Behind the foundation curtain

Posted on June 30, 2011


After 7 years of asking for grants, I couldn’t wait to be the one to give them.

Even though it was tough work, I loved fund development. It was a thrill to land a new grant or pull off a successful event – always changing and very rewarding. (And, yes, exhausting and stressful.)

The only job I wanted more was to be a grant maker.

I happened to be in the right place at the right time, and was fortunate enough to get a shot at my dream job. The Tellabs Foundation hired me as its first director in 2001.

What was behind the foundation curtain? Before starting, I suffered from a nonprofit inferiority complex. Would I be able to compete in a fast-paced corporate office?

It was a brave new world. I clearly remember the first difference I noticed: All of the furniture matched. Even in the conference rooms. It was a far cry from my enormous, used, 1940s-era desk that had magnets on the side to hide the scratched paint.

Next Tellabs provided a sleek new laptop. Just for me. Only having worked for nonprofits, I had always had to share my computer, a battered, yellowing 386 desktop.

But I soon realized that there were more similarities than differences.

Fund development and grant making are both looking for good matches. They have to work with lots of people within their own organizations to support worthy causes.

The charity and foundation are both trying to further their missions. We all need to use resources wisely. And everyone wants to do good.

I vowed I would demystify the grant making process, once on the other side. Turns out it’s not necessary.

The curtain is up and the news is good. We’re all on the same side.

Posted in: Corporate giving