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Affiliates Implement Trust-Based Philanthropy

Wednesday, January 13, 2021 9:22 AM | Philanos Admin (Administrator)


Giving circles and collective giving groups are working to address power in philanthropy. Why? Because there are times that funders inadvertently hinder nonprofits doing the work they know best.

According to the Trust-Based Philanthropy Project (the Project), this can slow down progress, perpetuate inefficiency, and obstruct nonprofit growth and innovation. Trust-Based Philanthropy reimagines that dynamic. Infused by core values of power-sharing, equity, humility, transparency, curiosity, and collaboration, the Trust-Based Philanthropy Project believes philanthropic efforts will be more successful and rewarding if funders approach each grantee relationship as an ongoing partnership rather than a one-time transaction.

The Project outlines a trust-based approach that relies on six interrelated principles which, when practiced together, can help alleviate power imbalances:

  1. Provide Multi-Year, Unrestricted Funding
  2. Do the Homework
  3. Simplify & Streamline Paperwork
  4. Be Transparent & Responsive
  5. Solicit & Act on Feedback
  6. Offer Support Beyond the Check

If you were able to join the Philanos monthly webinar series on October 13 on Women's Giving Circles & Trust-Based Philanthropy, you heard an introduction to trust-based philanthropy for giving circles - what it is and how it can be reflected in collective giving. 

The webinar presented its principles and practices, the reasons for its emergence, and the impact it has had on the social sector. We heard from two perspectives: Colby Swettberg, Chief Executive Office of the Silver Lining Institute in Boston spoke from the nonprofit perspective; and Philip Li, President and CEO of the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation in New York City, spoke from the funder perspective. In addition to sharing their experiences, they helped us understand how we might apply trust-based philanthropy principles to the collective giving model – how we educate our members, how we evaluate applications and organizations, and how we remain open to supporting organizations we may not know very well.

Philanos affiliate member Impact 100 Seattle is committed to incorporating trust-based philanthropy principles and practices throughout their grantmaking philosophy.

In fact, they proudly and publicly state their grantmaking philosophy as believing in trust-based philanthropy to drive enduring improvements in the Puget Sound Region. As a somewhat new organization, they are working hard to address some of the unhealthy power dynamics in traditional philanthropy. 

Here are their grantmaking principles:

       Trust-Based Philanthropy. Impact Seattle 100 members see trust-based philanthropy as a process to address long-standing power imbalances and increase equity in philanthropy. They believe this approach requires funders to build relationships with grantee organizations through trust-based practices and behaviors.

       Partner for Transformative Change. This approach is based on their desire for transformative change – or addressing the root causes of issues and inequities as opposed to the symptoms. They want to support organizations that work in partnership with others toward collective impact and those that build power among those who may lack it.

       Embrace Risk. Impact Seattle 100 members are committed to embracing risk, by rewarding and encouraging new ways of thinking and acting to increase resilience and impact. 

       Listen, Learn and Evolve. They are committed to listening, learning and evolving, by recognizing the learning journey they are on with other members, and their partners.

“We are offering support beyond the check ... we want to be an organization that grants with curiosity” said Jennifer Larsen, Impact Seattle 100 Vice President. “We worked hard to remain in a learning posture throughout the process and sustained an equitable process throughout.”

The principles of Trust-Based Philanthropy have been important for funders across the country in general, and in particular the last ten months during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Philanos affiliate member ninety-nine girlfriends has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by adapting their work to be responsive to the situation at hand in their community. As they state publicly on their website, “ninety-nine girlfriends plays a unique role in our region in connecting women in collective action and supporting nonprofits. All of us must pivot as the pandemic moves through our community ... ninety-nine girlfriends will play our role in ‘flattening the curve’ to slow down the spread of COVID-19 and the severity of its impact on our community.”

Ninety-nine girlfriends has been vocal about leveraging best practices by philanthropic leaders across the country and highlighting Trust-Based Philanthropy principles to their philanthropic response to COVID-19. In fact, they have highlighted recommendations from the Council on Foundations and the Whitman Institute.

The Council on Foundations created a Call to Action to guide philanthropy’s commitment during COVID-19, where over 600 organizations have signed.

Among the recommendations are to:

        Loosen or eliminate restrictions on current grants.
        Make new grants as unrestricted as possible to provide maximum flexibility for nonprofits.
        Reduce what we ask of nonprofit partners e.g. site visits, reporting requirements and other demands on their time.
        Support grantee partners advocating for important public policy changes.

COF’s recommendations are based on the work of the Whitman Institute, advocating for Trust-Based Philanthropy. There is much we will learn about the Trust-Based philanthropic response to COVID-19 in the months and years to come.

Giving circles and collective giving groups across the country are increasingly listening, learning, and responding by incorporating Trust-Based Philanthropy principles and practices throughout their grantmaking philosophy and seeking to help alleviate power imbalances.

And, Philanos is committed to being an ongoing resource and partner to our affiliate members across the country on the principles and practices of Trust-Based Philanthropy.

Listen to Pia Infante & Vu Le's PowerUP! 2020 presentation here!

Contact Philanos  info@philanos.org

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