This entry to the One Post Challenge comes from Amy Sample Ward. Amy is a Communications and Learning Associate at the Meyer Memorial Trust. She authors MMT’s New Media Blog as well as a personal blog devoted to nonprofit technology.
By Amy Sample Ward
As the holiday season is now in full swing and many organizations are launching online donation campaigns, I have been thinking more and more about how closely my personal views of “giving” have formed my professional ones.
Working in a large private foundation means that I am all too familiar with large amounts of initial inquiries and grant applications flooding in every month. Previously, I worked in nonprofits, though, and am also very familiar with the kinds of Christmas lists small, grassroots organizations can really think up.
Whenever conversation turns to philanthropy and how we teach philanthropy to our children, as it does often this time of year (especially in the blogosphere, like on Beth’s blog), I chime in with the argument that not all giving equals money and that not all organizations really need money as much as other things. For example, a domestic violence shelter may have enough funds and in-kind agreements to maintain its kitchen consistently, but doesn’t have enough volunteers to help with tutoring and child care in the evening when dinner is being prepared. There are many alternatives to donating money, be it time, skills, knowledge, community, or even man power.
So, how does that view of philanthropy in my own life change that of my professional life at a foundation? I don’t think that our responsibility is to just dole out the cash—we have a whole lot more to offer! As a foundation, we have program officers and other staff with terrific skills and knowledge that range from grant writing and strategic planning to mission and vision planning, technology and communications skills to engagement and outreach tactics. There are many nonprofits that apply for grants and are declined. They could still desperately need and grow from training or other outreach and support in the other areas I mentioned above.
As grantmakers, we need to accept a broader role than just “grant” makers. We need to step up to provide knowledge, skills, and resources when it is really in all of our best interests to do so; after all, those nonprofits are fulfilling needed services in our communities and that’s why they applied for the grant in the first place! Contributing all that we can as an organization is the best way to align with our own missions to serve nonprofits and our communities as best as possible.