Trust-Based Philanthropy: A Conversation with Shaady Salehi and Philip Li

hawkins@growyourgiving.org Corporate Charitable Giving, Individual & Family Giving

On the latest episode of the Grow Your Giving podcast, Gwen Wurst, Senior Philanthropic Advisor, sits down with Shaady Salehi and Philip Li to discuss the Trust-Based Philanthropy Project and how individual donors can implement this practice in their charitable giving.

The Trust-Based Philanthropy Project is an initiative working to address the power imbalance found in philanthropy between funders or donors and the nonprofits they support. There are six key principles imperative to trust-based philanthropy:

  1. Provide Multi-Year, Unrestricted Funding
  2. Do the Homework
  3. Simplify and Streamline Paperwork
  4. Be Transparent and Responsive
  5. Solicit and Act on Feedback
  6. Offer Support Beyond the Check

If you’re interested in learning more about implementing a trust-based approach in your charitable giving, contact us at info@growyourgiving.org.

Listen to Gwen, Shaady and Philip’s conversation online, in the iTunes store and on Google Play Music. Find a full transcription of the podcast episode below.

All episodes of the Grow Your Giving podcast can be found at growyourgiving.org/podcast.

Are you interested in sharing your giving story on the Grow Your Giving podcast? Contact us at info@growyourgiving.org.

Authored by: Ashley Hawkins, Content Specialist


Episode Transcription

Introduction:
Welcome to the Grow Your Giving podcast, powered by the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation and our national entity, Greater Horizons. We aim to make giving convenient and efficient for our donors through donor-advised funds and other charitable giving tools. The Grow Your Giving podcast discusses philanthropic topics to help you enjoy giving more. Find us online at growyourgiving.org.

Gwen Wurst:
Hello, my name is Gwen Wurst. I’m a senior philanthropic advisor at the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation and Greater Horizons. We are delighted that you’re joining us here today to hear about Trust-Based Philanthropy Project. In a note, today’s episode of the Grow Your Giving podcast is being recorded remotely, so we’re not all in the same room, but we’re delighted that you’re here listening.

Gwen Wurst:
Joining me today is Shaady Salehi, from the Trust-Based Philanthropy Project. She is the director of the project and she is a social impact leader who helps funders and nonprofits clarify their story to realize their vision. Also joining us today is Philip Li, president and CEO of the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation, a private foundation dedicated to helping create and sustain a vibrant New York City. He also serves on the board of the Trust-Based Philanthropy Project and has been engaged in multiple roles in the nonprofit sector for over 20 years. So welcome, Shaady and Philip.

Shaady Salehi:
Thank you.

Philip Li:
Thank you.

Gwen Wurst:
Shaady and Philip recently joined us for a virtual donor education event about the project, and we’re delighted that they were willing to join us to continue the conversation on today’s podcast. Before we get started, I want to offer a little framing for the conversation. We’ve heard many questions over the years about how donors can best align their personal values with their philanthropy. And recently we’ve had an increase in inquiries about how donors can best respond to the needs arising from the COVID-19 crisis, especially when they may not know the agencies that are doing the work that they want to support. Given these inquiries, we thought this would be a great time to invite the leaders of the Trust-Based Philanthropy Project to share their perspective on how philanthropy’s engagement with nonprofit organizations and how individual donors can learn from institutional donors. To move forward, Shaady, would you please start us by telling us a little bit more about the Trust-Based Philanthropy Project, the history, the founders, and your rationale?

Shaady Salehi:
Yeah, happy to and thank you for having us today. The Trust-Based Philanthropy Project grew out of a realization that a lot of traditional practices in philanthropy perpetuate an imbalanced power dynamic between funders and nonprofit leaders. The actual origins of the whole naming of the Trust-Based Philanthropy Project came directly from a set of grantee partners that were surveyed by the Whitman Institute, a foundation in San Francisco, about 10 years ago. And when that foundation decided to spend out its funds, before they really formally announced they decided to survey grantee partners to get a sense of what did the grantees think they should do with their remaining funds.

Shaady Salehi:
And in that survey, there were two big themes that emerged. One was the tremendous value that grantee partners placed on the trust that they felt from their funder and also a resounding and almost unanimous request asking that foundation to spend its remaining time advocating for how it funded. And so that was the origins of the whole notion and the naming of Trust-Based Philanthropy. From there, the Whitman Institute named this approach and began advocating on their own for this practice. In that time, they were drawn to other like-minded funders and that’s when colleagues from the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation and the Headwaters Foundation and a number of other foundations really began to take note.

Shaady Salehi:
And there was a real enthusiasm among the leaders of these foundations to undo a lot of the damage really that, institutional philanthropy in particular, has done for the nonprofit sector in placing an inordinate amount of restrictions on nonprofits to receive funding, making nonprofits go through a million different hoops and twisting themselves into pretzels to receive money and receive funds to actually do the work. So at the core of this, this is a recognition that nonprofit leaders have a lot of expertise, have a lot of wisdom, and have a lot of offer and oftentimes our traditional philanthropic practices actually counter the potential and the power that nonprofit leaders can bring to the sector. So it’s a recognition that this is a partnership, that we all bring different values to the table and to achieve goals that nonprofits are out there in pursuit of, that we need to approach these relationships from a place of trust, that nonprofit leaders have the expertise to do that good work, and to reduce the barriers to doing that good work.

Shaady Salehi:
And so now, we have formed a five year initiative that we launched in January 2020. We’ll be around through the end of 2024, really with this vision of contributing to a culture change in the sector, so that we can approach this work from a place of trust, from a place that prioritizes relationship building and recognizing that the work that funders and nonprofits do together is a partnership. It should not be a transaction, it should really be about working together toward those shared goals, and respecting the expertise of all the players involved.

Gwen Wurst:
Thank you. Philip would you please share how you became involved with the project and how the projects’ goals align with your personal and professional philanthropy?

Philip Li:
Sure. It’s so nice to be with everybody today. Probably a little context would be helpful. So I have spent my career in a number of different places and two of them in particular probably are most important for today’s conversation. But the first half of my career, I spent in finance and on Wall Street, and that informs a lot of the lens that I bring to the work. As I was working at a bank making loans and later at Moody’s rating bonds of companies, we really took a holistic look at organizations looking at the management teams, the strategies, the resources that they had, and our belief in whether they could accomplish what they were saying they were working to do. And I think that really that lens in terms of looking at entities as a whole, is something that’s been really important for me as we look at organizations now that I’m on the grant-making side of the house.

Philip Li:
The second part that informs it is after I left Wall Street and jumped across the transom as I say, to the nonprofit sector, I led a nonprofit here in the city and was a grant seeker and it was sitting in those shoes that I got to witness and really experience what it meant to apply for grants, to work with foundations, and as Shaady had mentioned, go through the hoops or the obstacles, the myriad of questions, templates of budgets and all these different explanations that needed to happen. And often got turned down, but happily sometimes got yeses as well. But I think those two kind of seemingly very different experiences, shaped the way I look at the world and four years ago I had the privilege of coming to the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation and if you know Singer sewing machines, you know where the resources of our foundation come from.

Philip Li:
But, it was a change to put in place some of those ideas in terms of looking at how we might be able to do grantmaking in a different way and was really taken with this notion of what does it mean to engage with grantee partners and what, for me would really be a different way, but doing multi-year unrestricted funding, really letting them make the decisions. If we really believe in the team and the leadership and the vision that have or what they’re trying to do, let’s let them do that work and make the call on how to deploy the resources for the organization and how to move forward. And thinking about streamlining processes from my own experience was really core to understanding that. It really came to my attention about 90% of all the applications are exactly asking the same thing but just in slightly different ways, with different character counts, with different things that they were asking but really in the end same thing and so why not take the information that you are getting and really incorporating and weaving it into that work.

Philip Li:
And so we set about at the foundation starting how we would do that work, someone said “You should talk to the Whitman Institute.” And I just sat there unknowingly saying “I don’t know them or their work.” And it was said, “They’re doing what I think you want to do and they call it trust-based philanthropy.” And it was from that moment that I had an opportunity to reach out to John Esterle and Pia Infante, the co-directors of the Whitman Institute and had a conversation with them and really had a chance to learn more about what they were doing and in many ways they had codified a series of principles that were far more broad and deeper than I had even been thinking about, or we had been thinking about at the foundation.

Philip Li:
So after coming back to our board, we asked if we could use the name Trust-Based Philanthropy in our work and in doing so, we got dubbed the first follower which is a badge we carry very proudly in terms of doing that work. And so we have engaged in this work for the last four years since I’ve been here and are happy to carry that energy forward.

Gwen Wurst:
That’s great. So how have you seen and how have you enacted that energy and started those practices? How have you seen them transform any of the communities that the agencies Robert Sterling Clark Foundation supports?

Philip Li:
In terms of the ways that communities have been transformed, one I’ll start with is actually the one in which I work the Robert Sterling Clark. If I look at our work, I think many people when they about trust-based philanthropy or the idea behind it, it’s really about the grantmaking itself and I don’t think that that can happen in isolation, so it’s really kind of, if you will, an ecosystem and it’s the way that our board works with us and the way that we work with one another as a team, the way that we work with other colleagues in the field and then ultimately the way that we work with our grantees.

Philip Li:
And I think the whole notion of trust in terms of that work, and so even the idea of using a trust-based approach and talking to our board really got endorsed in terms of a belief that here is this idea and we don’t think those are going to take this off a cliff if you will, but also the fact that some of them had served on the boards of nonprofits themselves and had some experience in terms of understanding some of the opportunities and ways that we could do the work differently when offer our colleagues in that way. And I think just that notion of what trust looks like across our own organization in terms of being grantmaking and the work.

Philip Li:
The second one would be one of our grantees was really interested in taking first-generation college students and opening the door into the world of technology and as they were exploring what that would like, the natural inclination was to go to developing a coding program or making the opportunity to become coders for the field, and I think what they discovered as they talked to a lot of the students who were there, they were interested in technology, but not necessarily in that part of that work. And so as they took the direct experience and learned experience from the folks that they were trying to work with, they realized that there might be other doors or avenues to do that work.

Philip Li:
And they came upon digital marketing as a way, and a point of entry for these young people to be part of that whole movement. And what happened was the creation of a program that really helped folks become much more fluent in terms of looking at, and using marketing tools that they used, but applying it to a digital context, looking at data analytics and other components of that work. And so a field that was largely white, 95% white, is now really changing its complexion, if you will, and becoming much more diverse.

Philip Li:
And so, when you have as a whole new generation of young people who might not have had normal access to become part of IT and that whole world have entered, and it’s really largely having an organization to listen to the constituents in which it was working to serve, and do a little bit of a pivot or a little bit of a turn to develop a program that was complimentary, but not the one that they originally envisioned, but one that has been really, really powerful and transformative for the participants.

Gwen Wurst:
Wow! So I assume that must mean the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation supported that type of pivot for that organization. Was that through general operating support or was that something specific that you helped them with?

Philip Li:
So all of our grants are multi-year unrestricted funding, and what we do is really say, “We believe in the work that you’re doing and the team that you have in play and the vision that you’re casting forward.” And I think that kind of belief in the team and the work that they’re trying to accomplish allows them to go forward with the initial idea, but then when things start changing or they get additional information or data that says that, “Hey, we may want to pivot or try something differently,” they have the opportunity to go ahead and do that. And they can do that without having to come for our approval or any of that sense.

Philip Li:
And so what they did is as they learned more and more about what the needs were, what the desires were, they were able to respond and go ahead and do that and they did. And so it was a wonderful way to say, “We trust that you will do what you need to do to make this happen, and you don’t need to come to us each and every time that there’s a change or some adaptation that you want to make to what the original grant was. And for us, There isn’t anything that needs to change since it’s all unrestricted.”

Gwen Wurst:
Oh, that’s great. Congratulations! It’s also a great segue into talking about the principles that the project promotes. My understanding is that there are six key principles. We’re going to focus on three today. Shaady, do you want to just quickly list out the six and then we can highlight each one of the three that we’re going to focus on and giving examples between the three of us?

Shaady Salehi:
Yeah, happy to. So we’ve already heard some bits of our principles from what Phil has been explaining. We start with multi-year unrestricted funding, followed by doing the homework. So putting the onus of due diligence on the funder rather than the grant seeker, simplifying and streamlining paperwork is a third principle, followed by being transparent and responsive, as well as soliciting and acting on feedback and finally offering support beyond the checks. So we understand these practices as embodiments of a trust-based approach, all with the umbrella understanding that this is driven by values that are grounded in equity, in transparency, humility, and collaboration, ultimately. So recognizing that this is all really a partner-driven effort, and those principles are a way of putting those values into practice.

Gwen Wurst:
Right. Well, let’s start with the first one: multi-year unrestricted funding. Could you talk a little bit about what that means, Shaady?

Shaady Salehi:
Yeah, so traditionally, a lot of nonprofit grants are often project restricted, meaning that the funds must be used for a specific project that is articulated prior to receiving the grant money. And oftentimes those project restricted grants are limited to a short term. So maybe 12 months, maybe 18 months. So multi-year unrestricted funding recognizes that, first of all, the work of nonprofit leaders or work of nonprofits often can’t be contained within a 12-month time period. Many organizations are working on really deep, systemic issues like poverty, hunger, range of many issues that are not going to be solved in a 12-month time period.

Shaady Salehi:
So, for that work to be able to happen successfully, not only does it require multi-year commitments, so that nonprofits can be freed up from the burden of having to seek extra money every year, but also that it’d be unrestricted because that recognizes that the work of nonprofits is dynamic, right? It doesn’t always go according to plan. As we’ve seen in recent times, even despite our best-laid plans, you can always be thrown a wrench, and we need the ability to be able to pivot and be responsive when change is happening. And that there’s no exception for nonprofits. I mean, oftentimes nonprofits are working in issues that are quite dynamic and require responsiveness to emergent needs.

Shaady Salehi:
So ultimately, multi-year unrestricted funding recognizes that this work is messy, that it’s not predictable and that it is longterm. So why not recognize that with the way that we give and support of that work.

Gwen Wurst:
Sure. Well, and Philip, you talked a little bit about the power of an unrestricted grant in your example, but how have you all shifted for multi-year or has that been a shift in the last four years?

Philip Li:
When we came in, the multi-year component was really one of the founding principles that we wanted to put forward. And I think part of it is really this true understanding, and Shaady mentioned it, that things are not necessarily as conveniently capsulized in a single year or defined timeframe that things and projects can take many years to unfold, if not a lifetime. But I think one of the things, the multi-year aspect of this work really does is gives organizations understanding that there’s stability, if you will, in some of the funding and support and that we are in it for the long haul to be with them and to be partners with them.

Philip Li:
And really that there’s a belief that “we believe in you and your team” as I had mentioned before, but I think it goes organization’s flexibility to experiment and to take some risks and not worry about jeopardizing funding, but really to think about how they can be responsive to community in different ways and really go out and try that. And so I think the multi-year aspect along with the unrestricted really gave the latitude and a real strong belief that we want to empower, and we want to really believe that our grantee partners really know what’s best and invites them to go forward and do that work.

Gwen Wurst:
So this seems to be the principle that’s the easiest for an individual donor to embrace. If you’re engaged with the nonprofit, you’re excited about the work that they’re doing and making that commitment over three years, for exactly the same ways that you outlined why an institutional donor would do that, to have an individual make a commitment over multiple years for unrestricted funding, I think would be a very powerful gift, but also transformative in that relationship and that nonprofit knowing and understanding that basically got their back for the next three years.

Gwen Wurst:
And it’s still that nonprofit’s responsibility and that donor’s responsibility, if I’m hearing you right, to keep the conversation going. It doesn’t mean that you don’t hear from them again in three years. But that conversation and that acceptance of what’s happening and that trusted conversation continues, is that right for institutional giving that you’re doing Philip?

Philip Li:
For sure. It’s not like, “Here’s your check and good luck come wave back to us at the end,” but we actually, I think one of the wonderful opportunities is that the multi-year unrestricted funding offers is a chance to engage in different ways, right? We can be counseled, we can be thought partners, we can hear from our grantee partners in different ways as we go along. One thing that we actually do as part of our process, part of our trust-based processes that we do something called a CHAT, which is an acronym for check-in analysis tool, which is actually a verbal reporting system and it’s really part of the way that we engage with our grantee partners.

Philip Li:
And so part of it’s alleviating some of the reporting responsibility as it shifts some of that responsibility back to us. But the other part is really to this being in communication in a more regular way and just talk through what’s happening and learning from them as we go along.

Gwen Wurst:
Fantastic. Alright. Well, let’s move on to the next principle. Shaady, you want to talk a little bit about transparency and responsiveness?

Shaady Salehi:
Yeah. So being transparent and responsive is actually one of the ways of modeling a trust-based relationship. So as a funder, if you want your grantee partners to be transparent with you, then oftentimes that begins with being transparent with them and setting that context, because we can’t deny just the inherent power dynamic that exists when you’ve got someone who has the resources and someone who needs the resources to do the work.

Shaady Salehi:
So often funders really have a lot of power in setting that context from the get-go. So modeling transparency, being very honest about where the money is coming from, what your motivations are, things like that can really go a long way and setting that tone, and Phil was modeling that from the beginning, just sharing where Robert Sterling Clark Foundation’s resources originated from. Really kind of starting from some of those basic points can create the grounds for a mutually accountable relationship.

Shaady Salehi:
And being responsive really means you know, sometimes as simple as picking up the phone when someone calls or replying to an email within a day or two of receiving it. Nonprofits are under a lot of pressure and a lot of pressure to keep money coming in and keeping staff on payroll and keeping really challenging projects afloat.

Shaady Salehi:
So every day nonprofit leaders are really working hard and doing what they can to maintain those funder relationships. So if a nonprofit emails you, and doesn’t get a response in a few days, that can be like five days of intense anxiety for that nonprofit leader and that doesn’t do much to set the tone for trusting and reciprocal relationships. So there are many ways of being transparent and responsive, but I would say the core of this is really recognizing the tone that we set as donors and funders and how we can really build a reciprocal relationship that can carry forth across that multi-year funding relationship.

Gwen Wurst:
Thanks. Well, so Philip, how do you do that at the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation?

Philip Li:
It’s a good question. [Laughing]

Gwen Wurst:
Besides telling us where the money comes from, we know that.

Philip Li:
There are a number of ways that that can happen. I think being clear about what you fund and what you don’t fund is actually a gift. In some ways, it says, “Oh my goodness, it’s so restrictive.” But the reality is that you’re sick of milling and you’re letting potential grant seekers know exactly what it is that you like to do or you are typically funding in your work. And so those kinds of signals, or like if you’re in a grantee relationship and it’s likely to end at the next renewal or something like that, giving advance notice so that it’s not a surprise.

Philip Li:
So that kind of clarity is sometimes hard, but I think it’s respective in the fact that you were willing to go there and let people know what you were thinking and giving them the heads up, if you will, that things might be changing. I think the other part of it is, we can say everything that we want, but I think in our world at least at the foundation, we have been wrestling with this notion of vulnerability and trust. And I think many people would assert that once you have trusted somebody, that you are going to be willing to share some of your kind of words, if you will.

Philip Li:
But we think that actually happens the other way by being vulnerable and just showing that we don’t know it all and it’s coming really from a place of humility that you actually earn trust. Like being able to share where you may not know all the answers, or you’re not really sure how things are going to play out. It helps I think build credibility in a way and that honesty, I think goes a long way in terms of building trust. And I think that extends an invitation to our grantees to also open up and share ideas and things that they’re concerned with or thinking about or even excited about. So I think there are many ways that this can unfold, but I think that’s one of the best ways.

Gwen Wurst:
Could you tell me, I’m thinking about this from an individual perspective. So if I imagine myself as a person with a donor-advised fund and I’ve made a commitment to an organization, I’ve given multi-year funding and maybe something changes. Something changes in my life much like maybe there would be a change in the foundation. There’s the health crisis, or something comes up and I want to pivot, and I want to give some of the dollars that I previously gave to that organization to another organization. How do those conversations happen for your foundation if you decide to step away from a grantee for a while, or if something pivots a bit, how are you handling this?

Philip Li:
I think as awkward as it is and how is uncomfortable as those conversations are, I think my own inclination and maybe many others is like, “Oh, maybe we can just not say anything or maybe we can just walk away.” And I think trust-based really invites us to think differently. So like, let’s meet this head-on and let’s explain what is going on.

Philip Li:
Like how things have changed and what is happening in either my life, my organization’s life or whatever it is that is impacting our ability to continue the partnership and continue supporting the organization and then really trying that explanation and showing empathy if you will, but explaining where you’re coming from. It’s still hard news and bad news, but I think it makes it come in a different way and I think maybe it’s more disappointment but have a better understanding of how priorities have shifted.

Gwen Wurst:
Alright. Well, let’s move on to the third principle, which is support beyond the check. So Shaady, can you talk a little bit about how the project defines that and what it might look like?

Shaady Salehi:
Yeah, so the rationale behind offering support beyond the check is really just a recognition that donors bring a lot more access to the table in addition to monetary support. So often donors and funders have access to other potential funders, have expertise in certain areas that nonprofits can benefit from and have the ability to kind of provide a lot of other non-monetary support that can really help foster healthier organizations. So it’s a recognition that there’s a lot more than money that donors can bring to the table that can be quite supportive. And we see this a lot with a lot of individual donors. You may get really involved in volunteerism.

Shaady Salehi:
You might sit on the boards of some of the nonprofits that you support. So that’s something that I think individual donors in particular probably have embodied this in a way that a lot of institutional funders can also learn from. So that’s really the core of it and we’ve seen a lot of different examples of how funders are offering support beyond the check. Some funders will offer optional restorative retreats for grantee partners, and that’s the other thing to remember being careful and how this additional support is offered so that it’s offered in an optional way. It doesn’t feel like the nonprofit has to take on or take it or accept that non-monetary support, but creating those conditions wherein it truly feels optional, and that it’s really intended to meet a nonprofit where they are and what their needs may be.

Gwen Wurst:
Philip, can you give us an example of how you all give beyond the check at the foundation?

Philip Li:
Sure. I think that there’s some ways that we often talk about it and in many others do for sure, right? In terms of often when we find organizations that good work, and sometimes we have colleagues who are curious or interested in learning more about groups. We make introductions to other funders that might have an interest in the work that’s being done and so that’s really an easy peer-to-peer introduction to show in good work and hopefully letting that organization meet some new people who might be interested in funding them.

Philip Li:
I think one of the other things as Shaady was mentioning is we offer retreats, but we also offer a learning community for the program directors of the organizations that we support. So almost all of our organizations from leadership development programs and so putting those folks in community and having a chance to be with one another is something that they value in terms of being able to share ideas, build community, learn from one another in that kind of way.

Philip Li:
I would say interestingly in this moment where there’s so much going on, our executive directors actually came to us as we were trying to understand what was happening and said, “It would actually be nice if there was a way for us to come together.” Being an executive director is often very lonely and there are lots of decisions to work through whether it’s budgeting or staffing or looking at the future and working with boards. And so at their request, we created an optional executive director circle as we’re calling it, that affords them the opportunity to be with peers and have those kinds of conversations. I think the one place that has been most valuable for us as an institution as we have put forward this notion of office hours, where any of our grantee partners can come and request time to talk with us about anything that they want to.

Philip Li:
And most of them do and many of them come multiple times in terms of just talking and sometimes it’s just a check in, sometimes to see how things are going. Sometimes they’re really wrestling with a hard topic or hard decision and could use some counsel. And I think because of the multi-year unrestricted nature of the way that we do our grants, right? We’re in the long haul or with them for the long haul and so there’s that assuredness that this won’t impair potential funding. But it really also invites us to be able to engage in a different way, right?

Philip Li:
We can be a thought partner. We can really draw on our experience and see what we’re hearing and share what we’re hearing from the field with them and they can share what they’re finding and hearing as well. And we can put our heads together and really do that. And it’s really some of the most powerful ways and I think are rewarding on both sides to engage in those conversations because we learn more about the field and our grantee partners really have the opportunity to dig deep on topics that are of interest to them.

Gwen Wurst:
So as I think about from an individual perspective or someone with a donor-advised fund, and being sensitive to what you mentioned Shaady about not being prescriptive and feeling like the assistance beyond the check has to be accepted. Are there other ways that we can engage? And it seems to me that advocacy, if whatever work that you’re in, if there’s something in terms of reaching out to your representatives, or if you have some other type of way to advocate for the work that they’re doing, if there’s any policy issues, that seems like another way that folks could get involved. Are there other ways that you all can think of as individuals could be engaged?

Shaady Salehi:
I would definitely underscore that point about advocacy. In fact, the vast majority of funders that have joined our Trust-Based Philanthropy Project community are really in it because they see that work as an extension of their support beyond the check, and many are actually getting requests from their nonprofit partners to advocate more for the how of this practice. So I can’t stress enough how a range of different kinds of advocacy, whether it’s sector advocacy or issue advocacy or policy advocacy that supports the work of that nonprofit. I think that’s all really, really strong.

Shaady Salehi:
You know, I think also it’s important to recognize that donors and funders have platforms that are more widely heard and have reach to other audiences that nonprofits can really benefit from. So really looking for ways to spotlight the work of nonprofit partners, whether it’s mentioning their work in an op-ed that you might be writing or even looking for ways to spread the word about their work. I mean, Phil was referencing this before but also just making introductions to other donors or other funders really sends that signal that you do care about that nonprofits’ longterm health and recognize that it takes a range of different kinds of support and tools to make sure that work can be successful.

Gwen Wurst:
Thanks. So as we’ve looked at those three principles and I think about the moment we’re in right now and know that we’ve had donors that have called us and said, “Okay, I haven’t given to a shelter or I haven’t supported food access or an organization addressing food access before and I want to.” How would you at the foundation, Philip, how would you address supporting an organization that you haven’t before?

Philip Li:
That’s a great question.

Gwen Wurst:
For whom you didn’t receive an application either.

Philip Li:
So part of it would be really reaching out to folks who may have a better understanding of the topic that is of interest. So let’s talk about the shelter, right? But it would be possibly coming to talking to colleagues in the field who work in that area around housing or support housing and things of that nature. But also coming to the Community Foundation and seeking the expertise and counsel of folks that have been grounded in the community, know it well, and know the organizations that are doing that work right. And that becomes really the foundational element of like, “Okay, now we start understanding who’s there, what’s happening”, and that gives taking advantage of the expertise and the learnings of many others as we venture into this space, that’s new for us. And so that would be the way that I would go to that.

Gwen Wurst:
Thanks. And then, drawing from your experience and your finance background, when you’re doing due diligence on an organization that you’re considering, how do you bring that lens to the grantmaking?

Philip Li:
Certainly looking at finances and understanding how the organization does its work and if it’s equipped with the resources that it needs to do, which work is part of the consideration that we do. I would say it’s a part of a larger frame that as I was talking about earlier, it’s really looking at the leadership, what the organization is trying to do, the teams that are in place, and if we believe they can do that work, but certainly I think looking at finances is an important component of the work. I would say that in a time like this where everybody is impacted, I think relying on that as a single or really a make-or-break decision isn’t the right way to go I would say and supporting and investing in organizations that you think are doing good work and important work to serve community and let them do that work.

Gwen Wurst:
So when you talk about that there’s looking at an opportunity through a broader lens than just finance, that takes me back to the multi-year grant option. So Shaady, can you talk about other ways that that multi-year can allow flexibility for nonprofits?

Shaady Salehi:
Yeah. One of the things that multi-year unrestricted funding recognizes is that there is a whole range of costs that any given organization is dealing with that transcend beyond a specific project. Our colleagues at the Nonprofit Finance Fund often talk about it like it’s as if you get a paycheck and your employer tells you, “You can’t use your paycheck to cover your rent.” And that’s the same thing that nonprofits are dealing with where they’ll get a grant, but it can’t be used to cover rent. It can’t be used to cover staff time. It can’t be used to cover XYZ. And these are really intense limitations that actually disregard what it takes to run an organization.

Shaady Salehi:
You can’t do the project without paying the administrative staff, even if they’re not directly working on that project. So there’s a range of costs that are really important to recognize that are really essential for the work to get done, even if it’s not directly translating to immediate impact, for example. So it just recognizes that there is this whole range of costs that we need to honor and acknowledge otherwise the work really can’t get done.

Gwen Wurst:
So Philip, is there anything else you’d like to add here before we sign off?

Philip Li:
I think as we’ve had our conversation today about trust-based philanthropy and the principles embedded, I think the important thing to remember is that a lot of these ideas about multi-year or streamlined processes or transparency are not new and they’ve been around for years. I think what is new right now is the notion and the idea that has been given a name, trust-based philanthropy. And I think that’s where this opportunity is in terms of giving people, at least a way to talk about the way they do their work or a handle, and in its own way, it’s a way to build a movement, right?

Philip Li:
We share more and more organizations and foundations saying that they’re trust-based funders, and I think what you’re seeing is this notion and idea that there’s a different way to do the work and we are part of that. And so here’s this opportunity that we can all talk about it in a way that has a common frame and bringing people forward. So I hope people will consider joining that movement.

Gwen Wurst:
Thank you Shaady and Phil for joining us on the podcast today. If these principles resonate with your values for giving back, we encourage you to use them in your giving and remember that we’re here to help you along the way. If you have questions about any of the things that we talked about here today, please feel free to visit the Trust-Based Philanthropy website at trustbasedphilanthropy.org or contact us at info@growyourgiving.org and we will be happy to help you navigate how to implement a trust-based approach in your philanthropy.

Conclusion:
To hear more from the Grow Your Giving podcast, visit us online at growyourgiving.org/podcast. Thank you for listening.