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PEAK Grantmaking — Helping Grantmakers Walk the Talk

June 30, 2017

How grants are made is as critical to the success of a grantmaking organization as what and who the organizations funds. At the Grants Managers Network, we believe that if grantmaking organizations hope to achieve real impact, decisions regarding every facet of their grantmaking need to be grounded in their values, core beliefs, and identity.

That's why we are walking our talk and announcing that, from now on, we will be known as PEAK Grantmaking.

Logo-PEAKWe're changing our name to better communicate the impact that the grants management profession has on institutional philanthropy. Grants managers strengthen philanthropy by helping their organizations advance their missions through smart, effective grantmaking. They play a key role in their organizations' work to transform lives, communities, and ecosystems. They help philanthropy achieve its peak.

But that peak must rest on a deep and broad base of core values that serve to motivate and inform the important work of grantmakers. Too often, grantmakers' values aren't reflected in their grantmaking practices. And when grantmaking practices and values are out of sync, grantmakers unnecessarily waste resources, burden the nonprofits they serve, and tax the goodwill of their supporters.

One of the core values of modern philanthropy is the need to demonstrate impact and results. Yet, grantmakers frequently provide their nonprofit partners with less funding than their partners request while requiring those partners to deliver the same results on the same timeline, undermining the potential impact that their resources could achieve. Indeed, it is easy to forget that grantmakers can have a significant impact not only on the causes they support but also on the organizations they fund.

Here a few other examples of the disconnect between grantmaker values and practices:

  • Our values say we should work hand-in-hand as equals with grantees, but our practice is to require detailed and often onerous quarterly reports.
  • Our values say we should reward innovation, but our practice is to require proof of a strategy's success, or else.
  • Our values say we should promote inclusiveness, but our practice is to fund the most professional proposals, not necessarily the most need-worthy or ambitious.

These are hard issues to face and address. But our research shows that a growing number of grantmaking organizations are considering how they can better walk the talk. We are working to support that development.

In partnership with our regional chapters and other partners, we'll be holding a series of new PEAK Grantmaking "Walk the Talk" workshops around the country in the fall that will offer insights from grantmaking institutions that have linked their values to practice, provide tools designed to help grantmakers advance such changes in their own organizations, and even help grantmakers refresh their values.

In the meantime, as more and more grantmakers look to internal experts — grants management professionals — for leadership on issues that can help them realize their organizational goals, PEAK Grantmaking continues to provide its members with training, resources, and opportunities to collaborate that can improve their outcomes. For example:

  • Our "Assessing the How of Grantmaking" publication shows funders where and how their practices can be improved.
  • Our Successful Structures workshop series illustrates some of the ways in which funders are improving their strategy and impact by more directly connecting them to their grantmaking
  • Our EPIcenter enables funders to compare their grantmaking practices to those of their peers and draw on our resources to help strengthen those practices.

While our name has changed, our commitment to serving grants managers remains the same — and is as strong as ever. We strive to improve grantmaking practices across the field and to elevate the expertise of grants managers so that they can improve practices within their individual institutions.

During the last three years, PEAK Grantmaking's network has grown by more than a third — to 3,600 members — making us one of the largest philanthropy-serving organizations in the country and greatly boosting our capacity to share our members' knowledge and expertise.

Our new name reflects the results we hope to achieve across the philanthropic sector through a bold new plan to instill greater consistency in grantmaking, prioritize grant outcomes over administration, and reduce costs for grantmakers and grantseekers alike.

As we celebrate our twenty-fifth year of service to the field in 2017, we hope you'll join us in championing the work of grant managers and values-based grantmaking.

Michelle Greanias is executive director of PEAK Grantmaking, formerly the Grants Managers Network. You can follow her on Twitter @mgreanias.

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