Build Your Base

Paulette is a new voice in the field of philanthropy. She has contributed a great post to New Voices of philanthropy about how she built her base of knowledge in the field. From Paulette:

A colleague of mine sent me this link- get my opinion. She was planning to use it for the philanthropy course she taught and she figured it was a great ice breaker for her students. As I watched it I had to chuckle at some of the responses given. Then I realized I was probably just as naive about the real meaning of philanthropy as they were when I embarked on this journey.

I didn’t have a clue as to where to begin. So, I began at the beginning. Believe my when I say that Google is your friend. Aside from information received from my various non-profit and philanthropy courses, I sought out other resources and tools I could use in my work. Below is a list of books, websites and other primers that remain a large part of my philanthropy library:

      • “The Insider’s Guide to Grant Making” by Joel Orosz. This was a required text for my philanthropy course and is still my go-to guide. Orosz lays out the work and obligations of a program officer along with background and history of the field. A very enjoyable read.
      • GrantCraft” This is produced by the Ford Foundation and offers a wealth of information on philanthropy, grant making, mission-related investments and anything else related to philanthropy. If you register on the site you can download virtually all of the guides for free or you can purchase a hard copy.
      • The Complete Guide to Grant Making Basics” This was originally put out in two parts but the updated version combines both. It costs around $65 as an individual (cheaper if your foundation is a member) but well worth the cost for anyone who wants a grant making 101 course. It covers everything—from reading proposals, to how to conduct site visits and understanding non-profit finances (a personal thorn in my side).
      • Philanthropy and non-profit blogs. I can’t say enough about them. These offer a great perspective on the current trends in the field—Perspectives from the Pipeline; New Voices in Philanthropy (shameless plug but true-this blog was the one of the first I discovered while on my journey); and Tactical Philanthropy. Also, sign up to receive newsletters and blog information from the various foundations. This is a great resource for seeing what social issues other foundations find imperative and where they are putting their money.
      • Philanthropy magazines and periodicals.

While there is no dearth of information available and this doesn’t even cover issue- or policy-related blogs I subscribe to, the above list is the one I found most helpful to build my base of knowledge. I continue to use these sources as well as many others I have discovered. Books and blogs are important but networking is key. This avenue worked for me—after joining a local women’s philanthropy group, I met and now work with one of the program officers. The take-away: Stay hungry and never stop learning. I myself have just scratched the surface.

Paulette Pierre is a Program Officer intern at The Field Foundation of Illinois. She has a graduate certificate in Non-Profit Management and Philanthropy from Loyola University and is currently pursuing her MA in Interdisciplinary Studies at DePaul University.