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Claneil Foundation has valued the importance of relationship since its inception. Over the last four years the foundation has deliberately reexamined its practices with this lens – and it’s been transformational. The Trust-Based Philanthropy Project’s Shaady Salehi sat down with Executive Director Mailee Walker to get the scoop on why they did this and what they’re learning along the way.
What drives Claneil’s grantmaking?
As a family foundation, it’s really relationships that drive our grantmaking. This is one of our core values, along with commitment, learning, and humility. We recognize that we don’t know everything, so our relationships with each other and our grantee partners are central to our ability to learn and grow. We’re all in this together.
Why is learning from grantees so central to Claneil’s approach?
We just did a CEP grantee perception report and one thing we heard from our partners was that we as a foundation should not feel like we need to understand every community in which we fund. Over and over again, our grantees said our job is to support them and trust their knowledge and understanding of the communities. It was a way of organizations telling us we at the foundation don’t have to be the experts. This really emphasized for us that we should approach our grantee relationships from a place of trust (that they know their communities best), and learning (that they are gaining insights about their communities that they can share with us). So we focus on building long-term relationships with our grantee partners so we build that trust and create more opportunities for learning and impact.
In practice, how does the Claneil team work to build relationships?
Something I’ve been thinking about is how we in philanthropy unconsciously create trauma for the organizations we want to support. Research shows that foundations are the number one roadblock to nonprofits’ success. We [in philanthropy] don’t typically think of ourselves that way; we think we’re helping and learning.
Read the full article about the Claneil Foundation from The Whitman Institute at the National Center for Family Philanthropy.