Building Strong Community Partnerships: Trust-Based Philanthropy

Building Strong Community Partnerships: Trust-Based Philanthropy

Navigate Power Dynamics

Philanthropic investment in effective organizations can improve specific outcomes and when done with respect can help shift power imbalances between funders and nonprofits. Establishing trusting partnerships with nonprofit leaders and teams, honoring community-based knowledge and insight, and approaching the funding relationship with humility and transparency leads to more responsive grantmaking. These values are part of Hirsch Philanthropy Partners’ long-standing approach to elevate the work of nonprofits and facilitate positive, enduring social change.

In 2014, the Whitman Institute in San Francisco coined the term “trust-based philanthropy” and called on foundations and donors to join a collective movement to transform the field, known as the Trust-Based Philanthropy Project. The underlying beliefs are that communities can surface the best solutions to structural challenges and funders must recognize and redistribute power to have the most profound results. Many core principles of trust-based philanthropy are integrated in Hirsch’s ethos and actions and we intentionally and continually look for ways to embed them in our relationships. 

Build Trust and Stability

We encourage philanthropists to consider trust-building practices at the outset when developing or refining core values, decision-making criteria, and funding priorities. FThree Foundation decided to make these trust-based ideas their north star, in alignment with their powerful mission. FThree supports and strengthens democracy and a healthier world through investments in civic engagement, media, and journalism. Together, we identified how the process of their grantmaking could be more equitable and help shift power imbalances by providing multi-year general operating support grants that offer nonprofits the flexibility to respond to new opportunities or needs; streamlining and limiting administrative requirements; and nurturing open two-way communication about progress and challenges.

“We are driven by values of trust and respect for the leaders and organizations working on the ground, often under pressure and in the midst of challenges, to deliver effective programs and move the needle on community needs and structural change.” — Nancy Farese, FThree Foundation President

During disasters or crises, FThree often renews grants early or offers supplemental funding, creating stability and reducing the need for leaders to spend valuable time away from essential programs in order to fundraise. FThree views their funding not merely as transactional but as a partnership that honors the expertise and creative thinking of nonprofit leaders and respects their ability to solve problems. 

Drive Sustained Changes

Important shifts take place when philanthropists put trust front and center in their relationships with community organizations. Nonprofits have the leeway to move forward with confidence and the capacity to better deliver services. Innovative programming emerges with the ability to quickly pivot to address evolving needs. Long-term visioning, new organizational partnerships, and expansive decision-making become possible, creating more resilient and healthy organizations. 

Philanthropists benefit as well by deepening their connections to community organizations they fund. Trust-based relationships contribute to mutual learning about the complexity of social change and the conditions that make it possible. The outcome is a more equitable partnership that values the resources and knowledge both nonprofits and philanthropists bring to their work to achieve sustained and far-reaching impact.

In Focus: Violet World Foundation
Violet World Foundation’s mission is to create more just and equitable communities. Building trusting relationships with their nonprofit partners is a central goal. One of the groups they fund is Good Samaritan, an anchor organization providing comprehensive services to immigrant families in San Francisco’s Mission District. When COVID-19 emerged in March 2020, Violet World realized the increased importance of predictable funding and fast-tracked an early renewal grant to Good Samaritan to enable families to stay healthy and housed during the pandemic, creating more stability during an uncertain and difficult time. The appreciation was quick and notable: “Many thanks to your proactive effort in supporting our community. Violet World’s generous and early contribution will help us maintain services to our hard-pressed clients in this trying period. It is extremely helpful, timely, and meaningful in so many ways.” – Mario Paz, Executive Director, Good Samaritan Resource Center