June 24, 2021

In this week’s episode of Fund the People’s podcast, we talk with Caroline Altman Smith about funding professional development with a racial equity lens for grantees and other nonprofits. Caroline is an experienced foundation executive at The Kresge Foundation, where she focuses on equitable access to higher education. She led in the creation of Kresge’s FUEL (Fostering Urban Equitable Leadership) program, an initiative to support the talent and leadership development needs of grantees with a specific focus on racial equity.

Whether you’re a funder, nonprofit, or consultant, you’ll want to hear this frank talk about the opportunities and limitations of investing in grantee staff from the perspective of a larger (inter-)national funder.  

Discussion Topics:

  • Caroline’s career journey
  • Kresge’s Leadership and Infrastructure Funding Team (LIFT)
  • Understanding the need in nonprofits for talent and leadership development 
  • The story and structure of Kresge’s Fostering Urban Equitable Leadership (FUEL) initiative
  • The principles and practices that undergird FUEL
  • How to serve as a white program officer supporting racial equity
  • Evaluation and documentation of lessons learned from FUEL
  • What new program officers can learn from Caroline

Links & Resources Mentioned: 


Caroline Altman Smith is deputy director of The Kresge Foundation’s Education Program. She supports the team’s domestic grantmaking, which funds higher education institutions and national nonprofit organizations that work to help more underserved students enter and succeed in postsecondary education.

Before joining Kresge in 2008, Caroline served for five years as a program officer at the Lumina Foundation in Indianapolis where she worked to create opportunities for low-income, minority and first-generation students to enter college and complete their undergraduate degrees.

A graduate of the University of Virginia, Caroline holds a master’s degree in philanthropic studies and a certificate in nonprofit management from the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University. She is an instructor for The Grantmaking School at Grand Valley State University, previously chaired the Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy National Board of Advisors, and currently serves on the board of the Council of Michigan Foundations and chairs the Grantmakers for Education board.

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