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Based on the past two-and-a-half years, I’d like to share a few personal reflections. First, listening is tough. Really tough. Personally, it takes me real effort and multiple failed attempts before I hear what my husband is telling me, let alone successfully acting on what was said. This is even tougher as a group – to truly listen to partners and grantees, acknowledge the power dynamic, and be humble. And then to get on the same page about what change is needed and collectively alter the organizational culture as well as your own practices and behaviors as an individual.
But it’s possible! I’ve seen it happen numerous times in the wake of CEP’s Grantee Perception Report, like how Mama Cash streamlined and simplified its application and reporting process, Laudes Foundation deepened trust with its partners, and Comic Relief worked on better communicating the request for general operating support. I deeply believe in the Grantee Perception Report as an organizational tool and practice for ongoing listening and improvement. Because listening is an ongoing practice and never a ‘check-the-box and now we did it’ kind of thing.
Second, despite clear and growing evidence that trust-based philanthropy – in combination with multi-year unrestricted support – enables nonprofit organizations to achieve the most impact, European foundation leaders (just like the in the US) have trouble breaking out of old habits. It’s tough to build trust with new grantees and to let go of the feeling of control through detailed logic models or KPI matrixes. However, slowly but surely, this conversation is starting to take place within funders’ Board rooms. Examples such as Rohini Nilekani Philanthropies, an India-based funder rated in the top 1 percent of CEP’s GPR comparative dataset for grantees’ perceptions of trust, are inspiring, as captured in this video interview with Founder Rohini Nilekani and her team: Building Trust through Grantee Feedback.
Still, foundations’ staff and particularly their Boards throughout Europe, the U.K., and beyond are far too white and male-dominated, as captured in this report prepared for the Association of Charitable Foundations. George Floyd’s death and the ensuing Black Lives Matter protests, however untimely and horrific, felt like a ‘wake-up call’ for the global philanthropic community. For instance, Trust for London shared in a recent newsletter that they were looking for new Board members, particularly people with ethnically diverse backgrounds, with lived experience, or with a gender identity other than male. This new emphasis on diversity, equity, and inclusion in the philanthropic community gives me hope.
Read the full article about CEP’s global expansion by Charlotte Brugman at The Center for Effective Philanthropy.