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Last month, over 1,200 professionals working in philanthropy gathered in Seattle, WA to consider, ideate, and push for the operationalization of what it means to “reimagine” philanthropy. PEAK Grantmaking brought together individuals from across the world to reimagine how, as a sector, change could be instituted from the inside out.

For those who are unfamiliar with PEAK’s work, it is an organization comprised of 8,000 members and a pillar of the philanthropic community. An evolution of the once known “Grants Managers Network,” developed in 1996 by grants managers and visionaries Margaret Egan and Ann Gael, PEAK dedicates its time, energy, and resources into bringing the work of grants management professionals to the forefront of grantmaking. Originally formed as a safe-haven and incubator for grants managers to come together to learn from and share with one another, today, PEAK looks beyond the traditional perceptions of the role of a grants manager and pushes for the utilization and appreciation of the people in grants management professions as thought partners, change agents, data specialists, and more. It now serves as a champion calling for grants professionals to lead the way in centering community and equity in philanthropy.

In 2019, PEAK launched its “Principles of Grantmaking,” a five-pronged approach to reshape the model of grantmaking to one that centers equity and community-based practice as the modus operandi to lead to system-wide change. These five principles include:

  • Tying grantmaking practices to values based in diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice
  • Narrowing the power gap inherent in grantee-funder relationships
  • Driving equity through foundation policies and practices
  • Stewarding foundation resources responsively and embracing risk
  • Contributing to the sector’s knowledge through learning, sharing, and evolving

When fully embraced, the five principles have potential to have a transformative impact on the sector, overhauling the “way things always have been.” For the last five years, PEAK has focused on one principle each year to fully lean into what, how, and why these changes can and should be made.

This year is the year of “Learn, Share, Evolve,” and the lens through which every lesson, reflection, and idea is conveyed in PEAK’s abundance of online resources. Practitioners in philanthropy are tasked with developing strategies in their workplace to become learning organizations, sharing out new lessons learned with others in the field, and iterating on those lessons with one another to continue the evolution of the philanthropic sector.

PEAK Grantmaking’s Conference in Seattle, March 2024. Photo credit: Julie Harmsen

In true embodiment of this year’s principle, PEAK held its annual convening in Seattle with the theme of “Reimagining.” Participants explored questions such as what would it look like to reimagine philanthropy? How can one challenge the status quo within their organization to reimagine day-to-day processes with a focus on equitable grantmaking? Which priorities need to be redefined to center communities and their voices?

While “reimagining” aptly serves as a thought-provoking theme, it cannot be left simply as a thought experiment. “Reimagine” is a call to action to address inequities in the work, to work with communities to reshape the hierarchical funding structure, and to implement the principles championed by PEAK.

Recommended reading:

“Courage in Practice: Principles for PEAK Grantmaking,” published by PEAK Grantmaking

“A Three-Part Strategy to Transform Grantmaking Practice,” published by PEAK Grantmaking as part of the Principles for PEAK Grantmaking Action Planner, January 2024

“Subtle ways power dynamics manifest between nonprofits and funders,” by Vu Le, NonprofitAF, May 2022

“Relationships Matter: Program Officers, Grantees, and the Keys to Success,” published by the Center for Effective Philanthropy, November 2017

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