughton. Guides that might be of particular interest to grants managers include Building Community Inside and Out with a Good Neighbor Committee, Providing for the Long Term: Supporting Endowments and Investable Assets, Advocacy Funding, and International Grantmaking.
Ten years and $9.5 million later, what does the future hold for GrantCraft? The original intent was to spin it off, but there wasn’t – and still may not be – a logical home. GrantCraft is currently being assessed by TCC Group to determine its ongoing value to philanthropy, where it fits and if/how it might be moved more directly into the field. Regardless of whether GrantCraft moves to another organization, is networked among multiple organizations, or the effort draws to a close – and acknowledging my bias as a long-time Ford Foundation staff member and (small, very small) contributor to an early Grant Talk audio – philanthropy will always be indebted to the Ford Foundation and to the hundreds of contributing grantmakers and grantees for their gift to the field of this invaluable body of knowledge and practice.
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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