The German philanthropy initiative #VertrauenMachtWirkung (#TrustCreatesImpact) has sparked a discussion around the leadership skills and practices foundations need to tackle complex social challenges. Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, this conversation is more important than ever.

Crisis brings out the best and the worst in all of us, the same applies to current philanthropic giving against the background of an unprecedented global situation. In light of the economic crisis, some foundations are cutting their budgets and freezing grants. This exacerbates stress for NGOs that are already under increased pressure, all while trying to support the rising number of people who suffer physically, financially, or psychologically from the effects of COVID-19. Other foundations had the immediate urge to pick up the phone—they called their grantees with the intention to get a deeper understanding of how they can best support them to successfully survive this crisis and continue their services for people in need. Out of these phone calls came emergency and recovery funds that provide immediate unrestricted funding, adjusted milestone plans, and most importantly, robust partnerships built on trust.

A flexible funding approach is not only important for the grantees but is also a significant development within the philanthropic community that has been talking about trust-based philanthropy for quite some time. However, before the crisis, foundations (at least in Europe and especially in Germany) were still discussing what trust-based philanthropy really means and what it would look like in practice.

The sector was in “mind-shifting gear,” carefully considering how to change its mindset and behaviors. The pandemic has urged foundations to quickly change from “mind-shifting gear” into “action gear”, revealing that funding partnerships based on trust enable foundations to quickly understand what their partners on the ground really need.

How to ensure that these changes in mindset and action last?

  1. Incorporate diversity and participation
  2. Listen carefully
  3. Share power
  4. Be transparent
  5. Work collaboratively
  6. Innovate
  7. Talk about mistakes
  8. Fund unrestricted
  9. Build capacities

Read the full article about trust-based philanthropy by Julia Oestreich at the National Center for Family Philanthropy.