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Trust-based Philanthropy: Centering Relationships

May 14, 2024

In recent years, Interact for Health has moved towards a trust-based philanthropy approach to ease the time and resource burdens for those applying to and rewarded our grants. 

Trust-based philanthropy is about balancing the power dynamic between those giving and those receiving grants. According to the Trust-based Philanthropy Project the movement is about fundamentally changing the relationship between funder and grantee by building relationships based in trust and collaboration.  

As an article in Stanford Social Innovation Review puts it, “core practices that define a trust-based approach to philanthropy can be very strategic and can lead to increased resource efficiency and outsized impact through multiple pathways.” 

In other words, trust-based philanthropy is about building a “mutually accountable” relationship that is beneficial for both parties.  
Funders can examine their own biases and let go of processes based in control. Grantees are released from the rigid strictures of compliance, freeing up time employees spend on administration. This allows them to allocate more time to their programs doing the work that truly catalyzes positive change in our communities.  
Interact for Health has made a commitment to adopting principles associated with trust-based philanthropy to foster real relationships with our grantees. This is an ongoing journey, and we’re grateful for the leadership of other local partners in this space, including Jill Miller, President, and CEO of bi3, who is an Ambassador of the Trust-Based Philanthropy Project.  

We’ve committed to:  

  • Changes to both our application and evaluation processes 
  • Making our staff more accessible through virtual and in-person office hours leading up to RFP deadlines  
  • Co-creating our Grantee Learning Networks to maximize our time spent together and deepen our impact with capacity building support  
  • Performing a Grantee Perception Survey every three years with the Center for Effective Philanthropy

After receiving comments about our application and evaluation processes being time-consuming, we investigated ways we could streamline procedures to alleviate grantee burden. Beyond the initial changes above, lowering burdens for grantees is an overarching objective we’re applying to decision-making in an ongoing way. 

Regularly working with the Center for Effective Philanthropy also allows Interact for Health the chance to reassess our procedures to make sure they align with our ultimate vision that:  People in our region are healthy and thriving, regardless of who they are or where they live.  
As we continue our work toward centering relationships with our grantee partners, we welcome your thoughts. What do you think about trust-based philanthropy? What other principles of trust-based philanthropy should we incorporate into our procedures? How do you see this affecting the work that Interact for Health and its grantees do in the community?  
We hope you’ll share your thoughts with us at or in our upcoming Grantee Perception Survey in late 2024. 

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