Increasingly, the philanthropic sector is being challenged to recognize that the how of creating change is as important as the what. It’s a call that invites us to look beyond good intentions, and examine the ways in which those with resources engage with other stakeholders — like grantees, partners, and communities – to create change. It’s an invitation to consider aspects such as how to deepen trust, advance equity, shift power, and build mutual accountability between funders and practitioners. 

This call represents a substantial shift away from the business-as-usual approach. And while changing the status quo may be highly desirable, it’s important to recognize that it isn’t always easy. The existing paradigms can be so ingrained into our thinking, practices, and behavior that they are often invisible, even while influencing the choices and actions we make every day. It’s one of the main reasons why closing the gap between theory and practice can be so difficult, which is why we put together the Direct Philanthropy Toolkit.

The Direct Philanthropy Toolkit is part of a broader initiative sponsored by Partners Asia called the Direct Philanthropy Initiative (DPI). The purpose of DPI is to help people and organizations who want to be a part of philanthropy’s big shift to become more adept at building deep and equitable partnerships with inspiring local leaders and local organizations. 

The toolkit is full of tools and tactics to help you make concrete plans for building more equitable partnerships. Whether you are an individual philanthropist, part of a larger institution, or somewhere in between, you’ll ideally find something that works for you. Because in the words of Jack Kornfield, Spiritual Leader and Emeritus Board Member at Partners Asia, “The things that matter most in our lives are not fantastic or grand. They are the moments when we touch one another.”

Before you jump into the toolkit you can take a short, online quiz to see if direct philanthropy is the right approach for you. If the answer is yes, then read on to find out more!

A Sneak Peek into the Direct Philanthropy Toolkit

LEARNING: A lot of waste and missed opportunities happen when funders misunderstand context or local needs. Unpack why and see how you can address it with these Seven Learning Strategies for a More Humble Philanthropy.

SYSTEMS CHANGE: Systems change is the holy grail of many change initiatives. Systems thinking tells us that to respond to a challenge, you must aim at the root causes, be adaptable, adopt a holistic approach, and be patient. But a lack of trust frustrates every one of these principles. To overcome this, we’ve mapped trust practices to the four principles of systems thinking.

AGREEMENTS: Traditional funding agreements often ignore the unspoken power dynamics between a funder and a local organization. A grantmaker comes to the table with resources, therefore wielding more visible (and invisible) power. While a nonprofit needs access to resources, which often pressures local leaders to bend to funder demands, rather than being empowered to follow their own mission. Here’s a different perspective on grant agreements through the lens of power dynamics.

IMPACT: Impact has traditionally been defined in rigid ways, and measurement practices aren’t always driven by a clear mission. Unpack what impact can look like in practice, how to redefine it moving forward, and what tactics to bring to the table.

While we do love a good checklist, changing your mindset isn’t just a quick, one-off project. If you want to keep learning more and gain access to other tools and resources to help you on your direct philanthropy journey, join the DPI community.