Talent Market’s Placement Profiles feature interviews with individuals we have helped place in the free-market movement. Our Placement Profiles provide insight about how our successful candidates found their way to the free-market nonprofit world, what their jobs are like, and how they got interested in liberty in the first place.
Our February Placement Profile features Tyler Groenendal, who Talent Market placed as The Fund for American Studies’ new Director of Foundation relations in 2019. If you’re interested in a fundraising career, passionate about onion rings, or just want to read about someone’s career story, you will love this interview!
Talent Market: First thing’s first: what got you interested in liberty?
Tyler: In the summer of 2008, when I was 13, some women were in my neighborhood campaigning door-to-door for a young attorney running for Michigan State Representative named Justin Amash. After winning the election, he started to explain each of his votes on Facebook, which is when I noticed two things. One, I agreed with all of his votes. Two, he was often the only “No” vote on a particular piece of legislation.
I wanted to understand what it was that made Justin Amash stand out in the political arena. In an interview, he mentioned two classical liberal thinkers as pivotal to his own thinking: F.A. Hayek and Frederic Bastiat. I ordered copies of The Road to Serfdom and The Law, started reading, and went from there.
Talent Market: Give us the nutshell version of your career trajectory and tell us why you decided to work in the free-market nonprofit world?
Tyler: In short, I was in the right place at the right time. I had interned at the Acton Institute in my hometown of Grand Rapids the summer before I graduated from Hillsdale College, as part of the Koch Internship Program. Acton’s Director of Development called a few weeks before I was set to graduate and let me know there was an immediate opening in development for the Foundation Relations Coordinator, and they wanted me to apply. I started at Acton shortly after, and stayed for two and a half years before accepting a position as the Director, Foundation Relations at the Fund for American Studies (TFAS) in 2019.
I wanted to work in the free-market nonprofit world because I was growing increasingly disillusioned with politics as a means to advance liberty, and thought that non-profits dedicated to education in the principles of liberty would have a greater impact in the long-run.
Talent Market: What is your job like day-to-day?
Tyler: Day-to-day, my job is primarily writing and researching, as well as keeping track of proposal and reporting deadlines for TFAS’ foundation partners.
Talent Market: What is the most challenging part of your job?
Tyler: I think that any good grant writer should know everything they can about their organization – everything ranging from program metrics and data to institutional history, alumni, and more. The most challenging part of my job is collecting and codifying this information – simply because there’s so much of it.
Talent Market: What is the most fulfilling part of your job?
Tyler: The most fulfilling part of my job is connecting with mission-driven Foundations, guided by Trustees passionate about developing leaders for a free society through education, and partnering with them to build the next generation of leaders for liberty.
Talent Market: What has surprised you the most about your job and about working in the free-market non profit world?
Tyler: When I first started working in development, I was surprised a job existed solely dedicated to writing to and connecting with foundations. I had thought that fundraising was primarily major gift work – traveling and connecting with individuals rather than institutional foundations.
I was also surprised how tight-knit the free-market nonprofit world really is – both among institutions and individuals. There’s a strong kinship among people working in the liberty movement to advance a free society that I think most professions lack.
Talent Market: What advice would you give to someone who is interested in doing what you do?
Tyler: Read and write as much as possible. For work in the free-market orbit, I think my background in studying Economics has been essential – particularly reading and understanding people like Smith, Hayek, and Mises.
I think reading fiction and understanding the role of narratives and stories in shaping how we view the world is even more crucial. Narrative is the lens through which we view reality, and understanding how to explain the work that your organization does to promote freedom through that perspective is essential.
Talent Market: If you weren’t working to advance liberty, what would you be doing?
Tyler: I have no idea. This is the only career I’ve ever had, and I hope I can keep doing it for another forty years. If I had to guess, I would probably be pursuing a graduate degree in economics – with the ultimate goal of teaching or researching to advance liberty.
Talent Market: Tell us something interesting about you that your friends in the free-market nonprofit sector don’t know.
Tyler: Some of them already know this, but one of my biggest hobbies for the past four years has been reviewing onion rings throughout the country on my blog, Sola Cepa.
Talent Market: What is your favorite liberty oriented quote?
Tyler: It’s a tie between two.
“Men are creatures of God, not creatures of other men.” – Edmund Opitz
“Men would charge machine guns for a cause. Viva la republic! For King and Country! Duty, Honor, Country! Remember the Alamo! Liberté, égalité, fraternité! But nobody had ever gone over the top shouting “A Higher Standard of Living!” or “Hot Showers and Electric Razors!” – Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, Lucifer’s Hammer.