Socialize With Us

Voicing Your Inner Socrates: 50 new grantmakers, 10 big questions, 2 days

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

By Kate Seely, Leadership, Culture, and Community Director, Northern California Grantmakers

NCG’s New Grantmakers Institute is coming up, and I’ve been doing a lot of work gearing up to it. In prepping the presenters, my frame for these two days is becoming really clear.

Beyond getting an initial grasp of the baseline skills of good grantmaking, our time together is also about understanding who we would like to be in this field. This means asking what we want our impact to be. These questions are not outside of ourselves, but within us.

What does taking a risk actually look like when deciding to fund a project, person, or organization? And how does that influence a foundation’s evaluation practice as well as the way their program staff engage with potential or current grantees?

And what of money and power? How can we, as grantmakers, effectively steward a foundation’s funds while creating trusting and honest relationships with grantees? Do we define impact as qualitative change, quantitative change, enduring relationships with grantees, the elimination of a challenge? Some of these or all of them? And how do we effectively navigate the relationship between our personal values and our organizational values? What if they don’t align?

These aren’t easy questions, and that’s what makes them exciting. There are reasons behind the complexities and nuances of philanthropy – ultimately our work is about people, and people are complex beings engaged in complex systems. We can do no less than engage in these questions as we work to have an impact in the communities we serve.

These are two days to engage with the philosophy that influences philanthropy,  to engage with our colleagues, to consider our relationships with our grantees, and with our communities. If all of our work is aimed at the betterment of the world, with all its flaws and challenges, then how can each and every one of us be in alive engagement with those challenges and flaws, the communities they effect, and the ideas that are springing forth from community members on the potential path forward?

These two days will provide you a chance to engage critically with the philanthropic field and see yourselves as agents of change. We are throwing rhetoric out the window and inviting dialogue and critical thinking.

Money is power, and while that requires humility as we wield that power, it also demands us not only to be responsible as we steward foundations funds, but also as we develop and reimagine our practices. These will not be two days of being talked at and taught, they will be two days of deep engagement with the complexities and nuances that come along with being a part of this field.

Come join us. You won’t be disappointed.