In the last decade, as funders have embraced a wide range of approaches to amplify their impact, philanthropy has become more complex. Many funders are engaging in co-creative, collaborative approaches to strategy and implementation, including collective impact, to leverage different forms of power and create real, sustainable community transformation.

In FSG's more than 20 years supporting funders large and small at all stages of their work, trust has proven to be one of the most important elements of effective collaboration. When funders build trusting relationships with their community partners, they can better understand the nuanced challenges those communities face. This allows them to identify and support more appropriate responses, distribute resources more effectively, strengthen coordination within collaboratives, support local leadership to address community challenges, and maintain better reputations within the community. During the COVID-19 pandemic, collaboratives with trusting relationships have been better able to meet the emergent needs of communities they aspire to support; meanwhile, collaboratives that haven’t developed trust have struggled to coordinate and amplify efforts amidst the acute needs of the time.

So then, what does it look like to build trust? Many funders have used frameworks like the Whitman Institute's approach to trust-based philanthropy, and practices like those discussed in the Collective Impact Forum's Funder Action Learning Lab’s “Advancing Funders' Openness Practices” report to help embed trust into their grantee relationships. Regardless of the approach, building trust requires creating authentic and vulnerable connections with community partners while taking concrete actions to be a genuine collaborator. This article suggests four ways funders can do this, with two focused on external actions and two on internal conditions.

Read the full article about building trust in collective impact work by Victor Tavarez, John Harper, and Fay Hanleybrown at Stanford Social Innovation Review.