Grantbook—a digital consultancy that helps grantmaking organizations plan, select, implement, and optimize their philanthropy-tech—is pleased to celebrate ten years in business on February 16, 2022. Incorporated in 2012 from a lone desk in the Centre for Social Innovation in Toronto, we’ve grown to over thirty-five employees across Canada, and continue to grow both in response to the demand generated by exceptional word of mouth, and the sheer demand of a sector hungry for digital transformation.
Grantbook was co-founded by Peter Deitz and Anil Patel, once frustrated grantseekers themselves, trying to jump through administrative hoops to find funding for grassroots initiatives. This friction, between why philanthropic organizations exist—to fund the changemakers who drive the change—and the very experience of those grantees, was what sparked Grantbook into being. Today, we advise foundations and other grantmaking organizations around the world to help them operationalize and execute on their values via digital choices, intentionally designing more efficiency and empathy into grantmaking. We’re proud to spend our days helping move foundations through their digital maturity towards the optimal mix of people, processes and platforms that put the changemakers (and impact) at the heart of great grantmaking.
As a social purpose organization, Grantbook invested the time and energy into becoming a B Corp early on. We’ve always strived to be progressive and equitable place to work, with fair compensation ratios from senior to junior staff, pay transparency, and a focus on all stakeholders—not just shareholders. The B Corp commitment provides a powerful roadmap for living those values, and this commitment, along with a focus on great governance, has been instrumental to Grantbook’s recent growth.
Grantbook co-founder Peter Deitz recently reflected on this ten year journey:
“Just over ten years ago, I set a goal for myself to co-found a successful social purpose business within ten years. With the help of many people and organizations, and a fair amount of good luck, that goal was realized well before Grantbook’s tenth anniversary. Grantbook’s ten year anniversary is an opportunity to celebrate the team that propels the company forward and look ahead to the positive change that the company can still make in the philanthropic sector.”
Melanie Wood, Grantbook’s Director of Client Services, who joined the team in its very early days as employee number three, and is approaching her ninth anniversary with the company, shared that she “feels very lucky and honoured to have had the chance to witness and contribute to Grantbook’s development as a leader in Philanthropy Tech consulting. It’s amazing to realize a decade has passed, and I’m proud that the grantee-centric values that drove our early work around a couple of desks at the Centre for Social Innovation in Toronto continue to guide us as a team of more than thirty-five, working globally to help funders distribute funds to support critical work."
In the past four years, Grantbook has matured significantly in our structure and governance. In 2018, as the company was going through a period of leadership transition that included bringing on board Nikki Barrett (Grantbook’s now CEO), a Board of Directors was established to help Grantbook navigate the opportunities ahead. The inaugural board, six longtime supporters of Grantbook from a variety of backgrounds in social innovation, tech, philanthropy, and consulting, has been critical in shaping our business model, value proposition and culture over the years.
Rehana Nathoo, who recently took over for Peter as Grantbook’s Board Chair, shared that she “had the great pleasure of joining Grantbook’s Board of Directors in 2018, bestowed with a ringside seat to watch this organization make incredible strides. This next chapter holds so much promise for this sector, and I can’t wait to see how Grantbook meets the moment.”
In 2020, Grantbook launched our Employee Share Ownership Plan (ESOP), and a long held aspiration for Grantbook, and co-founder Peter Deitz particularly, became a reality. Today Grantbook is proud to be over twenty percent employee owned, making concrete an already existing ownership mindset, and further underscoring our very participatory culture where all are encouraged to have a voice. Once the ESOP was twenty percent subscribed, the ESOP group unlocked a board seat, bringing two rare and powerful vehicles of governance and employee ownership together.
Peter reflected that, “As Grantbook enters its second decade, it has a maturity that few companies of its age or size achieve. It is governed by an independent board. It has a management team consisting entirely of people who joined after the company was founded. And it has a talented team of employees, many of whom are owners, and more than half of whom have joined in the past two years due to demand for the services Grantbook provides.
“With this kind of strong foundation, the next decade is remarkably bright for Grantbook. Of course, I have always been inspired by the mission and vision of Grantbook and the hard work that goes into helping grantmakers operationalize their values. For me, though, it’s the resilience and commitment of the team to that vision and to each other, which I have seen demonstrated over and over, that inspires me most.”
When the pandemic hit, Grantbook was on the verge of expanding its physical footprint. We were bursting at the seams with a team of about twenty team members rapidly outgrowing our perch, having made our way through increasingly larger spaces at CSI. We are so grateful to the collaborative communities that were so critical to our growth—the Centre for Social Innovation and to Foundation House (a community we are still a part of)—home to many of our early clients and supporters. Growing up alongside the many innovative and purpose-driven roommates at CSI and being plugged into Canadian philanthropy via Foundation House has provided community, support, and connection through our growth.
In those early months of the pandemic, we made the difficult decision to let go of our space at CSI. Already boasting a hybrid way of working pre-pandemic, we were able to flip the switch to remote work and continued to serve our clients around the world, navigating some of our most complex digital transformation projects to date, entirely remotely.
However, in June 2021, as many were still very cautious about investing in physical space, with many articles and think-pieces exploring whether or not the office was done for good, Grantbook made a bold move and took on a new lease in central Toronto. Although the team had become more and more distributed throughout the pandemic—and is very adept at serving clients remotely—we still believe in the power of gathering together physically to build relationships, spark innovation, and foster a great culture. We can’t wait to really bring our new space to life and are exploring what work might look like as we emerge from the many waves of COVID-19.
Ten years into our journey, it’s clear that there are a few key pieces of “Grantbook magic” that are foundational to our success as an organization. Our value proposition which is built on vendor-agnosticism—advising our clients on right-sized tech that meets their needs, never playing favourites—means that we can be an objective, trusted partner to our clients. A key focus on offering both strategic and tactical insights—not only helping our clients align their technology choices to their mission and vision, but also helping them in the weeds of building and configuring those systems—means that we are able to see clients through the full journey of really operationalizing their values. And our focus on being sector specific—supporting grantmaking organizations with their philanthropy tech—means that we’re able to cultivate deep sector knowledge across the spectrum of grantmakers, and bring those insights back to our clients. And it’s clear from the many magical moments—client wins and successes that are lifted into our Slack channels—that our team of whip smart thinkers and tinkerers are just exceptional, talented people, who our clients love working with.
Grantbook’s CEO Nikki Barrett recently reflected on her journey with Grantbook:
“Four years ago I jumped into the melee of a thriving, mission-forward team and have had the honour of watching us expand that mission in extraordinary ways, shepherding so many grantmakers through complex transformation and helping shape philanthropy from our digital perch. I’ve been amazed especially by our team’s resilience through the pandemic—how we’ve levelled up the work and lifted each other up too. I’m so proud to be part of such a collaborative team that lives its values of candour, daring, and empathy every single day.”
As we look forward to the next ten years and beyond, we’re excited to continue our growth journey while staying deeply connected to our roots: advancing the philanthropic sector, participating in a chain of good that makes the world a better place, and providing an exceptional culture where great talent can grow and thrive.