July 2020 Newsletter: Context is Key

A Note from Executive Director Katy Knight

One of the core philosophies that I ask the members of our team to keep at the top of mind in all of our work is the belief that “context is key.” In order to be the most effective thought partners and grantmakers possible, we need to fully understand the conditions and circumstances under which our grantees do their work.

In order to deliver on that promise, we aim to ask relevant questions of ourselves throughout the relationship building process that are designed to keep us aware of and engaged with the factors that shape our grantees’ experiences. I’ve been thinking a lot about the role that context plays in informing our strategy, especially as our world has shifted so much in the past several months. I’ve shared some thoughts on the questions we try to keep at the forefront of our process in a new series of Insights titled Context is Key.

The first two posts highlight questions that we ask about critical contextual details, including:

  • Who’s doing the work?¬†How can our understanding of an organization be shaped by getting to know the people who lead it? What else can we learn from the members of the team in charge of the day-to-day? What about the members of the communities served? Interrogating all of these questions in detail helps us better understand how we can provide support that’s closely tailored to our grantees’ specific needs, and guide us in creating a strategy that sets them up to be more impactful in the long term.
  • Where is the work happening?¬†Understanding the role that regional context plays in shaping a grantee’s work is critical to effective philanthropy. We ask ourselves a lot of big questions about the role of “place” in shaping our grantmaking, especially as we explore relationships with grantees in a diverse range of regions and localities.

I’ll be sharing additional installments to this series soon, and hope that this look into our process can be useful in shaping your own conversations and the partnerships you seek to build.


Katy Knight
Executive Director