Essential Skills and Strategies for New Program Officers

ESS is going virtual in 2021!

Philanthropy New York's Essential Skills and Strategies for New Program Officers (ESS) orients new program officers and directors to their role as funders. This 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 (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
  • Identify legal and ethical issues
  • Explore how program officers come to 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

(Since PNY offers an extensive financial series, this course will not cover financial analysis.)

Schedule

We traditionally offer ESS once a year, over three and a half full-days in late January and early February.

For 2021, ESS is going virtual and we have adapted the schedule and format. ESS will consist of 13, two-hour sessions on Wednesday and Friday mornings for eight weeks. ESS will begin on Friday, February 19 and end on Friday, April 16.

2021 Schedule
All sessions are from 10 AM – 12 PM ET, via Zoom.

  • Friday, February 19
  • Wednesday, February 24
  • Friday, February 26
  • Friday, March 5
  • Wednesday, March 10
  • Friday, March 12
  • Wednesday, March 17
  • Friday, March 19
  • Wednesday, March 24
  • Wednesday, March 31
  • Friday, April 2
  • Wednesday, April 7 (*9:30am start time)
  • Friday, April 16

Eligibility

The curriculum is designed for and open to program officers and directors 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.

ESS is ideal for program officers/directors who have been through a grantmaking cycle at their foundation since the curriculum relies heavily on knowing your own institution's grantmaking practices. We suggest members take PNY's Philanthropy 101 course before taking ESS.

Given the high demand for this program, ESS is only open to Philanthropy New York members. Space is limited to 25 individuals. We limit participation per organization in order to accommodate as many member organizations as we can. In addition, priority is given to individuals who have been in their roles for more time.

Application Process

Additional Info

Currently, there is no fee for PNY members to participate in ESS.

Questions? Contact Kristen Ruff, Senior Vice President, or Yi-Ching Lin, Senior Director of Learning Services


The Essential Skills & Strategies 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 http://www.cof.org/node/1269. 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.