The most effective grantmakers are generalists who know the domain in which they work well enough to assess ideas, projects and plans – but who also have entrepreneurial skills, enabling them to come up with new initiatives themselves and bring them to life. For this reason, getting into grantmaking typically requires starting in a hands-on technical role in the domain if you want to maximize your impact. This could be as a researcher in AI safety, for example, or as a manager at an AI lab that is able to support talented scientists with the necessary infrastructure.
Then, you should look into specific foundations that offer grants in your area. Read their guidelines carefully and directly (and often twice!) to make sure that you understand how to frame your proposal. You can use tools like Instrumentl to explore insights about a grant maker, including their past funding patterns, geographical scope, whether they’re open to new applicants and the average & median grant amounts that they’ve awarded in the past.
Lastly, consider whether you’re comfortable with the repetitive nature of the tasks that a grantmaker can expect to undertake. You will likely spend a lot of time reading and deep-diving into grant applications and then prioritizing them. Some people find this satisfying, but if you prefer to be more active and creative (and to receive constructive feedback from others) then this may not be the right role for you.
If you decide to pursue a grantmaking career, it’s important to start off on the right foot by getting familiar with the types of proposals that you will be asked to write. A proposal is a key way for you to convey your understanding of the problem you’re aiming to solve, how your project will accomplish that and why it will succeed in doing so compared to other, similar projects in the field.
It’s also a chance for you to showcase your communication skills by explaining the problem in ways that are accessible and engaging. In particular, you’ll need to explain the background and history of your project, the need for it and how your project will achieve its goals. If you want to stand out from other applicants, it’s worth investing the time and effort to create a proposal that is both clear and compelling. This might mean using more visual elements in your presentation or taking the time to thoroughly review your proposal for spelling and grammatical errors before submitting it. A little bit of extra attention to detail can go a long way in showing that you’re invested in the success of your project and that you’ll be a great investment for a funder to partner with.