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Member Spotlight | Kris LeCorgne

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Kris LeCorgne, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

An Interview with Kris LeCorgne, Director/Grants Administration, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and a TAG member since 2017.


2018 has been an eventful year for you. Tell us about your new role at Knight Foundation.

2018 has certainly been a whirlwind! Knight Foundation is an extremely nimble organization that provides a lot of opportunities for making a difference in this very dynamic field of Philanthropy. I have been lucky enough to work in two very different departments and for some amazing leaders such as Victoria Rogers, VP/Arts, and Dan Schoenfeld, Chief Evangelist for Fluxx Labs.

My new role as the Director of Grants Administration is an interesting amalgam of my past work in the Arts and Culture sector, nonprofit management, impact investment and finally, technology and operations within Philanthropy. I have been fortunate to accumulate a unique background as a grantee, a grantmaker and finally, a grant technology and operations professional. My objective in this role is to connect those dots to hyper-focus on improving process, driving learning and exploring new technologies to better the effectiveness and satisfaction of our colleagues and grantees in the communities in which we seek to affect.

The Grants Administration group at Knight Foundation is very interesting; we are technically housed in the Learning & Impact department, rather than IT, Administration or Operations. This gives us the unique opportunity to prioritize our improvements, projects, and systems within the lens of advancing the Foundation as a data-driven, service-oriented and knowledge focused organization. Strategic assessment and grantmaking analysis are more of an everyday occurrence in addition to verifying tax-exempt status or creating grant agreements.

Overall, I am extremely lucky to be working at an organization that is committed to informed and engaged communities.

As you scan the horizon for your practice, what trends are you seeing for modern grants management?

Automation, information and knowledge management.

As the Grant Administration team creates its backlog of deliverables and we assess our work, these are the trends that guide us in prioritizing projects that advance the mission of our organization and improve the way we materialize our work.

The days of accepting maxims such as the 80/20 rule are over. We no longer must tolerate what we can automate. With the growth of low-barrier automations, artificial intelligence and simple control flow, many tasks that are repetitive can be addressed through simple systems; no coding required. Most of the operations of a philanthropy can be very logical and discrete and the true challenge is discerning to individual parts, finding a way to repeat them and assign a system. I also believe that Grants Administration serves a unique and fast-growing need; a Foundation’s memory. As we start to gather more and more information about our work, what team is better suited to synthesize data for the for the benefit of the organization and create that “memory”? And what is memory if not knowledge? Storing PDF's on a cloud server somewhere was just the simple start in preserving knowledge. Technologies such as OneDrive’s upcoming auto-transcription service will revolutionize everything from speeches, board meetings, and even grantee convenings. With that mountain of information coming, finding and preserving the knowledge is going to be the opportunity.

And how are these trends impacting how you coach your team or screen for new hires?

These trends are manifesting themselves along with several other factors in assembling and coaching a team. It’s easier to learn something than ever. A lot of candidates will rightly respond when asked a complex technical question, “I don’t know that but let me YouTube it.” That is an amazing evolution of the workforce that Philanthropy is seeking to leverage. Making sure that my team has access to R&D “time and resources,” encouraging experimentation and looking to bring together people with a diverse set of experiences to build on empathy and process have been my main goals.

One of the interesting things about your story is your background as a classically-trained musician. How does this inform your perspective? Do you still play and more importantly, can we hear you at a club in Miami?

Music is simply a mathematical sequence of sound, consonance and dissonance. Perhaps you could even equate it to ones and zeroes. But in addition, it can be a raw and unfiltered mode of expression that transcends any barriers we have built as humans between ourselves. Since I saw my very first Opera (Fidelio by Beethoven) at the Seattle Opera, I always knew what my passion would be. After a windy career path, I support the industry I care deeply about through my work at Knight Foundation. Though you can’t hear me play around town anymore, you will often find me in attendance at a concert or encouraging others to check out an exhibition or show. South Florida’s burgeoning arts scene across all disciplines makes it a great place to live and enjoy the Fine Arts!

As a part of the TAG Emerging Leaders Initiative in 2018, we're curious: How did the program support your journey?

I would not be in the position I am today without George Kroner, my mentor from PEW Charitable Trust. He has opened my eyes to certain things, guided me along when I had questions, made me curious about new technologies and was always there to support me through opportunities and challenges. Having someone you know you can talk to was critical during my journey to my current role. His guidance is priceless.

If you don’t have a mentor, my call to action is to find one quickly and carefully. TAG has a great program to get started! Learn more about TAG's Emerging Leaders Initiative.

Find Kris at TAG2018 and Beyond. 

You can find Kris presenting this fall at the TAG 2018 Conference (Making Bots with Absolutely No Code on Tuesday, 11/5/2018).

You can also reach out to him on Twitter at @K_LeCorgne or at lecorgne@kf.org via email.

The Technology Affinity Group (TAG) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit membership organization that promotes the power of technology to advance the goals of the philanthropic sector.