From 'power' to 'trust' in philanthropic grantmaking

A growing trend and a positive one is to decentralise grantmaking, moving to participatory and flexible funding based on principles of trust. I found it very encouraging and want to share with members of this platform. These are my takeaways from LLC Webinar -Lessons in Leadership from the Trust-Based Philanthropy Project

What stood  out  for me in the webinar on Trust based philanthropy: The need to re-examine own roles as Grantmakers question own privileged position of power. Who holds the power? Read the principles of trust-based philanthropy here

Collaborative leadership- Participants from Grant making organisations  saw themselves as conveners, relationship-based, transparent, responsive with emphasis on promoting cross-sector peer learning amongst grantees. They stressed on structured conversations with grantee partners rather than overemphasis on formal reports. Support beyond the cheque for instance opening doors to other funders when new opportunities arise for grantees.

Power of Listening- Create a space for listening. act on what you are hearing

Humility and learning mindset-Work with humility, have a learning mindset, understand  that grant making organisations and the grantees both are on  a learning journey as we operate in complex settings and  are navigating a path which is not well chartered. 

What does annual monitoring and assessment in the grantmaking look like from a trust-based lens? It is important to surface the philosophy behind Metric based assessment , grant making organisations want to make a difference. 

Kelly Ann McKercher’s Beyond Sticky Notes: Co-Design for Real.

“When differences in power are unacknowledged and unaddressed, the people with the most power have the most influence over decisions, regardless of the quality of their knowledge or ideas. To change that, we must share power in research, decision-making, design, delivery and evaluation.”

Katy Grenier shares her personal story about the iniquitous systems that live within us all, the impacts on an individual when power goes unacknowledged in program design, delivery and evaluation, and radical responsibility for systems change.

We can promote thinking around the following: 

  • What success looks to the grantees? how do you measure them?
  • What gets measured gets done
  • Create spaces that grantees are able to talk about failures, capturing data on challenges, how are you adapting and learning from the experience?
  • Support systems which give full and real picture in lives of people so that foundations can support the work better.

Sustainability Another important question was around sustainability.  How will the organization pay for this "thing" after the foundation is finished funding it.  But we did not have enough time for discussion.

What fosters trust? Participants shared that when we show our real selves, our vulnerability- it builds trust. Building trust starts with being vulnerable -- and modelling it.. In my work with the Constellation, I learned that when we start from appreciation, when we appreciate the strengths in others, this means we trust their capacity. And when this conversation happens at a human level, moving away from titles and hierarchies, it builds a deep connection. And then there is a shift in relations.

 Issues I would like more conversation in the future - measurement, sustainability in grant making and going beyond grantees to communities we serve. Are the grantees shifting the power to the communities they serve? I conclude with a quote from Brené Brown . “Trust is a product of vulnerability that grows over time and requires work, attention, and full engagement.” -

Some resources

  1. Funding from a place of trust
  2. Tool for assessment CHAT (Check-in Analysis Tool), which replaces site visits and written grantee reporting as an annual conversation between foundation staff and grantees. The CHAT lets us hear about what our grantees are doing, how they’re using our funding, and what impact our funding is having on their organizations. The CHAT also directly assesses the trust we build with grantees. Find here 
  3. Research by IFRC in partnership with CDA Collaborative Learning (CDA) which outlines a number of key factors that support greater accountability and therefore trust. 


Views: 138


You need to be a member of Community life competence to add comments!

Join Community life competence

Comment by Rituu B. Nanda on August 30, 2020 at 8:46pm

Response on Linkedin 

I love this! There is a type of grant called hashtag#localworks at USAID which really encourages these principles. Check it out

Comment by Dr. E. Mohamed Rafique on August 29, 2020 at 10:57pm

The deep insights about Trust, the relationship between appreciation, and trust building as a consequence of appreciation; and the downstream consequences of trust, towards grant-making, all make this article - a good learning experience for me. 

Looking forward to more of these insightful relationships between the fundamental components of SALT.


The Constellation: who are we

The Constellation video, where we journey in less then 2 minutes from space, through nature, to villages, in homes and back while exploring what the Constellation stands for. Thank YOU for being part of it.


Social Media


Newsletter EnglishFrench Spanish  


Twitter @TheConstellati1

Instagram: constellationclcp

Youtube channel: The Constellation SALT-CLCP

© 2021   Created by Rituu B. Nanda.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service