Trust-based Philanthropy

What is trust-based philanthropy?

Trust-based philanthropy is a new approach to how philanthropy is usually performed. It shifts the dynamic between the two parties and highlights the importance of equity and mutual accountability within a partnership.

It is crucial to establish and articulate your company’s values from the get-go. Acting as a north star for navigating partnerships, one’s own values can be the guiding light when it comes to making tough decisions, building the company culture, and designing new systems.

According to the Trust-Based Philanthropy Project, the best approach to holistically cultivating trust-based partnerships is seen across four dimensions: culture, structure, leadership, and grantmaking.

Regularly assess your workplace culture. Culture, by tradition, is seen as something stagnant and unchanging. In reality, the workplace culture is multifaceted and highly interpersonal. Culture presents itself in the organization’s norms, systems, and practices.

Pay close attention to:

  • Power dynamics between certain job titles and their influence over decision-making.
  • Staff interaction and overlap with race, gender, and sexual orientation.
  • Space for reflection and dialogue.

The structure of an organization is built upon culture and values. Organizations with a deep level of internal (between staff) and external (with existing partners) trust tend to have the strongest structural integrity.

When establishing trust-based partnerships, it is important that trust can be seen and felt on all levels:

  • Don’t display contradicting behavior—verbally expressing trust meanwhile enforcing top-down approaches in power is misleading.
  • Don’t prioritize your organization’s finances over the people that you serve.
  • Do apply a relational lens to how you award grants, converse with grantees, and write grant contracts.

This is perhaps the most important part in garnering an organization’s culture and structure. The leadership team plays an essential role in reinforcing and upholding values. From the leadership team, this looks like:

  • Modeling the company’s values.
  • Being self-aware, attentive, and transparent.
  • Coaching rather than controlling.

Lastly, strict and tedious procedures can become a barrier for nonprofits. When a Foundation intends on ruling with an iron fist, this tarnishes the level of honesty, transparency, and accountability between both parties. Instead, try:

  • Considering multi-year, unrestricted funding. The world is unpredictable and constantly changing—so too are the lives of community members. Multi-year funding will give nonprofits the flexibility to account for the unpredictable.
  • Simplifying and streamlining the paperwork. Sometimes, strict procedures and mandatory follow-up reports can be intense barriers for grantees.
  • Offering non-monetary support. Having just read the importance of a company’s structure and integrity, perhaps helping to fund their internal operations achieve a higher standard is just as important as funding their programs.

How the Community Foundation engages in trust-based philanthropy
The Community Foundation of Greater Fort Wayne is always looking for new ways to support our nonprofit partners. In particular, we focus on grantmaking and leadership with special initiatives including:

  • Streamlining our grant application process. This includes shorter applications and moving from physical to electronic submissions.
  • Opening our grant catalog to the public. Previously, our grant catalog was private and only accessible to fund-holders. Now, any 501c3 may apply for funding and community members can go online and support our community through donations.
  • Give Greater Allen County. In the wake of the pandemic, it was clear that our community needed support. To reinvigorate and re-inspire our nonprofit partners, the Community Foundation carefully created Give Greater Allen County. In 2022, we raised nearly $500,000 in support of our community.
  • Entrepreneurial trainings for nonprofits. Through the Jumpstart Training, Certificate in Fundraising Management (CFRM), Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) classes, and Jim Wilcox training, we guide nonprofits toward excellency in their areas of expertise.

If you have any suggestions on how we can further deepen our trust and partnerships, please reach out to us!