Home > Blog > Trust Based Philanthropy Creates Lasting Impact

In every challenging situation, there is something to be learned. Adversity helps us see things in a new way and hopefully a better way. We create new paths, new partners, and new conversations in an effort to move forward with a desire to be more effective. This is a critical time right now, more than ever, with all the need in the world, for donors and nonprofit organizations to forge new ways of working together.

How can donors and nonprofit organizations work more effectively together and move beyond the arms-length, transactions that may help an immediate need but don’t go far enough to address real systemic change?

The answer lies in trust-based philanthropy. We have a fundamental problem in the world with trust. Do you trust me? Do I trust you? Are you doing what you say? Can you count on me to follow through? How did we get to this point? That’s a very complex topic for another day, but what we can do right now is start to build trust again.

There is a movement in philanthropy to use a trust-based philanthropy approach with donor-nonprofit relationships. Enter the Trust-Based Philanthropy Project (https://trustbasedphilanthropy.org/), a collaborative effort by The Whitman Institute and several foundations committed to making the ecosystem of philanthropy one that is trust-based and recognizes the problems with transparency, power, and quality-deficient relationships and works to restore balance.

Trust-based philanthropy is about productive dialogue between donors and nonprofit organizations. There is, quite frankly, a lot of extra, unnecessary work in philanthropy due to the lack of trust and the myriad of rules and restrictions that are put in place to fill the trust void. If I don’t trust you, then I must require you to prove yourself by jumping through a lot of hoops. Also, because I don’t trust you, I think I should be the expert in this relationship and tell you what to do. Yikes. That sounds rather dysfunctional.

Trust-based philanthropy encourages relationships based on the core values of power-sharing, equity, humility, transparency, curiosity, and collaboration. The Trust-Based Philanthropy Project has helpful resources on how to adopt this approach in donor-nonprofit relationships.

This is not rocket science, but it’s not easy.

For donors, it takes a fundamental shift in understanding that philanthropy requires responsibility to understand the issues beyond just the surface layer and to get to know nonprofit organizations—really know them. For nonprofit organizations, it requires being vulnerable and opening up to donors about the challenges you’re facing, which means, donors, you have to remove your judgment hat and listen with the intent to understand goals and concerns and work collaboratively with the nonprofit organization to accomplish real change.

It might seem counterintuitive, but when philanthropy is at its most effective, impactful best, it’s messy and complex. It takes lots of conversations. It takes humility. It takes unbiased listening. It takes transparency. It takes time. It takes a great amount of trust.

Are you interested in practicing trust-based philanthropy? Let’s talk about your goals and ways you can achieve them with a fund at the Community Foundation. Give me a call at 775-333-5499.

Karen Senger, CFRE
Chief Advancement Officer

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