When I was searching for my first foundation job, the CEO of a prominent family foundation told me:
“Philanthropy is a closed world, but once you’re in, you’re in. Take any program officer job you are offered, even if it’s a different content area than what you are interested in. Once you are working at a foundation, you’re seen as an “insider” and can network with other funders.”
That was accurate advice ten years ago, and I think it continues to be true. Although I think foundations are generally more open and accessible today than they were then, it can be difficult for someone to “break into” the field. I was lucky enough to land a position at the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, which was tremendously helpful in training me to be a strategic grantmaker, and introduced me to many amazing program officers and foundation leaders. I learned about this position the old-fashioned way – by networking – but in this economy no stone should be left unturned in a job search.
With that in mind I wanted to share some resources to help you land your next foundation job:
7 Websites With Foundation Job Listings
- The Council on Foundation’s Career Center provides national job listings at foundations. Anyone can search for positions, and for $25 you can post your resume (free to members).
- The Foundation Center’s Job Corner provides listings of current full-time job openings at U.S.-based foundations and nonprofit organizations. You can also search by organization type, job function, and state.
- Grantmakers Without Borders offers job listing with a focus on global issues and social change.
- Regional Associations of Grantmakers are great resources for local job listings. For example, Ohio Grantmakers Forum and Philanthropy Northwest both have job listings on their websites. The Giving Forum lists jobs available at other regional associations, and you can also search for grantmaker associations near you.
- OnPhilanthropy’s Dot.Org.Jobs site includes some foundation jobs, although primarily lists nonprofit positions
- OpportunityKnocks lists foundation and nonprofit jobs nationally. You can post a resume and also get advice through their Nonprofit Jobs Resource Center.
- If you are looking for a nonprofit position, the Donor’s Forum provides a list of over 30 websites posting nonprofit jobs.
Most foundations also list their job openings on their websites. Some, like the Ford and Gates foundations, allow you to apply online.
Larger funders often turn to executive search firms to help them identify qualified candidates. Some popular firms include The 360 Group, Martha Montag Brown & Associates, DHR International, Bridgespan, and Phillips Oppenheim.
Anthony Tansimore, Executive Vice President of the search firm DHR International, offers this advice to job seekers:
It’s not easy to get a job in a foundation and there are many paths. The first thing I do is issue a caution. I talk to quite a lot of people who want to make the jump into a foundation from a nonprofit or from the corporate sector. They think the work is easier and they will make more money.
Second, think about what you’re passionate about. Think about what kind of difference you want to make in the world, and investigate the foundations that are doing that work. Get to know the program officers and ask for an informational interview.
Third, ask about fellowships that encourage people to pursue careers in philanthropy or the nonprofit sector. The San Francisco Foundation, for instance, has a fellowship program to encourage more people of color to enter philanthropy, and the typical fellow is younger in age and career.
Fourth, become informed and share your knowledge. If you know a lot about an issue, write and speak about it so that you are seen as an expert and someone to whom foundations will turn to gain more knowledge on the subject.
Lastly, when you reach out to a search consultant, know that that person’s client is the organization that wishes to hire staff. Do not expect the consultant to serve as an agent to place you in a terrific position, so limit your expectations to meeting someone new and sharing your resume.
If you are under forty years of age and new to philanthropy work, you should check out Emerging Practioners in Philanthropy, which provides terrific networking and educational opportunities. And if you prefer to hang out your own shingle you should check out two of my earlier posts, “So, You Want To Be A Philanthropy Consultant,” and “Starting A Consulting Business? 15 Things To Do Right Now.”
How did you land your first foundation job? Do you recommend other resources for finding a position in philanthropy? Leave a comment and let us know. If you found this blog post useful, please subscribe! On Twitter? Follow Philanthropy411 at @Philanthropy411.
Posted by Kris Putnam-Walkerly © Kris Putnam-Walkerly and Philanthropy411, 2010.