The Ethos of Being Trust-Based Session 5: Reimagining Funder Roles in a Trust-Based Context

About the Series

The Ethos of Being Trust-Based, developed by Trust-Based Philanthropy Project, Philanthropy CA, and Grantmakers for Effective Organizations, is a webinar series dedicated to exploring the fundamental values and dispositions central to a trust-based approach. At the heart of this work is a deep focus on building trust and relationships at every level, both internally and externally. This requires constant self-examination, a cultivation of interpersonal skills, a willingness to reimagine and adjust organizational practices, and an understanding of the greater systemic factors that have given way to the institution of philanthropy as a whole. It requires that we see and name how racial inequities have been perpetuated in our institutions, behaviors, and practices, even as we strive to alleviate them. Trust-based philanthropy invites us to understand and take action on these ideas at the personal, interpersonal, organizational, and systemic levels in order to interrupt the perpetuation of power imbalances in our sector.

Between the global pandemic and this country’s racial reckoning, our interconnectedness, and inequalities, have never been clearer. From this reality, how can we cultivate trust-based dispositions that support mutuality throughout crisis response, and beyond? 

  • How can we seize the potential for redistribution of power, especially to benefit communities that have been systematically oppressed? 
  • How might we fully embody partnership in a spirit of service? 
  • What context is essential for us to understand? 
  • What behaviors do we need to un-learn? 
  • And can we embrace and sustain self-reflection and generative listening as must-have tools for transformation? 

Join the Trust-Based Philanthropy Project, Philanthropy California, and GEO as we explore these questions and examine the aspects of trust-building essential for a strong and healthy ecosystem at all levels: individually, interpersonally, inter-organizationally, and systemically. Each webinar will: 1) feature seasoned perspectives on some of the overarching concepts related to trust-based values and dispositions; 2) include stories and lessons from funders who try to live and breathe relational values; and, 3) offer space for small group reflection on how to cultivate what’s required to embed a trust-based ethos in our philanthropic practice.

Session 5: Reimagining Funder Roles in a Trust-Based Context

Trust-based philanthropy encourages us to rethink our notions of traditional philanthropic roles, which tend to prioritize transactions over relationships. In fact, a trust-based approach encourages us to understand our roles as partners working in service of nonprofits and communities. Traditional Philanthropy has institutionalized and perpetuated harmful tropes about funders as experts and nonprofits as needy people who need to be held accountable. This has been perpetuated institutionally through our grantmaking practices, but also in less obvious ways, such as job descriptions, theories of change, program descriptions, and the language we use to describe our work. In this session, we will:

  • Identify how to recognize these tropes when they’re present  in our work
  • Explore strategies to intentionally name and undo them
  • Reimagine various aspects of our work in which we can set the stage for more authentic relationships, i.e., those rooted in values of power-sharing and genuine collaboration
  • Learn strategies for applying a more collaborative, partner-oriented approach


Shaady Salehi, TBP Project




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