Ken Goldstein, MPPA

Ken Goldstein has been working in nonprofits and local government agencies from Santa Cruz, to Sacramento, and back to Silicon Valley, since 1989. He's been staff, volunteer, board member, executive director, and, since 2003, a consultant to local nonprofit organizations. For more on Ken's background, click here. If you are interested in retaining Ken's services, you may contact him at ken at

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Meet the Grantmakers

This morning I attended a "Meet the Grantmakers" panel in San Mateo, sponsored by the Foundation Center and the Peninsula Community Foundation (PCF). These sorts of events are always helpful. Having the program officers right there to answer your questions is obviously much more helpful than written guidelines can ever be.

A lot of the information was specific to this geographic area and the today's topic (In-School & After-School Programs), but here's some of their advice that is good to remember wherever you are:

Justine Choy of PCF cautioned against thinking of your budget as "just another attachment." Your budget, Choy said, "is an expression of your priorities." That is excellent advice and was seconded by Elizabeth Curtis of the Atkinson Foundation (no web site).

Curtis also pointed out to the assembled nonprofits that, "We need you more than you need us. There are plenty of other funding sources that you can go to, but we exist only to give money away." While we all already realize that, it is so refreshing to hear it from the head of a local foundation.

Eric McDonnell of United Way of the Bay Area also cautioned nonprofits to "connect all the dots" in their proposal narratives. "Don't count on us making all the connections," he said. Be clear and complete.

On the subject of site visits, McDonnell asked for, "More showing; less telling." He described a site visit that was nothing more than sitting in a room for a re-hashing of the details of the proposal. "We could have done that on a phone call," he said. All the panelists agreed that they want to see your program in action when they come to visit. "We want to see the kids," they all said.

Rhonnel Sotelo of the Stuart Foundation agreed and applied it to proposal packages as well. He then related it to Alice in Wonderland (he's been reading that to his young daughter). Quoting the book, he said, "What good is a book without pictures and conversations?"

Sticking with the Alice theme, Sotelo also compared his position as a Senior Program Officer to being the Queen of Hearts. "I have only one job," he said. "To cut off heads." The heads, of course, are the proposals that don't make it through to the funding committee.

Peter Tavernise of the Cisco Systems Foundation closed the morning by lamenting foundations that only fund program activities. In response to a question from the audience about general operating grants, he asked, "Can you imagine a venture capitalist who says, 'I'll invest in the product only, but not in the company.'?" What a wonderful day it will be when all foundation program officers think that way!

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