First, let’s ask the question of why trust is important in philanthropy. Research shows that higher levels of trust lead to a) greater confidence in trusted individuals or institutions and b) a willingness to act based on that confidence. Assuming that the ultimate goal of philanthropy is to catalyze action, trust becomes an important pre-condition.

So how does philanthropy go beyond markers of trustworthiness to truly build trust? Here are a few things to consider.

  • Look more like the communities you serve: While philanthropy is increasingly working in domains of social and racial justice, movement building, and community change, foundations remain predominantly white organizations where academic credentials are valued more than lived experience.
  • Learn how to “accompany” grantees, not direct them: At Humanity United, we ascribe to a philosophy of “accompaniment,” which we define as a long-term commitment to walking alongside grantees and doing everything in our power to build their capacity, agency, and power over time.
  •  Invest in strategic communications: Strategic communications is a misunderstood and under-utilized tool in most foundations. But learning to leverage it can help to elevate and amplify the voice of grantees, partners, and constituents, and demonstrate a foundation’s values and priorities.
  • Be vulnerable: Foundations cannot expect to build trust with grantees if we don’t “walk the talk” internally in their own organizations. This means having hard conversations about race, power, and privilege internally; asking grantees and other partners for help and feedback; and creating safe spaces for vulnerability.

Read the full article about building trust in philanthropy by Srik Gopal at Council on Foundations.