“Grantmaking: The Lonely Profession?” (Not necessarily!)

Julie Rogers, Meyer Foundation

The transcript of the Hudson Institute’s Bradley Center’s panel discussion, “Grantmaking: The Lonely Profession?” is now online. In her remarks, Julie Rogers, president of the Eugene and Agnes Meyer Foundation, noted that grantmaking is anything but lonely when collaboration with colleagues is a cornerstone of your work:

I will confess that as CEO of an institution, I am not always as close to the outcomes of the nonprofits we support as I would like to be. But then I would base my broader comments, really, on my own experience, that of the Meyer Foundation, and of the very active community – about 140 foundations and corporate grantmakers – that work throughout this metropolitan region and do a lot of their work through umbrella structures that have been set up over the last fifteen years through our excellent regional association, called the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers.

…I just was going to comment on a couple of the observations in particular. First is the sort of dual idea that foundation staff are demoralized and disempowered by the notions of “it’s not my money” or “it’s not my project,” and that we somehow cannot really legitimately [claim] a role in the outcomes created by the nonprofits we support. I think that that’s true if you happen to be working for a funder who sees this work as basically transactional, that it’s the cutting of a check or the approval of a grant and you’re done – sort of an over-and-out way of doing the work. That’s not the way we work, and I don’t think that that’s the way most of my colleagues work. Our values and ways of working mean that we go much deeper with our grantees with the goal of making it possible for them to do their best work and become as sustainable as they can be.

I think the second point that didn’t ring true at all was that – we’re anything but lonely! (Laughter.) Beginning in 1988 under Meyer’s leadership, when the AIDS epidemic was new and we had a matching grant from the Ford Foundation that required that we pull all of our peers together to put money on the table to match Ford’s money, this funding community has built multiple formal funding collaboratives where we pool our money and do work deeply. And I think the important outcome, really – the work has been good but the real outcome is that we’ve built community and relationships among each other as people and as professionals, which does add to our professional satisfaction. It also has leveraged enormous amounts of money for work in this region. For instance, a working group which my colleague Carmen James Lane has been a co-chair of that works on kids’ issues under Washington Grantmakers has just helped land an $8 million grant from the Wallace Foundation in New York to support the reform of after-school care for kids in the District of Columbia.

The next Hudson Institute discussion is coming up on Aug. 9 at the Renaissance Mayflower Hotel at 1127 Connecticut Avenue, NW. Topic: “Should Nonprofit Organizations Play an Active Role in Election Campaigns?” RSVP here.