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Values in Trust Based Grantmaking
Episode 5611th April 2022 • Connected Philanthropy • Foundant Technologies
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Diversity and inclusion is an important value in everyday life and in Trust Based Grantmaking. In this episode of Connected Philanthropy, we discuss our values in Grantmaking, and how they help our foundations and their applicants.

Topics:

  1. What does value base grantmaking look like in your practices?
  2. What does this look like for applications?
  3. What changes have you already made based on your values?

Additional links mentioned:

Connect with other members of the philanthropic community at Community.foundant.com

Transcripts

Lucy Rosenthal:

Welcome to Connected Philanthropy. In today's episode, we talk about value based grantmaking The first voice we hear is Ashley Harper, client success manager. Let's join the discussion

Ashley Harper:

So we have been hearing quite a bit of conversation around various aspects of grant making. This I believe this past year has asked us to rethink a lot of things, including grantmaking.

Ashley Harper:

And we've we've heard from a lot of clients who are doing everything from just from redesigning. They're the forms that they use to revamping their entire decision making process. And some have turned specifically to values based grantmaking. So this basically means aligning the practice of your grantmaking with the values that your organization intrinsically has, whether they're publicly visible on your website or whether they're more internal.

Ashley Harper:

So our first question, why employ values based grantmaking? So what may be what prompted a more critical look at your grantmaking practices and what are you hoping to to achieve by changing these?

Kate Sutton:

My name is Kate Sutton and I am with The Curl and Marie Anderson Foundation in Austin. And we kind of started this back in, I guess it was 2007 2008 with the Great Recession as most of us know, foundations lost a lot of money during that time.

Kate Sutton:

And we were no different in our board, put us on a budget and really drastically cut back the amount of money that we could grant. And we felt staff felt that this is when our when our grantees needed us most. And so we started a program back then. We hired a consultant to help our our grant partners to raise money from larger gifts.

Kate Sutton:

And we've kind of carried that forward every year since then in different variations and working directly with development officers etc.. And last year, we knew that our grant partners would really need more help during the pandemic And so we started a webinar series with a with a consultant. I think she had ten cohorts of about ten people, each of our grantees, and we grant in Texas, New Mexico and Oklahoma.

Kate Sutton:

And it was more it was kind of just a support group. What are we going through what are what struggles are we having, etc. And they just loved it and everybody felt like it was really just what they needed to help them get through all the changes that they were going through.

Ashley Harper:

So this is definitely putting you on the spot, but as far as values based grantmaking, what what are some of the values you feel that kind of prompted the staff to to move toward?

Ashley Harper:

What can we do? What what are some other avenues we have for our applicants?

Kate Sutton:

Yeah. Well, you know, we truly believe that our grantees are our grant partners. We can't do what we do without them. It has always been our goal to not throw obstacles in their way and to help them to be the best that they can be.

Ashley Harper:

I think that's that's an excellent value statement. Grantees are our partners, and we're working with them, not not trying to throw up obstacles.

Ashley Harper:

That's great.

Susan Miller:

We have a Tobi with the Philanthropy Network, Greater Philadelphia, maybe discuss this a little bit further, some really wonderful values in here. I'm curious how you apply these values to your Grant-making process. On our website, and I think it's a I think it's a great discussion to to engage in something that our board has done, but also our larger community here.

Tobi:

We've had a lot of conversation and I'm sure many of you have as well around diversity, equity and inclusion for our grantmaking, for our grantees, for our boards. And that's been really been a very strong movement within the county and the county's nonprofit organizations to move the needle. You know, based on our value of promoting diversity and fostering that, we felt we wanted to help our nonprofits so we were working with a number of organizations to to come up with a a roadmap to engage in this conversation.

Tobi:

And kind of level the playing field. Because as many of you probably know, you have large organizations who are supported by maybe national umbrella organizations were a lot of it's being fed to them in ways that they can implement on the local level. But then there are a lot of smaller organizations that just don't have the capacity to do it.

Tobi:

So we're trying to figure out how we can bring some of those initiatives to the local community and move the needle when it comes to diversity. Equity and inclusion. And it's not necessarily to to shame anybody because I think everybody's trying to work hard on on and trying to be better when it comes to to diversity and define it for themselves, what diversity means.

Tobi:

But at the same time, we also want to make them aware that this is an ongoing conversation and the conversation that's here to stay. So the sooner they can kind of wrap their minds around this, we won't be the only ones asking for it. But larger organization will do as well. So if they want to engage in this, it's a good time to start at least thinking about it and engage with us.

Tobi:

And in establishing a more solid foundation. What was it, just the past kind of year, the climate that prompted some some changes? I think that had a lot to do with it. I think the conversation has been around for for some time. You look at the demographics of our county. You're looking at about 80, I think it's like 80 to 83% that are there are whites, you know, minority populations or more towards one end of the county than another.

Tobi:

So there's always been some discussion around how we can better serve our populations. And I think that last year, year and a half as well as COVID, I think has has just brought this more to the forefront and really reminded organizations that we can't just wait for this to happen naturally. We really need to push. So we're trying to do our part to fund some initiatives, to be part of initiatives and also include some of that in our kind grand practices.

Ashley Harper:

Thank you, Toby. Both Kate and Toby have already kind of talked about here some of the things we've changed based on our values. We're now asking different type of Thought-Provoking questions. We're now offering what else does this look like? Not not only the change if because we haven't all made changes, what about the just the practice of review how does this look?

Beth:

I'm Beth. I'm with the Sisters of Saint Joseph Health and Wellness Foundation, and we serve in West Virginia. We're part of the larger network of the congregation of Saint Joseph that one of their primary care isms or values is shifting from institutionalized power. And privilege to a culture of inclusivity and mutuality. And so typically, when we think of that, we think of racial justice issues, issues of income inequality, things of that nature.

Beth:

But as a foundation, you know, we really took stock this year of what role does philanthropy play in that culture of power and privilege. And certainly historically, it's really had a huge role in power. And so we looked at how we could shift and really embrace that value of inclusivity and mutuality. And coming from a nonprofit background of being the person who was begging for Grant funds.

Beth:

I also knew on a really tangible level how kind of screwed up our our funding priorities were and not even like what we fund. We didn't really focus on that, but we focused on how we fund. And so we did a series of listening sessions across the state and, you know, our foundation has long kind of valued this relationship based approach to grantmaking.

Beth:

And that was really kind of laid out for me when I started. But we wanted to look at how our practices really enhanced that idea again of inclusivity. And so starting next spring, where we're eliminating applications altogether. We're going to be doing a conversation based approach to grantmaking, and we're really embracing the values behind trust based philanthropy. And we've been blessed with some really great examples of that across our country and been meeting with them, had them present to our board so that they can kind of get on board and understand what it means to be a trust based philanthropist.

Beth:

And we're also looking at more multi-year funding, unrestricted funding. Looking at, you know, if we have extra funds available in certain lines, do we just let those go over into the next year or do we try and spend those on maybe a priority area? So this year, we focused on spending those on minority equity health equity grants. But yeah, I think it's it's a process and it takes some getting used to in in really trusting our grantees.

Beth:

But without it, we're not really walking the values that we have said that we are. So what about for for some of you who've been through this kind of of change based on values, values based grantmaking. How do you prepare? I mean, what are some other things that that spurred this or helped you prepare to make changes? This happened after we were already talking about plans.

Lucy Rosenthal:

But the Fix the Form program that you guys hosted a couple of weeks ago was so great. Because it you know, you guys did the work for us, I guess, as far as collecting data from grantees. And so we did some of that on like a smaller scale with our listening sessions across the state. But you guys did it.

Beth:

I think there were 500 grantees or something like that, but filled out that so yeah, with Grant Advisor and yeah, we just hosted we certainly found it. While we may encourage some of those practices, we didn't, we didn't do the work either, so. Okay. Oh yeah. That was really helpful though.

Susan Miller:

Yeah. And I will say there is, you know, that that was carried out aside from grant advisor dot org, but she has definitely inspired some movement within Foundant that, you know, for our own practices, you know, we're taking a deeper look at what are the things that we could do knowing that we are a leader in many ways for how you know, to advise on

Susan Miller:

best practices in some ways what are ways that we can and fix our own forms in a way. So grantadvisor. org. I would highly recommend checking that out.

Susan Miller:

So I'm going to go ahead and call on Anissa here.

Anissa:

Yeah. I just wanted to follow up for us. Well, one, the fix, the form was very helpful and dovetailed into a lot of the listening sessions that we've been doing and our program directors in relooking at grant programs have been bringing together teams of the community members within their programs to get more feedback about how our grant programs run.

Anissa:

You know, looking at people from a cross-section of sizes of organizations making sure there's a lot of people at the table to be advisors and to really pick apart like the process of applying for the grant and barriers that other people might see that we're, as our state arts agency might not be aware of about accessibility about access to computers.

Anissa:

You know, how difficult it is to view online downloading PDFs, just having a lot of people at the table so to sort of share their own experiences has been really informative. And we're using that information to shape our grant programs and think about what the applications will look like. So we're in the middle of that process, but it's been really helpful.

Anissa:

So how we can tweak things right now and then we'll be making bigger changes along the way. But I think the community input from people who are really applying is very helpful, informative.

Ashley Harper:

We have Kate and Toby here. So, Kate, if you would like to take the floor again. Sure. I just kind of want to tag on to what Beth and Anita were saying about the six the four webinar a couple of weeks ago.

Kate Sutton:

That's what I was referring to. And I that was just fantastic. And quite EYE-OPENING, really. But going back to how do we prepare for these changes? I'm not sure that this really addresses that question, but we have done a lot of work over the last couple of years prior to COVID, really on outcomes we know that a lot of larger grant makers are requesting want to know about the outcomes and goals and outcomes.

Kate Sutton:

And so we we personally did a lot of work in that direction. And so in we felt like it was something that we could encourage or should encourage our grant partners to do. And that's when I said we went overboard on the application. We ask a lot of those questions about outcomes, goals, etc. And when I say we went overboard, it was true.

Kate Sutton:

It was from the six, the form webinar that made me think about that. But prior to that I have had a couple of conversations. So we we, we funded Texas and New Mexico and Oklahoma, and our board heads, it wants us to get out of the larger cities and into these into the more rural areas, which is fantastic.

Kate Sutton:

But those non-profits oftentimes are in church or just a small volunteer run food pantry, something like that, and they don't have the staff to fill out the applications much less Internet, stable Internet connections, all of those things. So that all those are that's making us rethink all of our application, our work towards the goal setting. But we still feel like that's important, but maybe for smaller organizations like others have said that they just don't have the staff to do this.

Kate Sutton:

And so that's where we're at right now. It's really starting to to look at do we have different standards for different grantees or how how does that work? Yeah, really meeting people where they're at, that's great.

Tobi:

Thing. Just jump in real quick because I think Kate makes a great point when it comes to the the size of organization, organization and capabilities, because that's one of the issues that we're facing, know dealing with a lot of smaller organizations that just don't have the capacity time.

Tobi:

And we certainly don't want to be in the business of putting up barriers to access to to to our grans. So that takes me back to when we talked about building relationships with with your grantees. I think it's it's it's so crucial to to build relationships, especially as we as we go forward and and try to change our processes or considering different grantmaking programs to learn from others, you know, obviously try to avoid the mistakes that others have, you know, have endured you know, certainly the founding communities is always a good resource with also like the local communities for us, the greater Philadelphia Philanthropy Network has been has been really a goldmine in terms of connections

Tobi:

and trying to learn from others of what they've done and what worked and what didn't work. So that we didn't necessarily have to be the pioneers. And for that, you know, our foundation is just too small to to be able to to do that. And the other thing you mentioned video tutorials. It's something that we were contemplating to us to do video tutorials for our applications on how to best complete them and tackle them.

Tobi:

We're not quite in a position where we can offer or scale. It's based on the size of the organization applying, you know, small amounts. They have less requirements versus larger ones. But if we feel that the visual piece might be a nice addition to kind of walk them through the application and prompt them to, you know, this is where you want to encode information about this.

Tobi:

Your program or your initiative or how to complete the budget in a way that it's it's it's not a burden. But also, you know, we can kind of email to make sure that this is a sound investment on our part. So just some some reactions from from what you all said,

Ashley Harper:

the video, I mean, those are that speaks to values of accessibility, transparency, the video tutorials, allowing applicants to upload videos.

Ashley Harper:

Certainly making your processes and your forms more accessible with those types of tutorials. Hopefully something we've all learned we can do this past year. I just wanted to add in addition to during the grant process is echoing what people said. We had a lot of one on one and open sessions where the grantees can get help during the application process so that we try to make that more accessible.

Beth:

But then I just wanted to add, as a start, a state arts agency, we personally don't review or make any of the funding decisions. We actually bring an outside panel that changes to review the application. So we have to go through a training process with all these panelists and we try to make the panel as diverse as possible.

Beth:

But one of the things that we make sure that's part of that training process is that we remind the panelists that when they are judging the applications that they need to make sure that the applications followed that they needed to answer questions, but they need to be reminded that the panelists or the applications cannot be negatively impacted if there's typos or errors or grammatical problems with the application because that doesn't make a good or bad application.

Beth:

It's whether they've provided the information in some form to the application and that not to judge them negatively.

Ashley Harper:

Yeah, that's an excellent point. Training of your external committee. That's it. Not just once, but continually That's that's really important. What are other things that people have done based on the values of your your organization that have prompted changes or some things you're thinking about doing something you could do?

Susan Miller:

Now, I can tell you one thing everybody could do now is to walk through their their forms as an applicant, to try and really, you know, come at something with that applicant lens just to see how easy is this. Do these questions make sense? Is it necessary that we cut off response times that are response limits, you know, that we make them a certain character limit?

Susan Miller:

Really putting that applicant lens on your forms is something anybody can do.

Julia:

My name is Julia. I work at the Arts Council of Fort Worth, and we are also really interested in diversity, equity and inclusion right now and trying to figure out, you know, we provide funding to arts groups, but we feel like diversity, equity and inclusion is something that touches all facets of culture and should really be worked into arts across the sector.

Julia:

So we're trying to figure out what we can do as a leader in Fort Worth to help encourage our grantees to take DTI more seriously and also provide them with tools to really address it, because we also have a really wide array of sizes when it comes to groups. We have some really large budget organizations and then some really teeny ones.

Julia:

And so we also have been trying to think about application questions that will get people thinking about plans related to the ENI eventually, I think we do want to try and tie metrics to those questions. We have a an evaluation criteria called Impact which is kind of like, are you serving all of Fort Worth? Who is your audience?

Julia:

And so I think we're we are considering asking our panelists to actually look at demographic data that they've been providing for years and kind of look at the plans that they have in place. In relation to DTI and use it as as one of the factors they're using to evaluate that impact criteria point, like I just mentioned, we've been collecting demographic data, racial demographic data on the board, the audience and the staff of our groups.

Julia:

And for years we've been telling them, you need to diversify, we need to see your across all of these areas. We need to see more of a representation of the racial demographics of Fort Worth because a lot of the groups are overwhelmingly white and we have a very racially diverse city. And so we're trying to figure out how to push them to really do that.

Julia:

And so, like I said, I think we're going to encourage panelists to consider that criteria. I think we are also going to try and set some long term goals for them to move the needle since we've been collecting that data for so long and continue to do so. And I think we're trying to figure out right now how to ask them to be making progress on a regular basis.

Julia:

You know, can we say over the course of three years or five years, we need to see you making forward movement, getting your racial demographics closer aligned to those of the city by, you know, 2035? Can we have ten percentage points of that racial demographic breakdown? We haven't implemented those things, but those are things where we're thinking about we've been collecting the demographic data and encouraging diversification, but we're trying to figure out how to tie actual metrics to it because although we've been telling them that we haven't really been seeing as much movement as we want to see, and along with that, we also want to provide them with tools to actually do it.

Julia:

But this year we're thinking we want to do capacity building directly in relation to diversity, equity and inclusion. So providing funding to groups for, you know, perhaps bringing on a consultant to help develop a strategic plan or do an all staff training on implicit bias at their organization or, you know, any, any number of projects just to help actually provide them with funding to reach some of some of those goals and push the needle.

Julia:

So I don't know if anyone else is working on projects like this and trying to tie metrics to diversity, equity, inclusion. I found it very challenging and we want to make sure that we're providing funding educational resources. We're also looking at bringing in a DTI consultant like we will hire her and she'll provide workshops, a series of workshops to our grantees over Zoom.

Julia:

So we want to give them funding, we want to give them education, but we also want to see results and so yeah, we're trying to figure out how to measure those results currently and the values of diversity, equity and inclusion.

Ashley Harper:

There's, there's definitely conversation to in Compass in our community website people. I know people have shared some resources that it's another place for you to check out.

Ashley Harper:

Julia, if you haven't

Julia:

Wonderful. Thank you. I'll definitely take a look.

Susan Miller:

I'm curious, this is Susan again. I'm curious. Are there other organizations that have found success in collecting those metrics or moving that needle?

Ashley Harper:

Okay. Kayla, you can go ahead and answer Susan's question here.

Kayla:

Hi, I'm Kayla. I'm calling from that Coastal Community Foundation in South Carolina. And it was interesting to hear Julia's thoughts.

Kayla:

We're kind of in the same boat except closer to the start we just started asking for demographic information and are definitely struggling with how we measure that in a way that doesn't make it more difficult for nonprofits or doesn't kind of cause issues there. But one thing that we found that was really interesting is we added in some diversity equity inclusion questions to our applications last year.

Kayla:

And we're surprised to see some of the groups that we would consider incredibly inclusive and very close to the community really struggled with those questions. And I think part of what we found is that language was actually a little bit of a barrier for some of them. You know, they might be very close to their community and very tied into things and very inclusive, but they didn't have that framework and really struggled to answer that question.

Kayla:

So one of the things we added to our criteria for our community panelists to consider was rather than framing it as DGA, I explicitly reframed it more as proximity to community and responsiveness to community needs and put in some of the kind of DIY language into the build out. We have a rubric that we share with things they can consider for this criteria, questions.

Kayla:

They can look at things like that and kind of formalize the language a little bit. Since we just found that was kind of difficult for folks to get through in some cases. And that we've we've seen some success with. And it's it's only it's almost the opposite of the metrics. I mean, we certainly want to get to a place where we can have those more number based, more, more tangible criteria.

Kayla:

But we kind of felt like we needed to build a foundation first, both with our nonprofits of kind of what are we asking, what these questions and what kinds of things that you're already doing can you lift up to help the committee understand where you are on this but also some training for our committee members to help them understand what we're looking for, to understand that a nonprofit does not need to be an expert in the eye.

Kayla:

We're not expecting I mean, we're certainly not experts, so we're certainly not expecting our nonprofits to be at an expert level. But we're really looking to see is have they started these conversations? Are they working with their board on how they can be more strategic with the eye or how they can move in that direction? So it's interesting.

Kayla:

We added those questions in and kind of felt like we almost needed to to just set up a framework or a foundation to help folks understand what we're looking for. I think somebody mentioned earlier, you know, providing explanation of why we're asking things. So I think that build up has been really crucial to us. And we'll definitely be excited to hear how other folks have found ways to measure or have kind of some more tangible metrics because that's certainly something we've struggled with as well.

Susan Miller:

Thank you, Kayla. And I definitely want to encourage everyone to continue this and other conversations in Compass. We've really over the last year since we introduced Compass, had a lot of success with, you know, facilitating conversations or fostering, I should say, among peers. So please do continue to to chime in over there. So thank you again, everybody. Thank you, everyone, for chiming in.

Susan Miller:

It's great for us to learn from you. As well. We we bring these conversations back to our teams and we appreciate your input.

Lucy Rosenthal:

Want to join the conversation? Subscribe to Connected Philanthropy New episodes are released every other Monday. Want to talk to other like minded people in the philanthropic community? Join us. A community.foundant.com