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The Vital Role of Grants Management

Improving process and strategy through grant system redesign to better support our grantees

Our Grants Management team recently attended PEAK Grantmaking’s annual convening to learn more and connect with peers about operationalizing equitable, effective grantmaking practices

Over nearly three decades, St. David’s Foundation has experienced tremendous growth. Alongside our rapidly growing community, our work, investments, and impact have increased as we remain committed to reducing health disparities across Central Texas. Central to our grantmaking efforts—which grew to nearly $80 million in 2023—is the vital role of grants management.

Our new strategic plan was designed to harness the collective power of all Foundation teams and resources to advance health equity. As a team that is both operational and directly impacts our community, grants management is one of the keys to unlocking new cross-functional success. As the Foundation has grown, our grants management function has evolved to one of the core strategic responsibilities that impact all facets of our work.

We are excited to announce new members of our grants management team and their role in ensuring operational excellence and equitable practices across all aspects of the grantmaking process.

“I’m excited to join the Foundation during this pivotal time of evolution and growth as we build out a full grants management team aligned with the strategy and vision of our new strategic plan,” said Eric Patton, Director of Grants Management.

The growth of the grants management team stems from and is in response to key themes derived from our 2021 Grantee Perception Survey: the need for grantmaking process improvement. In developing our grants management team, our hope is to build more streamlined processes and intuitive tools while also providing more staff support to assist our grantees.

About the Team

The grants management department sees its role as a cross-foundation organizational partner that helps carry out the mission of St. David’s Foundation through its charitable investments in the community. Grants management aims to create and maintain efficient, equitable, and effective systems, policies, and procedures that contribute to the organization’s positive impact on the community.

As the team begins to assess current processes and redesigns system, they are guided by the following themes:

  • Prioritize processes and forms that alleviate grantee burden and emphasize inclusivity, equity, and accessibility;
  • Pursue data collection and processes that are streamlined and trust-based;
  • Try new things and seek continuous improvement, even when it’s not perfect;
  • Remain flexible and open to learning about our systems, sourcing feedback from stakeholders and allowing time for iteration.

“We’re asking ourselves, ‘How can we implement trust-based philanthropy? How can we make things easier on our grantees? What barriers exist that we can remove?’” said Eric. “And we’re moving to being centered in customer service, excellence, effectiveness, and efficiency, while also setting ourselves up for growth.”

This movement toward trust-based philanthropy is important to the entire team. “Coming from a background in government, where there’s so many rules and barriers to funding, it’s so different how the Foundation thoughtfully evaluates requirements and takes into account what nonprofits actually need and how to make it easier for them,” said Carly Blankenship, Grants Officer. “That was what drew me to the Foundation, the move toward trust-based philanthropy. We’re reviewing processes and open to adjusting rules to more closely align with the needs of nonprofits, eliminating some of the stuff that can be really time-consuming.”

While much of the team’s work is related to managing grant transactions and systems, the team also serves as a thought partner to community impact teams at the Foundation—providing data and sector-wide knowledge—to best serve our grantees and our institutional objectives.

“My work in public health has informed my perspective on our impact,” said Lorena DelReal-Orme, Grants Associate. “In philanthropy, the benefit of our work can at times feel abstract. But having been on the opposite side gives me a visual and example of the impact we have. Health outcomes are influenced by more than individual choices, and organizations can have a bigger impact on public health. St. David’s Foundation is doing that for the Central Texas region.”

Meet the Team

Carly Blankenship, MBA is our Grants Officer. As a Grants Officer, Carly serves as the first point of contact for Foundation staff regarding grantmaking policies, procedures, systems, and practices. She also contributes to system design. Prior to joining the Foundation, she managed government grantmaking programs for Texas Parks & Wildlife Department and Corporation for National and Community Service as well as managing community programs for Central Texas nonprofits. She earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Iowa and a Master of Business Administration from St. Edward’s University. Outside of work, you can find Carly spending time with family, hiking the trails or playing with clay in the art studio.

Lorena DelReal-Orme, MPH is our Grants Associate. As a Grants Associate, Lorena moves and tracks grants and other community investments through the full grant cycle, from application submission through post-award processes. Her professional journey has been centered around the field of public health, including providing direct patient care as a radiographer to working in health insurance as a claims adjuster. Lorena recently graduated with a Master of Public Health and has a Bachelor’s degree in Healthcare Administration. In her downtime, Lorena enjoys quality family time, reading, and live music.

Eric Patton, MA is our Director of Grants Management. Eric leads all work and staff under the grants management team, championing our systems and processes and collaborating across departments and with community partners to carry out the Foundation’s mission. Eric has worked in grants management for over 20 years, including roles at the Open Society Foundations, Smile Train, and as a consultant to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. In his spare time he enjoys running on the Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail, and he recently completed his first Texas Independence Relay from Gonzales to Houston.

Meet the full St. David’s Foundation team here.