Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Seeking Alignment and Capturing Your Story

Nonprofit and community organizations gathered inside a local nightclub in downtown Mankato on a late January afternoon. The Minnesota Council of Nonprofits South Central Chapter hosted an event that featured The Otto Bremer Foundation, focusing on its mission and grant guidelines. Program Officer Tony LookingElk engaged the attendees in a look inside the Foundation. It was interesting to hear him talk about what inspired Mr. Otto Bremer in the mid-1940s to create the Foundation. He shared how Otto Bremer’s legacy works today through the efforts of three trustees who are connected to Mr. Bremer as descendants of business partners who served originally in the role. The Foundation also has a staff with several individuals serving as program officers.

If you’ve had a proposal in consideration for funding by the Otto Bremer Foundation, or most any funder, you are –or should be- aware of the key role the program officer plays in your funding request’s journey from submission to consideration to decision. LookingElk detailed the steps, and it was good information that attendees appreciated, especially in this Mankato area where the Otto Bremer Foundation is a new resource, thanks to a new Bremer Bank locating last year in the community. I most appreciated how he summed up his role as program officer. “My job is to seek alignment,” he said, “That is, your nonprofit to the Foundation’s mission and meaning, and capture your story.”

More on the role of the program officer is described in What Does A Program Officer Do? by Trista Harris from her New Voices of Philanthropy blog. Harris is executive director of the Headwaters Foundation for Justice. The post and the blog are focused on the philanthropic field and philanthropy as a career. For our nonprofit readers, you may find it interesting and worthwhile to take a peek inside the world on the other side of the grantseeker/grantmaker relationship.

Lois Schmidt, NRS, Willmar Charter

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