Blog / Grantmakers & Donors

LearnPhilanthropy Academy: A New, Online Learning Resource By the Field, For the Field

A Q&A with Michael Moody
LearnPhilanthropy Academy: A New, Online Learning Resource By the Field, For the Field
The Johnson Center is proud to introduce LearnPhilanthropy Academy!

This new e-learning platform is designed to make it easy for philanthropy and nonprofit professionals, individual donors, and other lifelong learners to expand their knowledge about grantmaking, giving, and the philanthropic sector. On-demand courses and a personal learning profile make it easy to learn whenever and wherever is most convenient.

The Academy is organized into learning tracks; each track includes a series of courses comprised of three to four lessons. Each lesson — 14 in total in Track 1 — takes about 10–15 minutes and is guided by an expert instructor — someone with deep knowledge and experience in the topic.

The first track, The Philanthropic Sector, is available now. This track includes four courses — Introduction to Philanthropy, The Philanthropic Ecosystem, Ethics in Philanthropy, and Transformations and Trends in Philanthropy — and starts the learning journey with “big picture” lessons about the vocabulary, trends, and critical questions that shape our field and our work.

We sat down with Dr. Michael Moody, host of this initial LearnPhilanthropy Academy track, to find out more about LearnPhilanthropy Academy and the team of field-wide experts whose passion and experience bring this resource to life.

Go to LearnPhilanthropy Academy

Q: Why create LearnPhilanthropy Academy? Why is this resource important?

LearnPhilanthropy Academy is important because learning itself is so important in the philanthropic field. This may sound trite, but it is a simple truth that has a lot of complex reasoning behind it.

For one thing, philanthropy plays an essential and complicated role in our society, yet most people have no opportunity to learn about it in school — the way we learn about government or business, for example. And even those who become professionals in the sector rarely have formal training in the core concepts and practices of philanthropy, especially those on the grantmaking side of the table. Moreover, we hear from donors all the time about how influential their learning journey has been in shaping what kind of donor they become, and how eager they are for new — and easy to access — sources of learning.

For years, the Johnson Center has heard these views expressed by the attendees at courses of The Grantmaking School, at our National Summits on Family Philanthropy, in our webinars, and in our other professional development offerings. We knew there was a demand out there for the sort of instruction that LearnPhilanthropy Academy can now provide.

Q: Who is LearnPhilanthropy Academy for?

We want the Academy — and this first track especially — to be useful for a range of audiences. Most notably, professionals in grantmaking organizations will benefit from the grounding in the fundamental concepts and distinctions provided in these lessons, as well as the guidelines for navigating ethical challenges that they will routinely face in their work. For instance, we imagine that human resources leaders in foundations can make good use of these lessons for staff orientation and professional development.

These lessons will also be useful for other professionals working every day in this field, such as nonprofit leaders, fundraisers, and leaders of philanthropy serving organizations across the country. And we explicitly designed the lessons in the Academy to be relevant for individual donors as well — and to those wealth and philanthropy advisors who work closely with donor families.

Donors will find the summary of current trends especially helpful — e.g., the changes coming as the “next gen” becomes active, the new challenges arising from donors using multiple vehicles at one time, etc.

Finally, students in the growing number of nonprofit and philanthropy degree programs across the country can find much of interest in these on-demand lessons, from the clarification of the often confusing jargon and technical distinctions in the field, to the in-depth discussion of how philanthropy can do much better than it has historically in advancing racial justice. We even offer access to LearnPhilanthropy Academy at half price to current students.

Q: How was the curriculum for LearnPhilanthropy Academy developed? Why did you engage instructors from all corners of the philanthropic ecosystem across the U.S.?

The motto of the LearnPhilanthropy platform from its inception has been “by the field, for the field,” and we adopted that same approach with LearnPhilanthropy Academy. We are grateful that so many leading experts in the field were willing to develop and lead the individual lessons.

Frankly, I think this amazing collection of expertise in one place is probably the biggest selling point of the Academy. In 10 to 15 minutes, you can learn about 14 essential aspects of philanthropy from someone who is a recognized thought leader and/or prominent practitioner on that topic.

As the host and curator of this first track, my role was to discern which lessons were essential to include in each course, and then identify and recruit the best instructors. The content of each lesson, then, was crafted in collaboration with the instructor. They were fantastic about recording the audio for lessons in engaging ways, and helping us ensure the visual presentations of the content fit their energy. Our biggest challenge was keeping each lesson short enough, and making sure we didn’t have too much overlap between lessons — each of these instructors knew so much about every topic that they could probably teach the whole track!

Q: You mentioned the LearnPhilanthropy platform. What is that?

LearnPhilanthropy is a centralized hub where grantmakers, donors, and others in philanthropy — especially those new to their role — can find resources from around the field to help increase the effectiveness and impact of their giving. Created originally in 2011 through a unique partnership of the Council on Foundations and the Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers (now part of United Philanthropy Forum), LearnPhilanthropy became a program of the Johnson Center in 2013.

The heart of LearnPhilanthropy is the 70+ content partners who provide resources for the online knowledge library that users can search and browse on the site. The Johnson Center team — and expert partners in the field — also create additional tools on LearnPhilanthropy to help users along their learning journeys, including lists of “Top 5 Resources” on certain topics, short “Learning Briefs,” a directory of a vast array of organizations serving the field, and an incredibly valuable glossary.

Q: So this is Track 1 — does that mean there will be other tracks?

That’s the plan!

With the support of LearnPhilanthropy’s core funders, especially the Kresge Foundation and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, we were able to produce this first track over the past couple of years. It took an incredible amount of time, ingenuity, and patience to get to this point, but we feel now we have a development model and the technical savvy to make the creation of other tracks easier and faster.

We have an initial outline of lessons that would fit into three additional tracks, tentatively titled: “Grantmaking and Changemaking,” “Strategy and Evaluation,” and “Foundation Management.” Our hope is that the value of LearnPhilanthropy Academy to the field will become evident now with the launch of this first track, and that we will then be able to attract additional funding to support future development of great content.

Q: How do I get started with LearnPhilanthropy Academy?

We’ve made it easy to get started. First, go to and create a free account. Then click on the LearnPhilanthropy Academy menu and select “Track 1.” From here, you can purchase either the entire track ($100), or individual courses ($30 each). Once purchased, you can watch the lessons in any order you choose, follow links to various resources connected to each lesson, and take quizzes — though passing the quiz is not required to move on to the next lesson.

If you aren’t sure whether you would like to purchase the track or courses, there are free-to-watch introductory videos — hosted by yours truly — describing what you’ll find in the track and in each of the four courses. The Johnson Center staff is also available to answer questions about LearnPhilanthopy Academy; just email us at or call (616) 331-7585.