Your Reading List: Trust-Based Philanthropy

There is a movement underway to redefine the relationships between donors and the nonprofits that rely on their funding. It’s called trust-based philanthropy, and it’s about power, decision-making, and equity.

What does trust-based philanthropy mean to you—and what does it mean for you?

Here is a reading list to get you up to speed quickly. Dive deep and read them all, or read one article from each category. Either way, you’ll deepen your knowledge of this approach and some of the organizations that are leading the way.

Learn the Basics from the Trust-Based Philanthropy Project


Resources on redistributing power in philanthropy

  • Building a Trust-Based Philanthropy to Shift Power Back to Communities. Stanford Social Innovation Review, November 2020. This article outlines bold moves that philanthropists can take to build on the philanthropic momentum of the past year and create substantive change that is rooted in a trust-based culture, community leadership, and open decision-making and information-sharing.
  • Reconciling Community-Based Versus Evidence-Based Philanthropy. The Foundation Review, October 2016. A dominant tension in philanthropy is the question of whether donors should trust scientific evidence or the wisdom of local communities. This article explores how these two philosophies can work together, rather than in opposition.
  • Form Design for Trust Based Philanthropy. Grantbook, November 2020. Focusing on small steps that can have a large impact, this article details shifts in grantmaking, administrative, and operational processes that can decrease the burden on grantees, and build better relationships.


Resources on addressing and reconciling systemic inequities in philanthropy

  • BUILD: There’s no going back to the old ways of philanthropy. Ford Foundation, April 2021. In this blog post, the Ford Foundation provides a case study on how they are practicing trust-based philanthropy through their Building Institutions and Networks (BUILD) program.
  • Decolonizing Wealth. Edgar Villanueva, October 2018. In his book, Villanueva analyzes how colonial dynamics manifest in philanthropy and finance, drawing from the traditions of “Natives” (a term Villanueva uses) to provide solutions for restoring balance and equity to the field.

Participatory Grantmaking

Resources on including grantees in the grantmaking and decision-making processes

  • Deciding Together: Shifting Power and Resources Through Participatory Grantmaking. Foundation Center, 2018. Participatory grantmaking is still a relatively new and unfamiliar approach in philanthropy. This guide focuses on the “why” behind it, defining terms, presenting a theory of change, and discussing the various benefits, challenges, and models.
  • Great Funder-Nonprofit Relationships. Exponent Philanthropy, 2018. This interactive toolkit is designed to help funders build better relationships with grantees through assessment of competencies and considerations for improving partnerships.
  • Participatory Grantmaking: Sharing Decision Making with Communities. The National Center for Family Philanthropy. Curated for family foundations, this collection of research, case studies, discussion guides, and other articles and blog posts on the practice of participatory grantmaking helps funders take listening to grantees one step further.

Happy reading!

This blog was co-authored by Kasey Oliver, Director, and Megan Sonier, Associate.