Not long ago, I was contacted by a young professional interested in exploring a career in grantmaking. She inquired about what books, websites, and blogs I have found most helpful in my position as a program officer, and I offered to compile a short list to send her way. As a new program officer myself—just shy of two years on the job!—I’ve found myself returning over and over to a number of practical resources as I learn the craft of grantmaking and work with grantees.
The following is my go-to list for new—or even seasoned—grantmakers:
- Philanthropy News Digest: Weekend Link Roundup—I try to make time to look at this list on Monday mornings—it’s a fabulous summary of grantmaking news, lessons learned, blogs, etc.
- Insider’s Guide to Grantmaking by Joel Orosz—Through the kind advice of another grantmaker, I read this book right before I started my job as a program officer. From a practical standpoint, it’s a real winner. Orosz provides insight into the day-to-day work of effectively communicating with grantees, navigating challenging dynamics inherent in grantmaking, and more. A must read!
- Advice on Site Visits—Site visits can be intimidating for both the grantee and for the grantmaker, especially the first few times. Earlier this year, an alumna of Exponent Philanthropy’s Next Gen Fellows Program wrote the stellar blog post Smarter Site Visits. Definitely one to check out!
- Exponent Philanthropy’s Member Community—When our foundation became members of Exponent Philanthropy earlier this year, I quickly subscribed to the General Discussion List. It’s great to see foundations sharing ideas and swapping stories about topics like orienting new board members, streamlining grant applications, and benchmarking investment returns. And while not every topic raised for discussion is directly relevant to my position or even to the foundation I work for, it has challenged me to learn more about navigating the complexities of foundation operations.
- GrantSpace—Occasionally, as a grantmaker, I’m asked by applicants for examples of well-written proposals. When this happens, I make a quick recommendation to visit GrantSpace. They have a wealth of sample grant proposals, cover letters, etc. Some of them even contain feedback from grant reviewers to help point out what makes the proposal, cover letter, etc. a good one.
- Chronicle of Philanthropy, Chronicle of Higher Education, and The Economist: Our foundation has a subscription to each of these publications, and they’re a great source of information about trends. Even though our grantmaking is locally focused in specific communities in Indiana, these publications help us to identify common issues and see how others are addressing challenges nationally and around the world.
I’d love to hear what’s on your reading list! Feel free to share your list in the comments section below.
Jenna Wachtmann is a program officer with Ball Brothers Foundation, a family foundation based in Muncie, Indiana. She is a graduate of the IU Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.