Want to Change Lives Every Day? Become a Grantmaker
Have you ever come across the terms ‘grantmaker’, ‘philanthropist’ or ‘funder’ and wondered what they mean? These jobs are all about funding or giving generously towards ideas and projects that benefit the public. While fundraising is focused on income generation, grantmaking concentrates on giving out the funds generated for social good. Grantmakers, philanthropists and funders usually allocate or manage funds in support of socially-responsible, community-building and life-improving ideas or projects that make a positive impact in line with their organisation’s mission and goals.
Who should become a grantmaker?
Do you have a passion for impacting lives positively and improving social services? Are you dedicated to local, national or international development and giving aid to those who most need it? Do you want to make a difference in social economics? If so, you’ll be a great fit for a career in grantmaking in the charity sector. This is one of the most fulfilling and rewarding job paths you’ll ever consider. It inspires people to do good and motivates the desire for real change around you.
Those who are outward-looking, passionate about people, especially the vulnerable or the marginalised, or who are community, people or international development-orientated could find this a good career path to explore. If you want to do something tangible with your life without focusing on profit-making, then the benefits of grantmaking far outweigh the salary and go beyond your immediate environment. You’ll be reaching far and wide with grassroots end users who will benefit, directly or indirectly, from your generosity. You could be positively affecting a generation of lives for decades to come. The role will also boost your professional and personal development, as you’ll gain lots of new knowledge and skills. Plus, it can aid your sense of emotional wellbeing.
How to get into grantmaking
There isn’t one process map to follow when carving out a career path in grantmaking, but a passion for a cause or real change in society should be your primary motivation. However, you’ll need a minimum education level of GCSEs for entry-level roles. Another option is to start as a personal or executive assistant while working on your areas of interest in the sector. And some good volunteering experience in the third sector is always a bonus, as your exposure to various aspects of charities will keep you grounded in a grantmaking position, enable your personal development and help you progress quickly on the job.
Most of the mid-level to senior management level roles require experience in the charity sector and expert skills. However, passion and an aptitude for fundraising will really help. Many grantmaking organisations love people with the skills to raise funds for their work and are always looking for fundraisers. You can also get entry-level to mid-senior management roles with a Master’s degree in the relevant area. However, you can also use your transferable skills from other job roles. Grantmaking is all about interpreting or implementing strategies and breaking them into manageable processes or structures to help achieve set goals.
So, whether you have experience in finance and accounting, corporate social responsibility, fundraising, marketing, project management, data analytics or business development, there will be a place for you.
Skills needed for grantmaking
Those valuable transferable skills for grantmaking are not limited to the list below, but these can be your starting point when assessing your career journey.
Relationship building—You will work with various stakeholders and constantly build professional relationships with people who add value to the organisation—funders, boards of trustees and grantees, to mention a few. Therefore, the ability to build professional relationships and network with various stakeholders is essential.
Leadership and team-building —You’ll need to lead yourself and others in the team, so skills and experience in leadership will be helpful.
Project Management—You will most likely work on various projects. Therefore comprehensive project planning, time management, and agile knowledge will be beneficial when planning for new grants and programme cycles in the sector.
Communication—This is essential as you will need to communicate with people from different walks of life. Therefore, effective communication tailored to different audiences by email, telephone or face to face is critical to connecting with people in the sector.
Networking—This is a particularly valuable transferable skill within the grantmaking sector. Whether you’re entry-level or the top of the ladder, you need to be able to mingle with your peers in similar roles to share best practices and exchange knowledge for the greater good.
Fundraising—The ability to raise funds and increase income levels is every grantmaking organisation’s dream. Although this is more niche, it’s a transferable skill that will propel your career forward faster in the sector—all charities need good fundraisers on their side. So any experience of corporate or regular one-to-one fundraising will be a huge bonus.
Wherever you are in your career journey, if a grantmaking role sounds right for you then get applying for vacancies in the sector. You’ll literally be helping change lives.
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Ayoola Bandele works as a Grantmaking Specialist and has previously administered government grants and developed community-building programmes for previous employers. She is passionate about helping others be the best versions of themselves through personal development, positively impacting lives and finding fulfilment. She supports causes such as poverty eradication amongst children and widows, women and youth empowerment, especially with victims of domestic violence, and promoting the Christian faith.