PEAK 2024: Hungry for More

The Hyatt Regency Seattle bustled with activity as enthusiastic and passionate grants management professionals gathered for PEAK Convening’s 2024 Conference. Excitement had been building in the weeks leading up to the opening reception: sessions were full, the weather in Seattle was due to be uncharacteristically warm and sunny, and the prospect of mingling with peers and colleagues at SAM for the welcome reception was very appealing. 

The moment I stepped onto the conference floors on March 17th, I felt the buzz in the air. I received a warm welcome from the PEAK staff at the check-in booth, and accepted my teal “first-timer” lanyard (with all its flair) as they gave me the rundown of the layout, schedule, and flow of the conference. On Sunday afternoon, I was mainly among the other vendors and consulting partners setting up for the week in the Solutions Centre—and even there, folks were greeting each other with familiarity, checking out each others’ booths, and swapping candy and swag as we all got oriented to our HQ for the next three days. 

I, of course, had to add at least one piece of flair to my attendee lanyard.

I couldn’t quite name the sentiment in the room until that evening’s Newcomer Reception. As I watched old friends laugh and embrace, new acquaintances clink glasses, and the solo first-timers (like me) hovering near the walls, looking for a way in, I was finally able to identify what I was seeing in so many of those present: hunger. I saw hunger for human connection with peers who actually understand your job and sector; hunger for knowledge and growth, concentrated on our area of passion; and, a deeper, more implicit craving–a need for more, for better, for bigger, that I would only fully understand as the conference progressed. 

Sessions kicked off with a star-studded opening keynote, featuring perhaps the most down-to-earth rockstars of the philanthropy world. Satonya Fair sat alongside Vu Le and Edgar Villanueva for an open and empathic conversation around the current state of the sector, and their hopes for the future. The main ballroom was packed (indeed, overflowing)—and two floors down in the Solutions Centre, many of us, lonely in our exhibitor booths, turned our chairs towards the livestream to listen, laugh, and commiserate along with the speakers. 

PEAK’s theme this year was ‘Reimagining,’ and I heard true hunger from Satonya, Vu and Edgar alike on the change they wanted and needed from philanthropy. They called for organizations to be more outspoken on world-shattering political events and turmoil, rather than sticking their heads in the sand. They signalled the need for more humanity, as well—the importance of filling your own cup first, and taking care of yourself as a human, before pouring too much of yourself into work. Our team shared their takeaways from the opening keynote here, but I know I walked away feeling equal parts chastened and inspired.

Sunset over the Sound - and not a parka in sight!

Luckily, I was not confined to our exhibitor booth for the entire conference; I had the chance to sit in on a couple of very interesting sessions, and even in those the theme of hunger and need emerged. You can read more about our team’s experience, but time and time again I heard echoes of cravings for creative collaboration (Creating Trust Among Funders and Grantee Partners–Developing Cohort Models in NY and CA) when organizations are working with scraps (of time, of resources, of people’s capacity). Grants managers often exhibit an endless appetite for learning, optimizing, and customizing their systems to do work more efficiently and effectively—while still keeping grantees at the core of that work. Storytelling and Equity: A case study of trust-based grant reporting explored how the Winthrop-Rockefeller Foundation made creative use of integrations and APIs to simultaneously reduce grantee reporting burden and internal administrative burden. 

And still, we are hungry for more.

Sometimes we get a craving that might not be good for us (do we really need to collect more detailed data, or should we check the fridge for what we’ve already got?) and sometimes we get influenced by what we see others consuming (I would love a shiny new GMS, just like they’ve got!). But if we look into those cravings, we know what we are really hungry for; we are hungry for more impact, for more support, for more infrastructure, for more understanding, for more appreciation, for more funding, for more transparency… for more.  

I was tickled by the NYT crossword for Wednesday, March 18.

In my opinion, the insatiable hunger for more is a superpower. Many folks working in this sector are driven to want more, not for themselves, but for the people and communities they support and love. Remember that opening keynote that cautioned against burnout and overinvesting in work that does not always love you back; of course people working in philanthropy yearn for more, if only to match the time and effort they are already pouring into their professions. 

Grants managers (and those in related positions, as we know that taxonomy across the field remains a pain point) have always been in an unique, and rather unwieldy position: they are responsible to their grantees (current, past and prospective), donors, stakeholders, communities, and governments—especially at tax time. Internally, they are also juggling the needs of their finance and IT departments, as well as legal or compliance, not to mention program officers, members of leadership, or the board of directors. And if all of those groups are hungry, clamouring for information, funds, reports, financial documents, data (but not just numbers, it must be visual), communications, deadlines, extensions, inquiries, responses… It’s no wonder our grants management professionals are starving. 

An experience like PEAK 2024 is nourishing. It fills our cups, reinvigorates us, sates that incessant hunger with stories of impactful innovations, successful stakeholder management, grantee experience overhaul. I can only hope that it can sustain us in our daily work, once the learnings fade and the hunger pangs return. 

If you want to chat about your feelings about this piece, about your experience at PEAK, or jump into action to learn more about how Grantbook can help satisfy that hunger, I would love to hear from you.

Our booth in the Solutions Center (before all the Crunchie bars were eaten).
Christine Gallant headshot

Christine Gallant

Marketing and Brand Experience Lead


Christine is passionate about creating equitable experiences that foster connection between people, partners and communities. Her goal of “bringing peace through process” drives her structured ways of working, while her mantra of “make it easy” ensures she keeps a human-centric approach to learning and development. She believes that we can best encourage innovation when we have efficient, effective systems in place that we can rely on.

Grantbook presents Christine with the opportunity to work somewhere with a positive and candid workplace culture, alongside colleagues who care about the work they are doing. Her role also gives her a challenge: creating a brand experience and marketing strategy that represents Grantbook’s values and vision to both its employees and its clients and partners. Across a career spanning the service industry, federal government and Big 4 consulting, she’s thankful and excited to embark on this next step in her journey.