Tuesday, September 30, 2008

If I were a Foundation Officer

I was speaking to a recent graduate of the University of San Diego who wants to land a job in the Foundation world -- the challenge is she hasn't had much luck landing her first job. She's super talented, already has interned in a nonprofit along with earning her Certificate in Nonprofit Leadership from American Humanics...the only problem is, few foundations are hiring entry level positions.

It was great to see her excitement in wanting to change the world. Then I thought back to the 7 long years I have been working in the nonprofit sector :) and what would I do if took a different route in my career. What would I do if I worked in foundations and what I would do if I were a Foundation officer?

If I were a Foundation officer I (and my staff) would do needs assessments within nonprofits to identify which capacity issues were present to maintain the nonprofits' current programs. Then I would fund each nonprofit for 5 years (at least $100k or more per year) in order for them to hire, train, and support staff to maintain their current programs. I would also fund operations and any other administrative and support needs to run the current programs. Then I (and my staff) would do more consulting within the organizations on management and leadership issues along with overseeing the strategic planning process. Furthermore, after 5 years the nonprofits may be eligible for additional funding for program expansion based on the results of the strategic plan and the progress made during the previous 5 years they spent building their capacity to do their current programs. If the organization received additional money for program expansion, I would also fund program evaluations.

So I'm not a program officer -- However, I have completed numerous grant applications and proposals to keep organizations running as well as I consult start up nonprofits on setting up their operations, so I'm quite biased on building capacity within nonprofits, but I'm curious...what would you do if you were a Foundation officer?

For more information on general operating support and capacity building funding. Check out Grantmakers for Effective Organizations.


CharityNetUSA.com said...

I think I would start with assuring that my foundation had a strong web presence, preferrably a web 2.o presence that facilitated communication between the foundation and potential grantees.


Shironda A. White said...

I'm currently working as a program manager for a National Resource Center that awards 20+ grants each year. One of the major areas of concern for me that most foundations don't seem to focus on is the administrative aspect of the programs they fund. An organization can develop a program that addresses a dire need that a foundation finds important, but if that organization has a problem with following grant guidelines, staying within budgeting parameters, meeting reporting deadlines, answering all of the questions asked in grant applications, etc., it doesn't matter how good the program is or how needed the services are. So...

If I were a foundation officer, I would focus on the administrative side of the organizations we give funding to. This will ensure sustainability for the program we thought so worthy to fund, and would help us to look good to the benefactor that so generously gave of the funds for us to distribute.