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The Learning Conference 2015

June 10–11, 2015

Boston, Mass.

A6. Blur The Lines, Sharpen Your Work

Wednesday, June 10, 2015 at 11:15 AM–12:15 PM EDT
Cape Cod (Main Lobby Level)
Session Designer:

Jessica Bearman, Bearman Consulting

Session Description

Good grantmaking practices lead to better grantmaking impact. Yet funders often treat grantmaking operations or implementation as completely separate from program strategy. Grantmakers have an incredible opportunity to learn and strengthen their work by bringing together the two sides of their “brain” — grantmaking programs and grantmaking operations. By paying attention to how their systems and practices support or undermine their strategy, funders can make sure they are having the most impact with their dollars. This session will introduce research from the Grants Managers Network, and speakers from two foundations will share how they sharpened their organizations’ synapses with different models for integrating grants management into programs for increased effectiveness. Participants will discuss how they might apply similar habits and structures to blur organizational boundaries and, ultimately, improve learning and knowledge sharing internally.

Primary Points Of Contact

Jessica, Bearman

Session Designers

Jessica Bearman, Bearman Consulting


Sara Davis, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
Speaker Biography

Sara Davis joined the Hewlett Foundation in 2011 as the director of the Grants Management Department. In this role, she is responsible for ensuring that grantmaking operations, systems, and data support the mission and strategic goals of the Foundation.  The Grants Management team focuses on building efficiency and quality in Foundation operations and streamlining internal processes and associated communication.   The team is also responsible for grant compliance, making sure that the Foundation adheres to legal requirements for private foundations and to related best practices in the field.

Sara currently serves on the Boards of Directors of the Northern California Grantmakers Association and the Grants Managers Network. Before Hewlett, she worked at the Adobe Foundation, where she managed foundation finance, operations, and their global grants programs. Her previous work experience includes leadership positions in philanthropy and the nonprofit sector with Kaiser Permanente Northern California Community Benefit programs and with the Napa Valley Vintners Association.

Sara has an M.B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, and completed the Philanthropy Leadership program at Stanford University’s School of Social Innovation.

Marc F. McDonald, AARP Foundation
Speaker Biography

Marc McDonald joined AARP Foundation in 2012 as the Director of Grants Management. In his role, Marc oversees the Foundation’s strategic grant making with a focus on project management, operational alignment and an intervention centric approach to increase AARP Foundation’s investment in developing new programs. Focusing on outcome-based grant making, Marc has developed new grant making processes and workflows to align AARP Foundation’s grant making with its strategic plan and mission to serve low-income older adults. Marc also ensures timely reporting and compliance for nearly $80 million in government grants received by AARP Foundation, including project lead for AARP Foundation’s recent Social Innovation Fund grant by the Corporation for National and Community Service. Marc currently serves on the Board of Directors for Grants Managers Network.

Prior to joining AARP Foundation, Marc was Director of Grant Policy and System Analysis for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. He oversaw distribution policy and grantee reporting for the $300 million Community Service grant program serving nearly 600 public radio and television grantees. He also served on the board of the Public Media Business Association.

Marc earned his BA from Dartmouth College and his MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

Jessica Bearman, Bearman Consulting
Speaker Biography

Jessica Bearman (Bearman Consulting) works with foundations and other mission-based organizations, focusing on organization development, facilitation, planning, and project R&D to help them become more intentional, effective, and responsive to the communities that they serve.

Jessica’s current and recent clients include GMN's Project Streamline, the Talent Philanthropy Project, Exponent Philanthropy, Grantmakers for Effective Organizations, Funders Together to End Homelessness, and a variety of individual foundations. As a consultant and in her prior role as deputy director of New Ventures in Philanthropy, Jessica has written and spoken widely about new and established philanthropy. Her most recent Project Streamline publication:  Practices That Matter, investigates the impact of grantmakers’ application and reporting practices.  She (often disguised as "Dr. Streamline") blogs regularly on the topic of funder practices and values.

Session Materials