The Headwaters Foundation, Robert Sterling Clark Foundation, and Whitman Institute have announced a peer-to-peer funder initiative aimed at “bringing greater vulnerability, transparency, and humility to philanthropy.”
As more foundations recognize and acknowledge the entrenched power imbalances and inequities they’ve inherited, created, or inadvertently helped sustain, the Trust-Based Philanthropy Project will work over the next five years to bring more accountability and equity to the field and outline concrete steps for building radically different relationships with grantees. To that end, it has already developed a guide to implementing the approach and enlisted a network of more than a dozen foundations to share their experiences through a speakers’ bureau.
“Trust-based philanthropy invites us to think more expansively about our role as grantmakers,” said Headwaters Foundation founder Brenda Solorzano. “What if we looked at our work through the lens of partnership and service, rather than gatekeeping and transaction? What if we were to recognize the great privilege and honor of leveraging our resources to make it as easy as possible for nonprofits to focus on their mission-critical work? And what if learning was more central to our work than enforcement?”
Launched with funding from the Whitman Institute and the Robert Sterling Clark, Durfee, General Service, Headwaters, and Satterberg foundations, the project will be guided by a steering committee that includes representatives from most of those organizations as well as Thousand Currents, a funder collaborative that funds grassroots groups and movements led by women, youth, and Indigenous peoples in the Global South, with input from grantee partners and foundation colleagues.
“Philanthropy is operating in a wider social context where economic and environmental inequities are rapidly accelerating — with poor, Indigenous, migrant, trans, and black communities bearing the brunt,” said Whitman Institute co-executive director Pia Infante. “Do we have the courage and humility to see how philanthropy might be perpetuating these problems even as we fund to alleviate them? Instead of clinging to what we can control, we can meet this overwhelmingly complex moment with curiosity, openness, and a willingness to adapt.”