Q&A With Amy Kerwin
Our 2021 report showcases the amazing work of our grant partners during yet another challenging year. Building on this momentum, we are looking ahead to 2022 with a sense of optimism. Ascendium’s Vice President - Education Philanthropy Amy Kerwin shares her thoughts on what’s in store next.
Will your focus areas change during 2022?
Our work in our four focus areas is far from complete! When we set our focus areas in 2019, we crafted them to be fairly broad, recognizing that we had much to learn about the most significant challenges in each area and the types of investments needed to optimize impact in addressing those challenges.
We’re now at the midpoint of our strategy and have taken the time to reflect on what we’ve learned thus far — from connections with field leaders, learnings produced by our grant partners and the impact of the COVID-19 health crisis on institutions, systems and the learners they serve. We’ll use these reflections to further refine and narrow our investment priorities in each focus area to guide us through the remainder of this strategy.
In what ways is Ascendium operationally evolving to support grant partners?
Throughout the year, we gathered feedback from our grant partners about our grantmaking processes. We have identified opportunities to be more transparent about what, why and how we make grants. Early in 2022, we’ll be implementing a refined grantmaking process from concept to letter of inquiry to full proposal, as well as updated grant reporting requirements post-award. To help us assess whether we successfully make our processes less burdensome for grant partners, we’ll formalize a grant partner feedback loop and adjust our new processes as needed.
We’ll continue to emphasize providing support to our partners beyond grant dollars. We can do that by introducing our grant partners to other funders and connecting them with other partners or subject matter experts. We can also leverage our Strategic Communications team and our strategic media partners to amplify what we and our partners are learning.
Will your team be growing in 2022?
Yes, I’m excited about adding several new members to the team to support the expansion of our grantmaking in 2022. We’ll be looking to fill several program officer roles on our Education Grantmaking team, new positions on the Learning and Impact team and a senior program officer to support Ascendium’s place-based giving in our home state of Wisconsin.