Core Courses to Strengthen Your Grantmaking

The Grantmaking School offers four core courses annually. Together, these courses prepare practitioners to deepen their understanding, strengthen their skills, and ultimately advance their personal and professional impact in philanthropy.

Courses are generally offered in Grand Rapids or Detroit, Mich., at various times of year. Check back frequently, or sign up to receive Johnson Center e-newsletters to ensure you never miss a course!

Foundations and other organizations wishing to train many of their staff or stakeholders at once may be well suited for a custom course presentation. To learn more, please contact us.


New and Upcoming Courses to Advance Your Grantmaking

The Grantmaking School periodically offers courses on current trends and emerging skills that you need to continue growing in your career and advancing your organization’s grantmaking effectiveness.


Bring The Grantmaking School to you!

Are you interested in training large numbers of your organization’s staff or donor family, or in supporting your regional network by hosting a more local offering of a Grantmaking School course? We are eager to work with you to meet your learning needs. Contact us today to learn more about custom courses.


Full List of Courses

Philanthropy 101
Next Course Date:
October 24–25, 2019  //  Detroit, MI
Register for this course
Philanthropy 101

Philanthropy 101 is a two-day learning experience that helps ground new professionals in the basics of foundations, nonprofits, grantmaking, and the field of philanthropy.

As a participant in this course, you will gain a deeper understanding of what philanthropy is, what makes it distinct, and why it’s important. You will also examine how your role fits within the broader field, and explore how philanthropy interacts with other sectors — namely, business and government.

The course introduces many concepts essential to philanthropic work — including ethics, accountability, equity, and power dynamics — along with providing an overview of key legal issues and the fundamentals of grantmaking.

What you’ll learn in this course:

  • Introduction to philanthropy and an overview of the philanthropic ecosystem
  • The practice of being ethical in philanthropy
  • Implicit bias, power dynamics, and arrogance traps
  • Foundation governance and legal issues
  • Elements of the grantmaking process
  • Current trends in the field

Advancing Equity: A Case Study of Kresge’s Climate Resilience & Urban Opportunity Initiative
Next Course Date:
January 17, 2020  //  Detroit, MI
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Advancing Equity: A Case Study

Are you looking to advance equity through your grantmaking and need help moving forward in a strategic and effective way? Join us as we examine a case study from the Kresge Foundation’s Climate Resilience and Urban Opportunity (CRUO) initiative. Together, we will explore important decisions and turning points using real-life examples from the initiative.

This course will help illuminate what’s involved in integrating an equity focus into your grantmaking, from highlighting key decision points to navigating potential trade-offs and challenges.

You’ll come away with a deeper knowledge of what it takes to connect grantmaking and equity for the empowerment and benefit of marginalized communities.

What you’ll learn in this course:

  • How to integrate equity into your work
  • How to advance equity through grantmaking
  • How to empower marginalized communities
  • How to identify key decision moments for learning

Financial Analysis in Grantmaking
Next Course Date:
December 6, 2019  //  Detroit, MI
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Financial Analysis in Grantmaking

Financial Analysis in Grantmaking provides you with the necessary knowledge and tools to conduct a comprehensive and effective analysis of organizational and programmatic financial information to improve funding decisions.

This robust one-day course guides you through the implications that finances can have on the success of any grant, while providing you with the needed resources to assess financial health, a key component of both due diligence and post-grant processes.

What you’ll learn in this course:

  • An overview of conducting a financial analysis
  • Fundamentals of grant financial review and analysis, including organization budget and project budget, financial statements, audit, and IRS Form 990 or 990EZ
  • Key financial ratios
  • Financial accountability in the post-grant process

Persuasive Writing for Grantmakers
Next Course Date:

This course is not currently scheduled. Contact us to join the waitlist for a future course.

Persuasive Writing for Grantmakers

Whether preparing a grant recommendation for the board, developing a strategy document to share with stakeholders, or drafting blog posts, writing persuasively is an essential component of a grantmaker’s role.

This one-day, interactive group coaching workshop focuses on sharpening the analytical skills that are the basis for good writing and can be tailored to different audiences and written grantmaking products.

As a member of this workshop cohort, you will be invited to schedule a free, one-hour individual coaching session with one of the Johnson Center’s grantmaking experts, providing extra time to focus on your foundation’s particular requirements. A sign-up sheet will be available during the workshop.

What you’ll learn in this course:

  • How to strengthen your analytical skills to inform your writing
  • How to tailor your written work for use in different products
  • How to write persuasively for different internal and external audiences

Proposal Analysis in Grantmaking
Next Course Dates:
June 20–21, 2019  //  Arvada, CO
February 20–21, 2020  //  Detroit, MI
Register for Arvada, Colo.
Register for Detroit, Mich.
Proposal Analysis in Grantmaking

Proposal Analysis in Grantmaking is designed to help you hone the essential skills of grantmaking, including proposal review, conducting due diligence, making funding recommendations, managing relationships with grantees, and other core competency areas for grantmakers.

This two-day course includes an exploration of the many factors that inform foundation strategy, preparing you to better grasp and communicate how a proposal or potential grantee will fit into your foundation’s overall mission.

What you’ll learn in this course:

  • Methods for assessing proposals efficiently
  • How to conduct due diligence and manage risk
  • How to structure grants and leverage assets beyond grantmaking
  • How to monitor grants and manage reporting
  • Different approaches and methods to evaluation
  • Grantee relationship management and communications

Social Movements and Grantmaking
Next Course Date:

This course is not currently scheduled. Contact us to join the waitlist for a future course.

Social Movements and Grantmaking

Social Movements and Grantmaking provides an engaging introductory dive into the world of social movements and the many roles that philanthropy can play within them. As funding social movements often requires a more nimble, fast-paced approach to grantmaking, this course is intended to equip grantmakers with strategies and models for working outside a traditional grantmaking cycle.

This two-day course includes a mix of lectures, discussions, and experiential exercises that will give you an understanding of philanthropy’s influence on social movements and how you can identify funding opportunities to support them.

What you’ll learn in this course:

  • How to recognize what a social movement is and what it isn’t
  • The influence and role of philanthropy on contemporary social movements
  • How to identify different funding opportunities in supporting social movements

Strategy and Evaluation in Grantmaking
Next Course Date:

This course is not currently scheduled. Contact us to join the waitlist for a future course.

Strategy and Evaluation in Grantmaking

Strategy and Evaluation in Grantmaking is a two-day learning experience designed to help you develop or refine your grantmaking strategy and to develop evaluation approaches that support learning, strategy improvement, and promote equitable evaluation practices.

This course gives you the opportunity to examine the history, strategy, design, and theory behind the process of programmatic and strategy evaluation and helps equip you with the necessary tools to respond to the diverse nature of evaluation in foundations.

What you’ll learn in this course:

  • How to use evaluation as a tool to promote equity and learn about strategy
  • How to leverage a foundation’s toolkit to implement strategy
  • Models for strategy development
  • Evaluation design and how to determine purpose and approach
  • How to manage external evaluation

Strategy and Evaluation for Health Foundations
Next Course Date:
July 8–9, 2019  //  Durham, NC
Register for this course
Strategy and Evaluation for Health Foundations: A workshop for board members and staff

This two-day learning experience is designed for those who work for foundations whose mission is focused on human health and are considering developing a more strategic approach to their work. This course may be of particular benefit to newer, health-conversion foundations.

During this course, health foundation board members, senior staff, and program officers will be introduced to the fundamentals of strategic philanthropy and the design of foundation strategy. The course will also dive deeply into the key tools and approaches for developing strategy and evaluation frameworks.

Who should attend:

  • Board members, senior staff and program officers (teams encouraged!)
  • Foundations that are considering developing a more strategic approach to their work, especially health conversion/health legacy foundations.

What you’ll learn in this course:

  • The what, why, and how of foundation strategy
  • How to use evaluation to support and inform strategy
  • A basic framework for planning an evaluation appropriate to your foundation

If you would like to bring any of The Grantmaking School courses directly to your foundation for internal trainings or onboarding, please contact us for more information.