Giving Compass' Take:

• The Whitman Insitute is a foundation that focuses on building social, political and economic equity by using a trust-based approach in philanthropy. 

• The foundation uses meaningful conversations to strengthen relationships between grantmakers and grantees.  What are the challenges in making reporting more interpersonal?

• Read more about how to invigorate trust in grantmaking relationships. 

The Whitman Institute is a San Francisco-based foundation that advances social, political, and economic equity by funding dialogue, relationship building, and inclusive leadership.

All of our funding is unrestricted (much of it multi-year) and we do not require formal written reports. Our approach to reporting is that it is primarily about learning and happens organically through conversations with those we support.  These can range from one or two meetings/calls per year to more frequent contacts depending on our relationship with them and what is happening with their work.

If grantees have written reports for other funders they are willing to share with us, we are happy to read them.  And, even though we don’t require them, some of our grantees like submitting a written report to us annually to share their thoughts and learnings from the year.

This approach aligns with our trust-based approach to philanthropy. Non-profits are drowning in paperwork and we don’t want to add to that burden for them.  Our approach is relational and dialogic and so that makes sense to us as the primary way we learn about our grantees work.

Especially with our multi-year partners, our conversations give us ideas about how we can best be of support beyond the check – and they give us a better sense of how to talk about their work with our board and other funders. The benefits are that it invites a more authentic learning and dialogue process with our partners and frees up their time to concentrate on their mission. What we hear from our grantee partners is that they deeply appreciate this approach.

Read the full interview with John Esterle on conversation-based reporting by Jessica Bearman and Elizabeth Myrick at PEAK Insight Journal