Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Education


Teaching, Learning, and Leadership


Foundation trustees and professional staff are giving greater attention to issues of accountability and return on investment, while voices of those with significant experience in the private sector inquire with increasing frequency and vigor about the organizational performance of foundations. For these reasons there must be renewed attention on the competencies and attributes of grantmaking practitioners. This study is a self-assessment by grantmakers based on the construct of Emotional Intelligence (Goleman, 1995) as well as competency studies in organizational management and leadership.

In association with the Council of Michigan Foundations, grantmakers associated with foundations holding in excess of $1 million in assets were invited to participate in the survey. Because of a low response rate (14%), the survey data was used to describe the grantmakers who responded and to develop insights about their characteristics. The respondents did generally reflect the distribution of foundation types in Michigan. Nearly half (48%) of the respondents were 55 years or older, gender was about evenly distributed. Less than one-third (30%) have past employment history in the nonprofit sector, though many (61%) have stayed in philanthropy 11-16 years. Most prevalent program areas for respondents were education, human services and arts/culture.

Respondents ranked trustworthiness, communication, commitment and leadership among the most important relative to effectiveness. Items rated least critical include: conflict management, self-control and diversity. The strongest correlations between frequency and importance of use on the job were in team capabilities, collaboration and endurance.

Ninety-two percent of grantmakers were referred to their positions by colleagues or personal relationships. Closed recruitment is most prevalent. The most prevalent suggestions for selection process improvement were: more relevant/stringent criteria, expanded candidate pool, and clarity in job descriptions and assessments. Grantmakers rely on their colleagues and the Council of Michigan Foundations for professional development. Very few, 13%, experience a formal orientation to their work. Among respondents, less than half (49%) employ common private sector practices.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access