Many family-led philanthropies are successfully using a participatory grantmaking approach by engaging community members in their decision-making. And, for many philanthropic families, participatory grantmaking is an emerging practice.

In the National Center for Family Philanthropy’s recent webinar, Nwamaka AgboMonica GeorgeCynthia GibsonAmbar Cristina Hanson, and Leslie Ramyk explored several critical questions:

  • What is participatory grantmaking, and why is it an important emerging practice in the field?
  • How and when is participatory grantmaking best leveraged within a family philanthropy effort? What are strategies for success and common challenges?
  • What are the various considerations giving families should understand as they employ participatory grantmaking within their philanthropy?

Here are important takeaways from the conversation.

What is participatory grantmaking?

Participatory grantmaking shares decision-making power with the communities a funder aims to support, by centering community voices in the process. The definition of participatory grantmaking shared in the webinar, views grantmaking as more than writing checks or making grant decisions. Rather, it is a process, grounded in relationships, that has three general components: what happens before the grant is awarded, what happens when making the grant, and what happens after the grant.

Why participatory grantmaking?

Most philanthropic families do not have direct, lived-experience the issues they are trying to address. By including community members, who are closest to community conditions and needs, philanthropic families can lean on their expertise to make informed choices that lead more effective results. This approach is not about outsourcing grantmaking, but rather intentionally engaging subject matter experts in the decision-making process at all stages of pre- and post-grant. If traditional practices have not resulted in the level of impact and transformation that you hoped to see, then it is time to try something different. Family philanthropy is well-suited to adopt innovative approaches that share power and center community voices.

Develop a community engagement process

Inviting community members onto your grantmaking committees is an important step, but, in order to develop a truly participatory process, communities need to be engaged early in the decision-making timeline. For example, you can create focus groups with community members that can help determine the priorities of a particular program area to ensure the program is meeting community needs.

Read the full article about participatory grantmaking by Daria Teutonico at the National Center for Family Philanthropy.