First Timer from Across the Pond

Having moved from London to New York just two weeks earlier, I walked into the Council on Foundatons’ day-long global preconference session with trepidation; would I remember what my organization did? Would the other attendees groan when they realised I was a fundraiser? Would they understand my funny English?

The day launched into a discussion on Civil Society and the Law, drawing to my attention a million and one difficulties that face charities (or rather, nonprofits to use the lingo here in the United States) and grantmakers alike. The hours and sessions flew by and I realised that nobody grimaced when I told them where I was from. Indeed, I had many a candid conversation with grants officers. Having sat on both sides of the fence, one grantmaker said to me, “The grass is not always greener. I would much rather be writing an application about the project than writing the report that accompanies the application.”

My understanding of philanthropy in the United States has grown exponentially, and I am grateful for the culture of openness and willingness that prevails here. While I appreciate that there are grantmakers who would prefer a “closed shop,” the sector as a whole benefits from the frank discussions that take place at these events. Understanding the key issues for you as grantmakers helps us as fundraisers to submit applications that are well-considered and allow you to achieve your goals.

The charity sector in the UK would benefit greatly if the UK equivalent of the Council on Foundations, the Association of Charitable Foundations, were to open its doors and encourage greater dialogue and interactions between grantmakers and grantseekers.

We would never see an event the size and scope of the ‘Annual Conference, but some kind of platform for mutual learning would be well-received. After all, we should see ourselves as being on the same side and not as opposite camps.

Jenny Chan is development manager at Family for Every Child (

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