Grantmaking as a Career

MCF offered “Grantmaking as a Career” to 20+ participants today. Some attendees are searching for work. Many are currently employed in the nonprofit or development fields and most expressed an interest in learning about “the other side of the coin.”

Here are a few takeaways presented by Bernadette Christiansen, VP of administration, The McKnight Foundation; Brad Kruse, program director, Hugh J. Andersen Foundation; and Maria Salas, MCF member services manager.

  • Most foundations in Minnesota are non-staffed family foundations – no jobs there.
  • Most staffed foundations employ two or fewer employees.
  • MCF has 176 member foundations that employ a total of about 1,100 people.
  • If you’re thinking there aren’t a lot of jobs in philanthropy, you’re right, but don’t despair just yet.

Kruse, who sat in on a similar session at MCF in 1995, and has since earned his Masters Degree from The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, recommends The Insider’s Guide to Grantmaking by Joel J. Drosz, saying it offers a very real look at work in the field.

He elaborates by saying you have to be very good at saying no, something you’ll do every day, while you’ll only say yes to a small percentage of those who ask and only a few times per year.

“You are never not your job,” adds Kruse. “People ask me for money all the time — at the grocery store, in church, everywhere.”

For those who still want to break into philanthropy, he advises getting grantmaking-like experience — reviewing proposals and making recommendations. He says this could be at your house of worship, for the Minnesota State Arts Board or elsewhere.

He describes himself as a generalist, which he says fits his position well, where he needs to know a little bit about a ton of community groups. He also believes it’s important to have excellent reading and writing skills. He reads several hundred multi-page proposals each quarter, and summarizes each into two-pages for his board.

He loves his job, describing himself as a “nonprofit geek” who loves to make a difference in the community and says he sees himself as a  temporary steward of public funds.

Christiansen, of The McKnight Foundation, gave a presentation titled, “Nice Work If You Can Get It: Broadway Musical or a Job at McKnight?” and opened with some sobering statistics. In the past year:

  • The McKnight Foundation has not had any full-time staff leave
  • One Program Officer position was created; 360 people applied; it was filled by internal promotion, which opened a Program Assistant position
  • 344 people applied for the Program Assistant position; more than 40 of the applicants met every requirement of the position

At McKnight, in addition to people fully qualified for a position, they look for people with additional competencies, including:

Price of Admission Competencies:

  1. Functional and technical skills
  2. Sense of humor
  3. Intellectual horsepower
  4. Interpersonal savvy
  5. Listening
  6. Problem solving
  7. Written communication

and Core Competencies (which they also work to develop):

  1. Build effective teams
  2. Creativity and innovation
  3. Dealing with ambiguity
  4. Drive for results
  5. Managing with vision and purpose
  6. Organizing
  7. Self-development
  8. Strategic agility

At McKnight, they more often look for specialists than generalists, as they often want people with deep knowledge of very specific areas.

All presenters recommended keeping an eye on the MCF job board, and doing informational interviews.

Watch the MCF Events page for future “Grantmaking as a Career” offerings.

– Susan Stehling, MCF communications associate

Image cc Broadway Tour

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