Shifting Power and Money Through Participatory Grantmaking
Emerging practice reveals shift in philanthropy away from top-down decision-making and towards inclusive processes
Manager of Knowledge Services Communications
New York, NY—October 2, 2018. New research released today by GrantCraft, a free service of Foundation Center, explores how funders can cede decision-making power about funding decisions to the communities they aim to serve. With financial support from the Ford Foundation and Open Society Foundations, Deciding Together: Shifting Power and Resources Through Participatory Grantmaking illustrates why and how funders globally are engaging in this growing practice.
"This approach isn’t just about more effective grantmaking, but it also creates a paradigm shift in how we work alongside communities as agents of change in their own context. By sharing decision-making power about money, the participatory approach itself is part of the impact,” says Katy Love, director of resources at the Wikimedia Foundation, an organization that takes a participatory grantmaking approach
Participatory grantmaking is increasingly visible and of interest to a range of funders, because it revolutionizes traditional structures of philanthropy. Specifically:
- It redefines who qualifies as a “grantmaker,” and challenges traditional power dynamics, which affect everything from who knows about grant opportunities to who gets those grants.
- It goes beyond grantmaking to the importance of advancing public and democratic participation in decision making.
- It strengthens trust and credibility between donors and grantees.
Written by Cynthia Gibson, the guide features voices and examples drawn from a range of participatory grantmakers. Participatory grantmaking models range in geographic scale—from local neighborhoods to global movements—and work across numerous focus areas including disability rights, climate change, and youth opportunity. “This GrantCraft guide highlights practices of many smaller, human rights-focused foundations. We often look to large, well-known foundations for learning, but the grassroots foundations featured in this guide have just as much wisdom to offer, and are particularly intentional about inclusion,” says Jen Bokoff, guide editor and director of stakeholder engagement at Foundation Center.
For funders like the Red Umbrella Fund, an Amsterdam-based sex worker led fund, this practice is an acknowledgement that activist voices matter as much as, if not more, than donor voices. Both international funders like the Robert Carr Fund and local funders like Los Angeles’ Liberty Hill Foundation operate under vastly different models but share an ethos that the communities they aim to serve should directly control decision making.
To capture the breadth of this work, the GrantCraft guide is complemented by additional resources, including a collection of relevant publications and a repository that includes details about specific foundations’ approaches to participatory grantmaking.
While the guide is the first of its kind focused exclusively on participatory grantmaking, it builds on Foundation Center’s work tied to community philanthropy, diversity, equity, and inclusion, and our global research.
About Foundation Center
Established in 1956, Foundation Center is the leading source of information about philanthropy worldwide. Through data, analysis, and training, it connects people who want to change the world to the resources they need to succeed. Foundation Center maintains the most comprehensive database on U.S. and, increasingly, global grantmakers and their grants — a robust, accessible knowledge bank for the sector. It also operates research, education, and training programs designed to advance knowledge of philanthropy at every level. Thousands of people visit Foundation Center's website each day and are served in its five regional library/learning centers and its network of more than 450 funding information centers located in public libraries, community foundations, and educational institutions nationwide and around the world. For more information, please visitfoundationcenter.org, call (212) 620-4230, or tweet us at @fdncenter.
GrantCraft offers resources that address questions confronting funders worldwide. This freely available platform offers content in formats such as guides, videos, and blog posts across various strategy and issue areas, all grounded in the practical wisdom of grantmakers. It is part of Foundation Center's suite of knowledge services, which connects donors to tools and resources they need to be more strategic. To explore resources, visit grantcraft.org and follow @grantcraft on Twitter.
About the Author
Cynthia Gibson, Ph.D., is a consultant who has worked with hundreds of philanthropic institutions and major nonprofits in strategic planning, program development, evaluation, and communications. She is also a widely published author on a wide range of issues related to philanthropy and the nonprofit sector, civic engagement, and democratic participation. In 2007, Cynthia helped design, oversee, and evaluate one of the first participatory grantmaking initiatives undertaken by a national foundation, the Case Foundation’s “Make it Your Own” program. Follow @cingib on Twitter.