The story behind Grantmaking for the 21st Century


Interview with Leah Lundquist, Program Manager for Leadership Development at Minnesota Council on Foundations

For nearly twenty years, GRANTMAKERS of Oregon and Southwest Washington has been offering an annual skill-building training called Grantmaking 101. Every spring, staff and trustees new to the philanthropic sector could attend a one-day training covering all the grantmaking basics. Over the years, the curriculum was modified and updated, but the essential framework didn’t change.

However, when staff attended the Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers’ 2016 conference, we learned of a new curriculum Minnesota Council on Foundations had designed: Grantmaking for the 21st Century.  Leah Lundquist, one of the developers of the program who will be training our members March 15-16, explains the curriculum. 


GRANTMAKERS: What motivated you to create this curriculum?

Leah: With a generation of baby boomers heading into retirement, we’re seeing more turnover and opportunities in the field in Minnesota in recent years. We also have a leadership pipeline program here in Minnesota called the Ron McKinley Philanthropy Fellowship, which is bringing new and diverse voices into the field. As new individuals enter the field, we wanted a strong curriculum to both orient them to the field and some of the fundamental skills to know, but more importantly the “softer” skills around the power dynamic of being a funder, bringing your values to the work, acknowledging the history of philanthropy while ushering in the future and bringing an equity lens to the work.  This curriculum strives to encompass the skills we’ve defined as crucial to philanthropy now and into the future: a solid understanding of effective grantmaking practice, the ability to bring both a future and equity lens to the work, the ability to activate a cross-sector approach and an appreciation for the public policy context in which you are operating.

What did the process of creating the curriculum look like?

While the curriculum is based off Essentials Strategies & Skills for Grantmakers curriculum that was used by regional associations of grantmakers nationally for many years, we’ve evolved it through a highly collaborative process drawing on the expertise of numerous national partners including national consulting firms Frontline Solutions, Grassroots Solutions and the Nonprofits Assistance Fund. We committed to a training approach designed with three core tenets in mind:

  • Radical hospitality: ensuring participants can bring their full selves to the space
  • Adult learning: highly interactive and applied
  • Community of practice: to every extent possible we emphasize the wisdom in the room and encourage participants to continue to connect beyond the training

What are your hopes as you share this curriculum with other regional associations?

So far we’ve shared this curriculum with grantmakers in Northern California, North Carolina and Ohio. Our hope as we share this curriculum with grantmakers in regions beyond Minnesota is that we can all continue to learn from each other so we can strengthen the impact of philanthropy nationally. The conversations this curriculum sparks have similarities and differences across the different regions. It’s so valuable to be able to bring back learnings to Minnesota and hopefully helpful to the other regions for us to share how Minnesota grantmakers are acting on equity, public policy and future thinking in the philanthropic context. Grantmaking for the 21st Century is March 15 -16, 2017, at the Eliot Center. For future training opportunities, email