Writer's Note: The image above is from the IU LFSOP Study Abroad and shows a community conversation with Vrjie University and UNICEF Netherlands hosted at the Dutch Postcode Charity Lottery.
This past May, I had the incredible opportunity to participate in the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy study abroad trip–Comparative Philanthropy in a European Context. We traveled to Berlin, Hamburg, and Amsterdam to collaborate with students studying philanthropy in Europe, hear lectures from experts working in the field, and visit and volunteer at nonprofits. I know everyone says this about studying abroad–but it truly was a life-changing trip. On this trip, there were several themes about philanthropy that we kept coming back to; one in particular was trust-based philanthropy. Trust-based philanthropy is a topic I kept revisiting since learning about it in one of my first philanthropy courses, so it seemed important that it was a major theme of my very last LFSOP course.
So–what is trust-based philanthropy, and why is it important? The trust-based philanthropy project's approach outlines it in six practices:
- Provide Multi-Year, Unrestricted Funding
- Do the Homework
- Simplify and Streamline Paperwork
- Be Transparent and Responsive
- Solicit and Act on Feedback
- Offer Support Beyond the Check
Past TPF Fellow John Ferguson has an excellent seven-part series on these tenets. At their core, these principles of trust-based philanthropy come together to help break down power structures and imbalances. They help create mutually beneficial partnerships where accountability is shared–rather than a traditional grantor/grantee relationship.
I recognized if I was going to work at a foundation, finding a place where these principles were evident was essential. I've seen how hyper-specific funding requirements and processes can lead to mission drift. I didn't want to be a part of that driver; I wanted to align with a culture of enthusiasm, collaboration, and proactive responsiveness.
This is what drove me to apply for The Patterson Foundation's Fellows Program.One of the first times I heard someone from The Patterson Foundation speak, I heard them say what I now know to be a common TPFism: "Change happens at the speed of trust." That immediately resonated with me and drove me to learn more about the Foundation. In that research and further conversation with TPF members, I learned that there were so many more values that demonstrate how TPF shares the commitment to doing work in an enthusiastic, collaborative, and responsive way. Some of the TPF values that especially resonate and connect with my personal viewpoint of philanthropy are as follows:
- Embracing new ideas that address a constantly changing world
- Realizing real change requires depth of resources
- Being accessible and engaged with others
- Striving to learn as we collaborate and share successes and challenges