Being a new program officer in a rich philanthropic region can present unique challenges. Program officers must build relationships, be open, clear, creative, flexible, and honest with grantees, understand the social, cultural, and socio-economic factors affecting grantees’ work, work closely and in tandem with Foundation colleagues and management, know national, state, and local best practices, and translate the nonprofit sector to a committee and/or Board of Directors. In an aging Pittsburgh, younger Program Officers often face challenges in being perceived as “green” or not having enough experience to be knowledgeable and helpful.
The Pittsburgh area is one of the richest in the number of foundations, but lacks a focus on growing younger leaders in philanthropy. While each Foundation on-boards program officers to meet specific foundation requirements, newer program officers often navigate through various systems and networks, identify best practices, and provide technical assistance without a peer-supported professional development network. There is also a growing community/foundation concern about building the next generation of nonprofit leaders. A focus on Growing Leaders in Philanthropy is an opportunity to build local capacity for leadership development, rather than solely relying on various and separate national programs or cohorts. With such a rich foundation base, Growing Leaders in Philanthropy can also identify and leverage national and state best practices.
The Growing Leaders in Philanthropy Group is a small group of Program Officers who explore together the idea of a supportive, professional development network to advance Pittsburgh’s philanthropic community.