ESS Curriculum

Organizations that sponsor ESS workshops and the faculty that teach those sessions have access to the full Essential Skills & Strategies for New Grantmakers curriculum (listed below) for no charge.

Session 1 materials are available without restriction. All are welcome to review these as an example of the rest of the curriculum.

If you have not yet requested access to the full curriculum and would like to sponsor a workshop, please email leaders@cof.org to request access for your site coordinator and all teaching faculty. In your email, include the name of your organization and the names and email addresses of all teaching faculty and the site coordinator.


Session 1: Being Grounded in Philanthropy

Delivery time: 1.5 hours

This session will help participants understand:

  • the role of philanthropy in society
  • key events in the development of philanthropy
  • the infrastructure that supports philanthropy
  • current issues and debates about philanthropy

This session will prepare participants to:

  • function with an awareness of the macro context of philanthropy
  • benefit from the collective experiences and knowledge in the field of philanthropy
Session 1 Materials (for free download)

Handouts for Participants


Session 2: Navigating Legal and Ethical Issues

Delivery time: 2.25 hours

This session will help participants understand:

  • six basic rules all grantmakers should live by
  • ethical issues common to grantmakers
  • strategies for managing ethical challenges

This session will prepare participants to:

  • conduct grantmaking that is within customary due diligence requirements
  • recognize and manage ethical challenges

Session 3: Making Sound Funding Recommendations

Delivery time: 3.0 hours

This session will help participants understand:

  • Typical steps and best practices used in the proposal review process
  • Issues to consider in arriving at a funding recommendation

This session will prepare participants to:

  • Gather applicant information
  • Assess the viability of the applicant and proposed project
  • Make defensible funding decisions

Session 4: Communicating Funding Recommendations and Decisions

Delivery time: 1.25 hours

This session will help participants understand:

  • perspectives foundation leaders and trustees bring to funding decisions
  • typical steps and best practices in the funding recommendation process
  • issues and strategies for delivering funding decisions to grantseekers
  • the responsibilities and best practices in foundation communications

This session will prepare participants to:

  • craft and deliver compelling funding recommendations
  • craft and deliver final funding decisions to grantseekers in an effective and respectful manner
  • communicate as a responsible member of the philanthropic community and your foundation

Session 5: Managing Your Grant Portfolio

Delivery time: 2.0 hours

This session will help participants understand:

  • standard expectations and requirements of grants management
  • typical issues and effective practices in grants management

This session will prepare participants to:

  • monitor grants
  • anticipate and oversee grant implementation problems
  • support grantee success
  • learn from grant experiences

Session 6: Maximizing Grant Impact

Delivery time: 1.5 hours

This session will help participants understand:

  • common strategies outside of the grantmaking framework for achieving greater good
  • key strengths and constraints of each strategy
  • when and how strategies can be employed

This session will prepare participants to:

  • consider the use of complementary strategies to enhance the probability of success and the positive impact of individual grants, your portfolio, and your mission

Session 7: Strategies for Professional Excellence and Personal Satisfaction

Delivery time: 1 hour

This session will help participants understand:

  • skills and strategies for harmonizing personal well-being and professional excellence as a grantmaker
  • inherent tensions in the role of the grantmaker
  • issues and changes in the field
  • opportunities and resources for your continuous learning, development, and enjoyment as a grantmaker

This session will prepare participants to:

  • reflect on your situation, skills, and strategies for professional effectiveness, and personal satisfaction
  • manage inherent tensions of the grantmaker role
  • stay well-informed on emerging knowledge and practices of, and resources in, the field
  • be an engaged, content, and effective practitioner long term