top of page
  • Impact Austin

Discovery Days 2022: Session Two Takeaways

The second session of 2022 Discovery Days delved deeper into the topic of Trust Based Philanthropy (TBP). Impact Austin first explored TBP principles and practices during our 2020 Town Hall Meeting (presentation highlights under Additional Resources). This February 4 session shared tactical approaches that Impact Austin might consider with our own grantmaking AND how other giving circles are putting principles into practice.

We are pleased to share key takeaways, but you can find greatest detail on this event video:

Additional Resources mentioned during the session can be found at the end of this post. See our introductory blog for speaker bios.

Impact Austin member Carrie Maher introduced the session and speakers and facilitated Q&A. The fireside chat portion of the program was moderated by member Lorene Phillips, Co-Chair of Impact Austin’s Strategic Advisory Council. Our expert panelists were:

Tyeshia Wilson, Director of Engagement, Philanthropy Together

Impact Austin thanks Title Sponsor Baird Private Wealth Management. Susan Palombo, Impact Austin's Immediate Past President and Baird Senior Vice President, shared an introductory message with our audience.

  • Trust-based philanthropy (TBP) steps away from traditional grantmaking, its "checkbook approach," and its "compliance-oriented culture." What constitutes best practices is reconsidered.

  • Trust-based philanthropy was named in the last several years, but it is not a new practice. This is human-centered, relationship-based, and values-based philanthropy. The grantmaker is sensitive to power balance, is self-aware, and seeks collaboration and conversation between grantmaker and grantee.

  • Impact Austin's Strategic Advisory Council (SAC) is enacting some trust-based philanthropy processes. The SAC facilitates: relationships and dialogs, transparency in our actions, and collecting feedback (for future action) to improve our grantmaking. The SAC has identified four focus areas affecting nonprofits in Greater Austin: racial equality, economic equality, capacity building, and funding.

  • Giving circles are re-writing the rules of philanthropy, democratizing and diversifying philanthropy, and making practices more people-powered. At its core, trust-based philanthropy is based in power-sharing, a concept also fundamental to giving circles.

  • The pandemic brought about new efforts in collective giving, not just among individuals, but also with institutional funders. There was a big effort to get resources to those in profound need.

  • Multiple crises (pandemic, climate change, racial injustice) should inspire funders to collaborate with and listen to those living these issues and trust that they are best positioned to identify solutions and how to best pursue them.

  • Our members ask how we can tactically implement trust-based philanthropy principles in our grantmaking. Suggestions: (1) Give multi-year, unrestricted funding. (2) The onus is on grantmakers to do the homework to understand a particular nonprofit's priorities, the populations they support, and the issues they address. (3) Streamline and simplify applications and paperwork/reporting requirements. There is no legal requirement to have detailed forms! Less time spent on paperwork means more time is available to learn from nonprofits and the problems to be solved. Can technology make processes simpler and kinder to applicants? (4) Be transparent in responding to applicants/partners. (5) As an organization, give "beyond the dollar," especially to help very small nonprofits with professional and financial expertise, boardsmanship skills, fundraising, social media promotion, other training, our ties, our talents. Advocate for the grantee. In what ways can we show up? (6) A small unrestricted gift (different from a typical grant) to a nonprofit could kick off a new relationship that might one day flourish into a more robust partnership/grant around an issue/cause.

  • Examples of grantmakers working with trust-based principles include the Ford Foundation, Collective 365 (simple grant applications online, by phone, and by video) HERitage Giving Fund.

  • Philanthropy Together helps new giving circles develop and thrive through their Launchpad program, training giving circles in the six core principles of TBP.

  • Trust-based philanthropy benefits the grantmaker, too. There is a deeper sense of joy and connection the work, particularly the relationship aspect. It is more interesting to be in a "relationship" with an applicant/community partner than it is to sit behind a desk reading application paperwork. Multi-year, long-term relationships enlarge the grantmaker's "window for learning." The grantmaker is more informed and can see the bigger picture of what the social change work looks like.

  • Have patience and stay innovative. Trust-based grantmaking takes time, guides funders to deeply-rooted systemic issues. Sometimes, the issue(s) that the grantmaker thinks should be addressed are not, in fact, where to invest.

  • Funders should re-think what to require in terms of reporting and impact. Be cautious about an overly-narrow conversation about the grant made and quantifying the impact that was generated. Invite story-sharing about the nonprofit's work overall. As an example, General Service Foundation asks 3 key questions for verbal reporting: What do you want us to know about your work over this period? What are the strategic questions you are grappling with? How can we help? Other possible questions: What are you learning? How are you struggling?

  • For Impact Austin in particular, how can we help our 400-500 person membership feel "connected" to community partners within the trust-based paradigm? How do we communicate "we did this"? The panelists suggest that we report back to members the ways that our partners feel supported, healthy, and sustainable instead of simple metrics. One of our audience suggested that this could be a topic at a Town Hall Meeting.

  • Impact Austin has questions about how to apply trust-based philanthropy principles and equity to financial review. Funders have always expected to see transparent financials, but panelists urged that we not have a narrow view here. Consider other angles and barriers and a nonprofit's size/capacity. Make grants (and have expectations) that are relative to the nonprofit's budget size. Specific examples included board giving and financial reserves (especially for Black and Brown-led organizations).

  • Be an advocate for trust-based grantmaking.

Additional Resources for Trust-Based Philanthropy

To put key takeaways in context, consider these resources to be helpful background.

More about Discovery Days 2022

For overall content, registration, and sponsor details, see our Events page.

For a recap of Discovery Days session one, check out our blog and video.

If you haven't already registered for Discovery Days, register now for session three:

Funding Landscape in Central Texas | FRI, FEB 18 | 12:00 - 1:30 PM

A panel of Central Texas funders will discuss funding priorities in the four counties that Impact Austin serves – Bastrop, Hays, Travis, and Williamson. How might we learn from our peers in philanthropy and collaborate to support our region?

Overview: Courtney Bailey, Director of Issues & Engagement, Leadership Austin

Moderator: Ami Kane, MPA, CRFE, Chief Development Officer, Girls Empowerment Network


Abena Asante, MHA, Senior Program Officer, St. David's Foundation

Felicia Peña, Public Affairs Manager, H-E-B Central Texas Region

Suzy Pukys, VP of Strategic Philanthropy, Georgetown Health Foundation


Recent Posts

bottom of page