Too often, people with little on-the-ground experience of the situations they seek to change determine the funding areas and strategies within philanthropy. And the institutions hiring individuals with lived experience don’t often realize the power dynamic that can still occur internally. Individuals with lived experience working in philanthropy may often feel powerless, or that their experience isn’t acknowledged. Not many impacted individuals are in executive-level roles at these organizations, which naturally keeps them out of certain higher-level decision-making and strategic planning. How can philanthropy change these power dynamics? Establishing trust through internal and external relationships is the first step towards engagement and power sharing.

Building Relationships Both Internally and Externally

That’s why relationship building and centering the directly impacted are two of New Breath Foundation’s core principles. Among the staff, we center grace, self-care, and balance. Everyone works hard, but I remind them to take time to rest and that it is a marathon, not a sprint, towards our goals. Although we work remotely across the country, we create opportunities to get to know each other outside of the day-to-day work. Through creating a community of care internally, we’re a more effective team that can focus on our grantee partners and our mission.

Valuing Lived Experience

Another way NBF builds trust is by centering those with lived experience and valuing their leadership. Over 60 percent of directly impacted individuals comprise our Community Advisory Committee (CAC), who advise on our grantmaking process and participate alongside grantees and community partners in nominating and reviewing applicants. Our CAC members rotate, and they’re grantee recipients from previous years and trusted partners who we’ve seen working in the community for a long time. We’ve even adjusted parts of our grantmaking strategy based on feedback we’ve received from them.

Building Trust by Going Beyond Grantmaking

Finally, we establish relationships outside of funding. We conduct site visits on the grantees’ terms, provide technical assistance and individual coaching opportunities, and serve as a thought partner to help them think through scenarios and strategies. In addition to supporting their work, we recognize that they must make time for self-care.

Read the full article about lived experience by Eddy Zheng at The Center for Disaster Philanthropy.