Opinion article by Daniel H. Lanteigne, Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE), Conseiller en ressources humaines agréé (CRHA) [certified human resources advisor]

While the concept of trust-based philanthropy is not new, it is gaining considerable momentum in 2021. BNP Philanthropic Performance supports this new philanthropic stance, and would like to contribute to the thinking that it calls forth.

Just a few days ago, Philanthropic Foundations Canada and Community Foundations of Canada offered an Internet seminar on this concept, which reflects values we hold dear and, we believe, will transform relationships within our philanthropic sector.

The concept of trust-based philanthropy is rooted in a set of values (lead with trust; center relationships; collaborate with humility and curiosity; redistribute power; and work for systemic equity) that equip us not only to understand but also to address instances of systemic power imbalance that often occur between charitable organizations and funders, whether individuals, institutions or foundations.

To ensure that a trust-based atmosphere is created, is fostered, and ultimately becomes self‑evident, it’s our responsibility to share more power with recipient organizations and partners, who work closer to the ground and are more familiar with the situations we are all seeking to resolve.

The Trust-Based Philanthropic Project suggests the following key principles:

  • give multi-year, unrestricted funding;
  • simplify and streamline paperwork;
  • commit to relationships that are transparent, responsive, and based on mutual learning.

Many people will point out that these invitations are not new, which is a good thing! Others, however, will find that using these few principles to redistribute power will call for long, hard conversations if they are to overcome change‑resistant mentalities.

While this project and the related conference are addressed primarily to granting foundations, we consider that its recommendations apply to all members of the philanthropic ecosystem. As a contribution to the conversation, we think it’s important, firstly and regardless of where we sit, fully to acknowledge our position and the power we hold. Secondly, let’s ask ourselves what influence we can each exercise to redistribute that power within the grant decision-making process.

The reason we make these suggestions is that trust-based philanthropy can’t be just a fleeting fashion; it needs come from authentic intent for the good of people who benefit from organizations that change the world every day.

As a bonus, we recommend the following links: