Trust Based Philanthropy

6 Basic Principles as practiced by The Philanthropy Connection

(With thanks to The Trust Based Philanthropy Project for each category description.)

  • Give multi-year, unrestricted funding: The work of nonprofits is long-term and unpredictable. Multi-year, unrestricted funding gives grantees the flexibility to assess and determine where grant dollars are most needed, and allows for innovation, emergent action, and sustainability.
  • At TPC: Our funding is for general operating expenses. This change was made in 2020 in response to COVID-19 and has been kept in place to permit nonprofits determine the best use of funds for their organizations. It means that proposals no longer ask how the money will be used specifically. Awarding multi-year grants is one of the goals of our strategic plan; the methodology for doing so is under discussion. As a step in that direction, we now allow grantees to apply for grants each year, regardless of the number of years they have been selected.
  • Do the homework: Often, nonprofits must jump through countless hoops just to be invited to submit a proposal. Trust based philanthropy moves the onus to grantmakers, making it the funder’s responsibility to get to know prospective grantees, sparing nonprofits the time and effort to do so in the early stages of the vetting process.
  • At TPC: Our guidelines and forms for applying for a grant have been improved. For example, we provide our screening questions up front and allow applicants to use hyperlinks to websites and other previously written, relevant materials. We expect that grant teams will research organizations during their review process by searching publicly posted materials (website/social media/testimonials). We also work to expand outreach to new organizations to encourage a larger, more diverse universe of organizations to apply.
  • Simplify and streamline paperwork: Nonprofits spend an inordinate amount of time on    funder-driven applications and reports, which can distract from their mission-critical work. A more relational approach saves time and helps funders focus on paving the way for deeper relationships and mutual accountability.
  • At TPC: We examined what we ask and why we ask it, thus streamlining our questions and eliminating redundancies across LOI and Full Proposal materials. We encourage organizations to use previously submitted proposals (to us or other funders) to save time. TPC takes on as much of the paperwork as possible (i.e., ballot narratives are written by Grant Teams and mid-term reports are written by Liaisons). Zoom calls instead of in-person site visits help reduce the amount of time and energy nonprofits need to expend in this important final step. Our overarching goal as we reviewed our process was to respect the work of our grantees, not to add to it.
  • Be transparent and responsive: Open, honest, and transparent communication supports relationships rooted in trust and mutual accountability. When funders model vulnerability and power-consciousness, it signals to grantees that they can participate more fully.
  • At TPC: Starting in 2020, Letters of Intent and Full Proposals began to include the evaluation criteria we use so organizations know what is being evaluated. We also assign two Liaisons to each funded nonprofit to bridge communications and encourage dialogue during their year with us.
  • Solicit and act on feedback: Philanthropy doesn’t have all the answers. Grantees and communities provide valuable perspectives that can inform a funder’s strategy and approach, inherently making our work more successful in the long run.
  • At TPC: Our Liaison relationships provide important sources of feedback. We now offer two free memberships for each grantee partner and welcome feedback as well as participation on our Grant Teams and educational events. In our strategic planning and DEI work we have done outreach to the nonprofit community for direct feedback to help evolve our processes. In addition, we solicit feedback from applicants in both the LOI and Full Proposal application process (e.g., How long did this application take to complete?).
  • Offer support beyond the check: Responsive, adaptive, non-monetary support bolsters leadership, capacity, and organizational health. This is especially critical for organizations that have historically gone without the same access to networks or level of support than their more established peers.
  • At TPC: Engaging TPC members with the nonprofit community we serve is a core part of our ethos. For example, we direct members to volunteer opportunities and via our website keep members abreast of specific requests for assistance (e.g., event planning or consulting help). Use of both our website and social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) help amplify the various missions of our grantees. Networking events solely for Executive Director’s to connect and share common experiences began in 2021. We also invite grantee partners to speak to the TPC community as content experts in their respective fields through educational Philanthropy Dialogues. Finally, members are encouraged to, and often do, join the Boards of our grantees.