Essential Skills and Strategies for New Grantmakers

Philanthropy New York's Essential Skills and Strategies for New Grantmakers (ESS) orients new program officers and directors to their role as funders. This three-day intensive course helps philanthropy newcomers build a framework for understanding and implementing ethical and effective grantmaking. It is a part of our PNY Core offerings.

The program prepares program officers and directors for the “science” of philanthropy – offering training on the tools and skills to be effective grantmakers and philanthropy professionals overall. Through highly interactive sessions with peers, it also offers strategies for managing the “art” of philanthropy – building participant intuitive skills that bring greater clarity regarding their role and help build self-awareness of their unique contributions within the larger sphere of social change.

We intentionally keep the class size small (20 – 25 participants) so attendees can build relationships with peers and develop a peer learning framework that will enhance their practice going forward.

Intended Outcomes

Upon completing ESS, participants will be able to employ tools and skills learned to:

  • Discuss philanthropy’s role in the social change ecosystem
  • Respond to legal and ethical issues
  • Make sound funding recommendations
  • Communicate effectively as directors and program officers
  • Discuss evaluation and learning methods used in philanthropy
  • Recognize variables that help or hinder capacity to maximize grant impact
  • Apply reflective practice in their philanthropy careers, which includes:
    • A personal strategy: how to recognize and analyze the interplay between role, self and the systems context
    • Relationship building: how to approach and grow relationships authentically, with colleagues in philanthropy and with grantees


The curriculum is designed for and open to program officers and directors with less than three years of experience in the philanthropic sector and who have the following responsibilities:

  • Programmatic due diligence of potential grants (i.e., proposal review, site visits)
  • Communicate funding recommendations and decisions to foundation stakeholders (i.e., CEO and/or Board, grantees)
  • Assessment of grant performance and evaluation of grantmaking portfolio

Please apply only if grantmaking is the core component of your position as the curriculum focuses almost exclusively on grantmaking.

Given the high demand for this program, ESS is only open to Philanthropy New York members. 

ESS: Class of 2019

The 2019 ESS class is scheduled for:

  • Thursday, January 24, 2019 - 9 AM to 12:00 PM
  • Friday, January 25, 2019 - 
8:30 AM to 5:00 PM

 (Snow date: Monday, January 28)
  • Friday, February 1, 2019 - 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM

 (Snow date: Monday, February 4)
  • Friday, February 8, 2019 
- 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM (includes closing reception) (Snow date: Monday, February 11)

Application Process

  • We will open the application process in mid-November.
  • There are two components to the application: candidate application and supervisor statement of support.
  • In order to apply, you must meet all eligibility requirements. Please review these carefully.

Space is limited to 25 individuals. (We limit participation per organization in order to accommodate as many member organizations as we can.)

Questions? Contact Kristen Ruff, Senior Vice President of Member Services.

The Essential Skills & Strategies for New Grantmakers curriculum was developed through a national partnership between regional grantmaking associations, the United Philanthropy Forum and the Council on Foundations in 2005-2006. For more background information on the original curriculum and design team, see Philanthropy New York has since adapted the curriculum in partnership with PNY members who have served as ESS faculty, and refreshed the entire curriculum in 2016 with the support of Anna Pond. Special thanks to faculty members Bess Rothenberg, Tamara Fox, Pam Foster, Molly Schultz Hafid and Chris Cardona for their extensive content revisions.