In May, the PEAK Rocky Mountain and PEAK Northern California chapters hosted a panel discussion where grants professionals shared how their respective organizations are operationalizing the principles of trust-based philanthropy. Over the course of an hour, Stupski Foundation Program Officer of Postsecondary Success Malila Becton-Consuegra, San Francisco Foundation Chief of Staff and Interim Vice President of Programs Brandi Howard, General Service Foundation Grants and Operations Manager Elaine Mui, and Stupski Foundation Grants Associate Daniel Oviedo offered insights to help others find ways to start rethinking their practices and implementing change. As they each shared their stories, three themes emerged.

Have a north star—and ensure you stay on course 
Howard shared that the San Francisco Foundation’s equity agenda commitment to ensuring that Bay Area residents are “economically secure, rooted in vibrant communities, and civically engaged” enabled the organization to organize and frame their work. “We created grantmaking strategies that were directly informed by communities,” Howard said. “Listening—which is a core piece of the learning journey—transparency, and relationships have been constants that we’ve been growing into.”

Rethink reporting
“Act on feedback,” Mui said. “If you get a sense that something isn’t right or is cumbersome, see if you can make changes internally.” All panelists shared that they built in greater flexibility in their reporting processes in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and they did so in ways that not only reduced grantee burden, but they deepened funder-grantee relationships. Oviedo commented that this can look like single-page award letters, removing time-bound terms to provide maximum flexibility, and prioritizing flexibility around disbursements and report due dates. “We don’t ask grantees to tailor a final report to us,” he said. “We accept reports that grantees might have prepared for other funders or even annual reports that they’ve created for the community at large.”

Provide support beyond the grant
Oviedo noted that granting multiyear, general operating support can have a huge impact on an organization’s sustainability, especially if it needs to suddenly alter its strategy to best serve communities, as was the case with the pandemic. Absent a crisis, multi-year support also empowers organizations to plan for the long term. Either way, in terms of relationship building, providing this kind of support communicates trust that the grant partner will make the best use of that money and reduces power imbalances.

Read the full article about trust-based philanthropy by Malila Becton-Consuegra, Brandi Howard, Elaine Mui, Daniel Oviedo PEAK Grantmaking.