A post to Exponent Philanthropy's blog

Our Family Foundation’s Approach To Trust-Based Philanthropy

Photo by Gary Barnes from Pexels

One of our grantees said the greatest gift you can give another person is trust. When I started thinking about how to share our experiences with trust-based philanthropy, my first thought was to hear our grantees’ perspectives.

This defines our philanthropic philosophy: working collectively to inspire possibility, innovation and sustainable outcomes.

Engaging in trust-based philanthropy

Four years ago we transitioned from an entity for tax purposes to a family foundation with the desire to create meaningful impact in our community. We knew we wanted to focus on relationship building to meet those goals. We didn’t know the term trust-based philanthropy at the time, but reflecting on the meaning now, that is central to our approach.

We began by pre-qualifying non profits in our community that aligned with our mission to deeply understand their purpose, business practices, and strategic goals, and how they planned on measuring their impacts. This allowed us to evaluate our potential compatibility to embark on a true partnership.

Trust-based philanthropy allows organizations to extend beyond a grantor/grantee transaction. By utilizing each group’s skill sets, it becomes a collaboration for impact in the community.

Giving more than just funds

As a foundation, we believe we have more to give than just a financial contribution. By creating a trusting relationship, we can engage in honest, open and ongoing dialogue, we can leverage our human resources, relationships and experience to better serve the needs of the non-profits, and ultimately our community.

Our version of trust-based philanthropy has allowed us the opportunity to look beyond traditional outcomes measurements, and engage in a collaborative partnership to achieve them. Another grantee said:

“Our relationship allows us to learn together and push the limits of what we can deliver. It has fundamentally shifted the focus of our organization from service providers, while challenging our leadership in our strategic priorities. To have a funder believe fully in what we do, and how we do it, is so valuable.  We don’t have to constantly prove ourselves each step of the way.  We have a partner to strategize with and expand our imagination of what we could do.”

The trust-based difference

Trust based philanthropy doesn’t negate the need or expectation for evaluation and accountability with grants. Those processes are still a vital part of the agreement. But the openness of our grantees is a significant difference, especially when things don’t go as planned, and the ensuing collective conversations of how to best address it. We are working with experts in their respective fields, so why wouldn’t we want to get behind them and be their biggest advocates? Meanwhile, we can be a sounding board for problem solving some of the major challenges our community members face.

Selfishly, this kind of philanthropy feels amazing. It brings us closer to front line work that reminds us why we want to be part of the philanthropic community. We get to celebrate our grantees successes with them. And our grantees feel trust-based philanthropy challenges them and helps them better their outcomes. What a gift to our community as a whole.

While we do not have experience doing any other kind of philanthropy, we couldn’t imagine a style without a relationship of trust, transparency and connection. We are grateful for the respect and faith our grantees place in us to engage in trust-based philanthropy.

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About the Author

Corinne Korchinski-Fisher is the Executive Director of the Korchinski Family Foundation. After a decade as an entrepreneur, she transitioned to the non-profit sector to manage her family’s foundation in Saskatchewan, Canada, and to develop the charitable organization in Mexico. She continues to manage her family’s philanthropic endeavors that focus on personal and professional development initiatives to support marginalized persons and families.

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