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Career Opportunities in Foundations

A foundation is a non-governmental, non-profit organization with its own funds (usually from a single source, either an individual, family or corporation) and program managed by its own trustees and directors established to maintain or aid educational, social, charitable, religious, or other activities serving the common welfare, primarily by making grants to other non-profit organizations (Foundation Center).

Career Paths

Many foundation employees have had four or five jobs and have changed their occupational area at least once prior to entering the foundation world. The work of foundations involves reading proposals, visiting with prospective grantees, making judgments about awards, preparing detailed memoranda for governing boards and files, answering questions from prospective grantees, monitoring grants already in place and attending board meetings when asked. Some types of foundations have a significant fundraising/development component, and the largest foundations have staff to manage their investments.

There are no standardized career paths. People enter the field as generalists from a variety of backgrounds. In order to advance in the field, they may work in a progression of positions within a particular foundation. These may include program assistant, program associate and program officer; others move from one foundation to another for career advancement. Many foundations are small and fluid organizations.

Qualifications Necessary

Foundation work requires the ability to write clearly and succinctly, make qualitative judgments, have a global perspective on ideas and issues, listen well, and have a measure of empathy. Creative thinking, critical analysis, and the ability to interact with professionals are also important. Overseas experience, fluency in a foreign language, and an advanced degree are helpful for work in the international foundation world. Increasingly, foundations are seeking strategic thinkers skilled in the art of negotiating who are able to put together public policy initiatives in partnership with other organizations.

Potential Employers

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