At the Honnold Foundation, we had been working in partnership with grassroots organizations for some time before we learned that there was a term for the kind of grantmaking we do: trust-based philanthropy (TBP). We understand this as an approach that reimagines relationships among donors, nonprofits, and communities to rebalance power dynamics and decision making, prioritizing authentic connections and mutual learning. Importantly, TBP also acknowledges that funders do not inherently have more expertise or knowledge than grantees do, and that we can only achieve sustainable impact if we work together as equal partners.

The Honnold Foundation works in partnership with marginalized communities around the world to expand equitable access to solar energy and develop locally relevant solutions to climate change. Our approach to grantmaking developed organically over a period of five years as we learned from grassroots organizations and adapted our practices to meet their needs. Initially, we conducted listening sessions and interviews with nonprofits and philanthropic institutions to learn about some of the best and worst practices in grantmaking to grassroots organizations, ensuring that we gathered a range of perspectives. To make the process transparent and participatory, we also asked other values-aligned organizations for feedback on our initial framework before putting it into action. We continue to implement this open feedback cycle, as it helps us ensure that HF’s fundamental approach remains rooted in trust and connection.

In our experience, TBP is the logical result of listening to grassroots organizations, rather than a theoretical framework that grantmakers should adopt for purely philosophical reasons. TBP practices such as multi-year unrestricted funding and simplified application and reporting processes are the logical outcome of treating grantees as our partners.

Read the full article about trust-based philanthropy by Emily Teitsworth and Kate Trujillo at Candid.