Last month, Nick Combs and I had the opportunity to attend the Humanities Montana Fall 2015 Board Meeting. I must admit, I had no idea what to expect when heading off on this Foundant Field Trip. First of all, what is a humanities foundation? I had some vague idea that they support “the human experience.” But what exactly does that mean? I must admit, I really had no idea.
What I actually experienced and learned was enlightening, surprising, inspiring, and fun!
This is an amazing group of individuals who devote their time to programs and projects across Montana that truly make our communities better. From the Humanities Montana staff – Ken Egan, Samantha Dwyer, Kim Anderson, and Jason Neal, to Rita Collins with the Sunburst Community Service Foundation in Eureka, MT; Bill Jones – Executive Director of the Gallatin History Museum; Aaron Pruitt with Montana PBS and all the others in this group – they represent every corner of Montana and the diverse humanness of our Big Sky State.
The first thing that struck me was how much each of the Humanities Montana board members celebrate and support each other. There are no opinions or individual needs that are not carefully considered and supported. There is no request that’s not deemed important and worthy of careful consideration. It’s hard to describe what it feels like to be among a group like this. They’re not here because they have to be, they’re here because they care about spreading knowledge and inspiration throughout Montana. And each of them takes this responsibility seriously.
The day-long meeting started with “the details.” They went over the minutes from their previous meeting, Ken Egan walked everyone through the Director’s Report – including some coming changes to their grant deadlines, and they discussed their budget for the 2016 fiscal year. I could tell, right from the start, that transparency was easy for them.
Next, Ken discussed some of the major grant opportunities they are looking at for 2016 such as the Pulitzer Grant and a National Endowment for the Humanities proposal titled “Tradeoffs: The Common Good and the Individual.”
And finally, Ken asked that each member take the opportunity to share a story about an event or program they’d attended recently (whether one of theirs or not) that they felt added value. Book festivals, prison museums, extreme history, and even a mobile book store were just a few of the unique opportunities offered across our great Big Sky state.
After lunch Nick joined me to observe the board’s deliberation over some Montana film proposals. Nick and I have two very different positions at Foundant – he works in the research and development department as our Lead Quality Assurance Specialist and I am our Marketing Communications Manager – but one thing we have in common is that we don’t have the opportunity to regularly interact with foundations to see what goes on in their world.
We also both believe it’s important to learn something new every day, so when we had the chance to sit in on this board meeting we were definitely excited at the prospect of seeing real, live grant-making in action. Observing the board review and discuss the proposals was an enlightening experience. It truly felt like the board brought their hearts and minds together to make the decisions that best supported their mission.
Of course, being in charge of quality for our Grant Lifecycle Manager (GLM) system, Nick was holding out hope that GLM would actually be in use during the meeting so he could observe it being used in a real-life review process. However, the work within the software was all done prior to the meeting when it was necessary for the board to collaborate from across the state.
That is not to say this experience did not add value for both of us. On the contrary, it was remarkable to witness good happening in real-time and gain a better understanding of what our clients do outside of our GLM software.
A big thank you to Humanities Montana and their dedicated board for welcoming us!
P.S. Although the meeting was fantastic, it was tough to beat Saint Rita’s Amazing Traveling Book Store and Textual Apothecary – the cutest, most perfect mobile book store I have ever seen!
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