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Open Philanthropy’s “Day in the Life” series showcases the wide-ranging work of our staff, spotlighting individual team members as they navigate a typical workday. We hope these posts provide an inside look into what working at Open Phil is really like. If you’re interested in joining our team, we encourage you to check out our open roles.

Anna Maybach Sullivan is a Grants Associate at Open Philanthropy. She supports Open Phil’s grantmaking from the operations side by working directly with grantees and Open Phil’s external funding partners to disburse grants as smoothly and efficiently as possible. She received a B.A. from Vanderbilt University and completed a Postbac at Columbia University. 

Anna about to ski some fresh powder in Fernie, BC!

Day in the Life

The Grants team supports Open Philanthropy’s mission to help others as much as we can with the resources available to us by processing grants compliantly, efficiently, and expertly. For every grant Open Phil makes, the Grants Team is responsible for: 

  • Determining how to structure the grant (deciding which of our funding vehicles can support the grant activities; determining the grant documentation type, payment structure, etc.)
  • Conducting due diligence on the grantee
  • Tracking grant and grantee details in our internal database and relaying updates to grantees and program teams
  • Formally recommending each grant to one of Open Phil’s external funding partners 
  • Monitoring grant payment dates, follow-ups, and reporting requirements

Grants are approved by our program teams on a continuous basis, so a typical grant load for a single Grants Associate is about 8-12 grants at once. Each grant load is comprised of a unique collection of awards, each distinguished by a different set of permissible activities, grantee type (individual or organizational), duration, focus area, and amount. As Grants Associates, a defining aspect of our role is being as adaptable and agile as possible to cater to the varied types of grants we handle, while also upholding the fundamental procedures and knowledge infrastructure needed for effective grants management.

We’re a small team spread across four countries, but we value staying closely connected (we really like each other!), so we keep in touch by posting actively in our Slack channels and getting together for twice-weekly virtual coworking sessions. On our call today, we discussed some thorny lobbying laws in South Korea, followed by a chat about one of our team member’s upcoming travel plans. 

A typical day for me starts with a sweep of my inbox to gather grantee responses to our logistics emails, which collect the relevant details we need to make formal grant recommendations. I also answer questions from grantees about their awards and scan for any newly assigned grants.

Our team hosts weekly meetings where we review our individual and team priorities, troubleshoot tricky grant scenarios, and plan for the future by discussing upcoming team- and org-wide goals. Today, I’m sharing some updates on how we can expand our grantmaking capabilities with one of our funding partners, the National Philanthropic Trust.

This is a particularly busy week for me since it’s my turn to take what we call a “Grants@ Shift.” Our team takes turns manning the major channels (email and Slack) through which our stakeholders (e.g., Program Officers, grantees, and external funding partners) send us inquiries and issues. We rotate this coverage responsibility because it promotes a strong base of shared knowledge among the team while simultaneously giving individuals the chance to tackle new, often unpredictable problems. 

In addition to our grant loads, Grants Associates are also responsible for owning related tasks that help us continually improve our internal and external processes. I’m in charge of conducting a monthly “data integrity check” to ensure that our internal grant records are accurate and updated. This task helps our team make payments on schedule for multi-year grants, reconcile budgets, and maintain follow-up and reporting records.

For my last task for the day, I’m reviewing edits to the analysis of our most recent grantee survey. We run grantee surveys twice a year to learn more about how grantees experience our grantmaking process, and to identify improvements we can consider making to help us work toward our goal of being the “best grants team in the world.”





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