Operating in a field where a multitude of organizations and individuals are vying for scarce financial resources, non-governmental organizations are placing a stronger priority on attracting and retaining development professionals to ensure the sustained success of their programs. While individual giving and corporate sponsorship programs emphasize traditional fundraising techniques oriented towards encouraging interested individuals and companies to donate, foundation giving focuses instead on creating sustainable partnerships between foundation experts and program staff to develop innovative ways to protect and promote universal human rights.
For human rights professionals looking to transition out of field work or who would like to create systemic change at a more institutional level, a career as a Grants Manager or foundation development professional provides a challenging and unique opportunity to work with some of the foremost experts in the human rights field while supporting innovative programs and organizations.
What is a Grants Manager?
A Grants Manager is traditionally a part of an organization’s development team responsible for managing a portfolio of foundation grants. The primary responsibilities of this position are to develop strategies to maintain current foundation funding and secure new grants, steward existing relationships with foundations, and cultivate potential new foundation supporters. As a part of these responsibilities, a Grants Manager must create high quality, persuasive proposals and reports and help to meet all application, renewal, and reporting criteria for the foundation-related fundraising.
How to Become a Grants Manager
In order to become a Grants Manager, it is necessary to understand the grant making process in its entirety. Entry level positions into this field often come in the form of Grant Writer or Development Coordinator positions in which you will be responsible for researching grant opportunities, drafting grant proposals, monitoring projects, and writing reports. Although you will be asked to take the lead on this process, rest assured you should have the support of the program officers, development staff and senior management throughout this process as it is to their benefit to produce the highest quality materials to foundations.
Elevate your writing
Fundamental to these responsibilities is the ability to clearly and concisely write compelling grant proposals and reports. Writing skills are essential in conveying your organization’s objectives, goals and plans to address international human rights problems. The idea of writing a grant proposal can be daunting yet for those with substantial experience crafting such narratives, there is an abundance of job opportunities across the globe. If you do not have experience writing proposals and applying for grants, there are many online resources available to learn the ins and outs. If you are applying for a position in which you will be asked to draft proposals and reports, I recommend drafting sample letters of intent and proposals to actual requests for proposals on behalf of organizations with whose work you are familiar. Providing writing samples such as these to hiring managers proves your knowledge of the grant writing process and will give you an advantage over candidates who do not have this experience.
Develop issue expertise
Unlike traditional fundraising positions that prioritize interpersonal skills, becoming a Grants Manager requires a deep knowledge of the human rights issues on which you will be working. It is important to remember that you will be working with and drafting content for experts in this field who are dedicated to finding sustainable solutions to human rights problems across the globe. Foundation program officers have often spent years working in the field and have cultivated an in-depth knowledge of the issues at hand. When reading a grant proposal or having a meeting with development and program staff, these officers are genuinely interested in hearing what creative approaches your organization has developed to solve these problems.
An effective Grants Manager should also bring a similarly high level of knowledge to the table and be able to clearly and concisely outline your organization’s objectives and activities. As such, it is vital to develop expertise through academic and hands-on learning. Organizations often seek candidates who have spent substantial time working on human rights issues on a local level and who understand the nuances associated with addressing these issues.
Embrace bold ideas
Complex human rights issues require innovative solutions. The organizations and individuals who are most successful in addressing human rights violations are often those who are not afraid to try non-traditional approaches. In your role as a Grants Manager, you will be required to analyze and evaluate current practices to determine areas in which your program could be more effective. While this may seem challenging to some, Grants Managers and foundation staff are rewarded for thinking outside the box and proposing creative solutions these issues.