In fall 2021, members of the Foundation’s Community and Opportunity (C&O) team took part in a Remote Learning Series offered by Grantmakers for Effective Organizations (GEO) with a focus on community-driven funding. The goal of our participation in this pilot was to better support local grantee partners as they build the power of residents in San Jose, California to influence local policy and systems change.
Trust-based philanthropy was a central tenet of the GEO series. Trust-based philanthropy is an approach that addresses the inherent power imbalances between funders, nonprofits, and the communities they serve. At its core, trust-based philanthropy is about redistributing power—systemically, organizationally, and interpersonally—in service of a healthier and more equitable nonprofit ecosystem.
Prior to joining the GEO learning series, the C&O team was already committed to expanding how we work, particularly how we communicate with grantee partners — for example, by being responsive and transparent in our feedback and by holding periodic listening sessions with our local San Jose grantees to understand community priorities and inform the Foundation’s strategy. During these conversations, local grantees highlighted the need for unrestricted funding and for grantmakers to focus on the entire power-building ecosystem rather than just a handful of larger organizations. We responded with multi-year general support grants and support for a wider tent of power-building nonprofits via a partnership with the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, which engages a community advisory board to help review grant candidates.
The C&O team has continued to apply what it learned through the GEO series and further its trust-based local grantmaking practices. For example, with help from some terrific local facilitators, we just wrapped up a series of conversations with staff members from local youth organizing and youth leadership nonprofits, funders, and youth themselves to identify ways to support their collective goals. We hope to follow through on what we hear and plan to share updates of this work as it evolves in conjunction with the Board.
We are also looking inward to our own programmatic team and assessing ways in which the C&O staff is reflective of the communities and issues we value. For example, having employees on staff who share some of the same experiences as our grantees and beneficiaries can mean a greater understanding of our grantee partners and the communities they serve. For this very reason, we put a primacy on San Jose residency and engagement in our most recent team hire.
Finally, we recognize that there is much more to be done as a sector, as a Foundation, and as a program team. We look forward to building, sharing, and wielding power in ways that ultimately lead to a more equitable and resilient Silicon Valley and philanthropic sector.
You can learn more about trust-based philanthropy here.