Reimagining philanthropy depends on trust-based relationships – so how can we build and sustain them?

SVPI 10/05/2022

A critical element of reimagining philanthropy is rethinking how our relationships with each other build and share power. Successful collaboration to get to the root of persistent social challenges often relies on openness to learn from lived experiences, and willingness to walk alongside instead of leading from the front.

As a part of our ongoing work, I have had the pleasure to be in dialogue with SVP Partners from across our network to get their on-the-ground perspectives on how their participation in the network has transformed their philanthropic practices. I look forward to sharing learnings and highlights from my connections as we move forward together. Here are a couple of takeaways from my conversation with long-term SVP Partner Diane McCartney, and SVP Vancouver Board Member Marnie Goldenberg.

“I know there’s a way to do good in the world that doesn’t just rely on [traditional] philanthropy.”

– SVP Partner Diane McCartney

Many SVP Partners bring an important talent to our shared table with community — for example, experience planning how business resources in for-profit settings can become sustainable, and a launchpad for future growth.

SVP Partner Diane McCartney shared some of the lessons learned from SVP Austin’s accelerator program–a capacity building program for grantee nonprofit organizations to think collaboratively with Partners about strategies to be self-sustaining.

Through programs like SVP Austin’s accelerator, Partners get the unique opportunity to stand alongside non-profit leaders and build trust-based relationships that are different to the traditional ‘funder’/’funded’ partnership. With our values of collective-action and accountability, SVP Partners share resources, time, and talent, and provide a vital perspective to uplift the work of our investees. Diane McCartney felt that collaborating in this way supported new ideas and strategies that helped the sustainability of the operations of their grantees without needing additional donations/grants to do it.

Traditional practices of grantmaking and reporting make it difficult for nonprofits to be vulnerable, honest, and get the most out of the relationships we are striving to foster. Thus, these unique relationships require both Partners and Investees to build on the mission together. It is necessary for our Partners to demonstrate a willingness to lead with humility, listen to and uplift nonprofit leaders as the experts they are.

“It’s always been a question I’ve had: what is keeping some communities from being part of our organization? There is a lot of complexity around that. If there’s any solution, it’s more opportunities for people to engage in whatever ways feel right for them.”

– SVP Vancouver Board Member Marnie Goldenberg

Marnie Goldenberg, joined the SVP Vancouver Board through a personal invitation and sponsored position because of her experience and expertise in the focus area and overall local nonprofit community.

Marnie’s experience shows how sponsorship can be a real opportunity for two-way learning about need and giving, with a caution about making assumptions. “I don’t think this idea of sponsoring people is entirely about reducing the entry fee as a barrier,” she said, “I see the future of sponsoring Partners, and the valuable opportunity there, as more about reducing our vetting of who we are open to collaborating with.”

As our Affiliates look forward to reimagine giving, many of us are finding new ways to engage our local communities with the aim to build trust across power, wealth, and access. I am thrilled to be a part of an innovative network that continues to push the envelope and lead us to be more equitable and center those most impacted by injustice.

Questions to be asking in your philanthropic practice:

  • Who is at the center of the issues we aim to mitigate and how can we share power with leaders in that community?
  • What assumptions are we making about power and expertise when entering philanthropic partnerships?
  • How do we build trust with our nonprofit leaders and how can we invite them to trust us in return?

Please share your thoughts and reflections on these questions below! I look forward to hearing from you.

Contribute to Lasting Global Change

Invest in a movement that amplifies the power of community leaders around the world. Moving money where and when it’s needed most pushes the needle for social change in a more holistic, impactful way.

Fund Campaigns