Essential Skills and Strategies for New Program Officers

Thursday, January 23, 2020 (All day) to Friday, February 7, 2020 (All day)
Philanthropy New York; 320 East 43rd Street; NYC 10017
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For info on PNY's 2021 offering of ESS, please see this page.


Tools and Techniques for Effective Practice

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 multiday 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 intuitive skills that bring greater clarity regarding their role and self-awareness of their unique contributions within the larger sphere of social change.

We intentionally keep the class size small (20 to 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.)

We encourage participants to take PNY's Philanthropy 101 course before applying to ESS.

Program Schedule

The 2020 ESS class is scheduled for:

  • Thursday, January 23, 2020 - 9 AM to 12:00 PM
  • Friday, January 24, 2020 - 
8:30 AM to 5:00 PM

 (Snow date: Monday, January 27)
  • Friday, January 31, 2020 - 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM

 (Snow date: Monday, February 3)
  • Friday, February 7, 2020 
- 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM (includes closing reception) (Snow date: Monday, February 10)

Location is Philanthropy New York (320 East 43rd Street, New York, NY 10017).

In addition to committing to attending all sessions, participants are expected to allocate 4 - 6 hours (in total) for pre-reading and homework.


  1. ESS 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
  2. Participants are required to submit a Statement of Support from a supervisor, as this program requires significant time out of the office.
  3. Please apply only if grantmaking is the core component of your position as the curriculum focuses almost exclusively on grantmaking.
  4. Given the high demand for this program, ESS is only open to Philanthropy New York members.

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.

Application Process

We will follow-up with all applicants by Wednesday, December 18, 2019 regarding participation in the program.

Additional Info

Currently there is no fee for PNY members to participate.

Space is limited to 20 to 25 individuals. We also limit participation per organization in order to accommodate as many member organizations as possible.

Questions? Contact Yi-Ching Lin, Senior Director of Learning Services.