While 2020 may reluctantly be recalled as one of the most traumatic years in history for many individuals, trauma is, unfortunately, not new. A 2015 report from the National Child Traumatic Stress Initiative cites that more than two thirds of children reported at least one traumatic event by age 16 — experiencing a natural disaster, violence, or illness. Sometimes the impact of trauma can be treated, and in some cases prevented, though psycho-social effects of trauma may have long-term individual and intergenerational impact, disproportionately affecting vulnerable communities.

Nonprofit organizations have long provided the space for healing and resilience-building with the trauma-informed care model. The bright side? Foundations are showing up strong in deploying trauma-informed grantmaking, setting in motion cross-sector collaborations and community-centered investments in resilience-building, even before the world-shifting events of 2020.

Perhaps one of the most influential voices on trauma-informed care is philanthropist and media-mogul Oprah Winfrey. In a 2018 interview with CBS This Morning, she noted the philanthropic sector’s approach to helping disenfranchised people is often “working on the wrong thing … unless you fix the trauma …” Winfrey cites the critical need of asking, “What happened to that child?” rather than, “What is wrong with that child?” and leveraging resources in response to the root environment or “hole in the soul.”

The Scattergood Foundation’s Trauma-Informed Philanthropy resource guides equip funders to invest in community resilience models by helping funders to “understand the science behind trauma, adverse childhood experiences, and resilience; apply trauma-informed principles and practices to grantmaking; and learn about existing local efforts to implement trauma-informed practice” (2016, p. 5). The foundation was instrumental in laying the groundwork on trauma-science and the pervasive poor health and social outcomes associated with trauma that often bring people to the doors of nonprofit and human service organizations. Scattergood’s trauma-informed approach to grantmaking emphasizes healing and resilience with policy, systems, and environment in mind. The foundation was one of the first to identify the role of philanthropy in trauma-informed practice, and in its 2018 report noted, “Philanthropic organizations can play a significant role in building cross-sector networks through three key functions: providing funding, championing the cause, and fostering collaboration” (Scattergood, p. 31).

Read the full article about trauma-informed philanthropy by Mandy Sharp Eizinger at Johnson Center.