One of the primary ways the staff at the Jacob & Valeria Langeloth Foundation would describe ourselves and how we work is that we “follow the field.” We pride ourselves on the fact that we are non-directive funders — we would never dictate to a grantee what they should do or how they should do it.

While the Foundation has always operated with this premise of following the field as our guide, our approach to what that should look like has changed over the last few years. As a national funder that does not support local efforts except through funder collaboratives, we have had to be deliberate in our grantmaking as to what will have the most impact. Despite our two focus areas both disproportionately impacting communities of color (Justice Reform, which focuses on ending the use of solitary confinement, and Safe and Healthy Communities, which focuses on urban gun violence prevention), we looked at the organizations that we had been funding and realized that they were, almost without exception, led by white people.

The work of these white-led organizations is contributing to meaningful change. Yet, there is no substitute for the nuance, passion, and insight that comes from when the work is personal. After we came to this realization, we intentionally sought out organizations that are led by and serving people of color. This shift supports the work of those who are closest to the problem in identifying and implementing the solutions they believe have the greatest potential for change.

Following the field also means putting complete trust in the organizations we fund to know what they need in terms of staff, strategy, and direction — and understanding that the direction sometimes needs to change.

But if we truly understood that things can change drastically between the application and implementation phase of the grant, why were we putting any restrictions within particular line items on the funds?

Read the full article about building trust by Andrea Fionda at The Center for Effective Philanthropy.