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Effective Matters: Centering Trust in Funder-Grantee Relationships

Date: April 1, 2021

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Building Trust Through Grantee Feedback: The Story of Rohini Nilekani Philanthropies inline

When Rohini Nilekani Philanthropies (RNP) gathered feedback from its grantees through the Grantee Perception Report (GPR) in 2020, RNP was rated in the top 1 percent of CEP’s overall comparative dataset for perceptions of trust. Simultaneously, RNP grantees rated in the bottom 1 percent of the dataset for the amount of pressure they felt to modify their organization’s priorities in order to receive funding from the foundation. What’s the approach behind these results? We talked to members of RNP’s leadership team to learn more about how building trust through grantee feedback has been such a valuable component of their work. Check out RNP’s insights in our new video, as well as in a post on the CEP blog. Read more.

Relationships Matter: Program Officers, Grantees, and the Keys to Success inline

Relationships between funders and their grantees are crucial; the two must work well together if they are to achieve shared goals. But funder–grantee relationships can be fraught due to the inherent power imbalance between those who have resources and those who need them. How can funders effectively navigate this dynamic to build and maintain strong, trusting relationships with their grantees? Relationships Matter, a cornerstone resource from CEP, sheds light on what constitutes a strong funder–grantee relationship, what nonprofits say it takes for funders to foster such relationships, and the crucial role that program officers play in the equation. Read more.

The Grantee Perception Report and Trust-Based Principles inline

When CEP worked with The Whitman Institute (TWI) on their Grantee Perception Report (GPR) several years ago, the candid feedback TWI received affirmed the strength of the relationships they had built with their grantees — and helped TWI’s leaders name and frame their approach: trust-based philanthropy. In continuing the virtuous cycle of feedback and learning across the past few years, CEP has worked with TWI and the Trust-Based Philanthropy Project to develop several additional questions in the GPR that can help funders better understand their organization’s progress when it comes to trust-based principles. Read more about the origins of trust-based philanthropy.


Trust as the Foundational Element of Meaningful Change inline

On the CEP blog, Imago Dei Fund Managing Partner Lisa Jackson argues that until philanthropy confronts its inability to trust, it will remain unable to meet all that’s being asked of it amid our ongoing crises. “The truth is that philanthropy doesn’t trust. To trust is to relinquish control and power. It is to deeply believe in the mutuality of humans everywhere,” she writes. “We in philanthropy really need to sit with and deeply understand our lack of trust in those with whom we seek to partner to change the world.” Read more.

The Urgency of Trust-Based Philanthropy inline

Exactly one year ago today, The Whitman Institute Co-Executive Director John Esterle wrote on the CEP blog: “Whether it’s continuing to provide short-term project funding, requiring onerous proposals and reports, or holding too tightly to their sense of control and expertise, too many foundations are approaching their grantmaking with old frameworks that are barely helping nonprofits — especially those working on a grassroots level — to keep their heads above water.” Those words are still urgent and relevant today, as are Esterle’s three concrete suggestions for foundation staff and boards to make important trust-centered changes to their practices. Read more.


Are We Better Off Divided? Philanthropy’s Role in Moving America Forward

Join CEP (virtually) on April 29 for the second installment of our 20th Anniversary Learning Sessions, focusing on strategies for helping overcome the ongoing crisis of intensified polarization and division in the U.S. Featuring Eric Liu (co-founder and CEO of Citizen University), Anthony Richardson (executive director of Nord Family Foundation), Caryl Stern (executive director of Walton Family Foundation), Kristen Cambell (executive director of PACE), and Grant Oliphant (president of Heinz Endowments), this conversation will address what philanthropy can do to work across lines of ideological difference and address the rifts in American civic life.

Purpose-Driven Board Leadership: Reconceiving Foundation Governance

Join BoardSource and CEP on May 13 for a webinar conversation about the implications of purpose-driven board leadership for foundation board governance. The event will begin with a discussion between BoardSource CEO Anne Wallestad and CEP President Phil Buchanan about the four principles of purpose-driven board leadership outlined in Wallestad’s recent SSIR article and perspectives on what they mean for foundations in particular. The webinar will then expand to a lively discussion between Anne, Phil, longtime foundation board member Kofi Appenteng (currently of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation), and Barr Foundation President and Trustee Jim Canales.

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