In my last post on advice to new foundation staff, I said that there isn’t a handbook that tells you how to be a good Program Officer, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t a lot of tools along the way that will make your job a lot clearer. One of this blog’s readers, Donald, suggested The Insider's Guide to GrantMaking by Joel Orosz as a good starting point for new grantmakers. I have found Grantcraft’s articles to be very useful as well.
There is a lot to be said for written resources but there are also the “unwritten” rules of grantmaking. These are the rules that exist in the heads of our boards and presidents. Rules in this category are things like “we don’t fund that type of organization”, or “we can only invest our endowment in traditional investments, not community development projects”. One of my purposes of creating this blog was to begin to bridge the generational gap that exists in the field of philanthropy. Part of that generational gap is the younger generation’s lack of experience doing the business of grantmaking. There is a lot that can be learned in this job by experiencing it firsthand. You make an unsuccessful grant, you learn from that experience and make a better grant next time. But another part of this gap is more experienced grantmakers not taking the time to share the lessons that they have learned. Until we learn as a field to share our lessons learned within our organizations, and more importantly throughout the field, we will never make true progress on the issues that are impacting our society.