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How Trust-based Philanthropy Creates Thriving Communities

Both funders and direct service providers seek to build a culture of excellence in the social-good sector. At the core of these efforts is the goal of improving outcomes for individuals, families, and entire communities. However, frequently there is a disconnect between funders and the organizations who serve their communities. Fortunately, there are ways to bridge the gap and build trusting, mutually beneficial relationships.

According to the Stanford Social Innovation Review, “To realize the deep systemic change that America is demanding, philanthropy must reorganize to build and demonstrate a trust-based culture, invest in community leadership capacity-building, and open up decision-making and information-sharing structures.”

Trust-based Culture

The concept of trust-based philanthropy is a holistic approach that requires alignment in a grantmaking organization’s four interrelated areas: practice, leadership, culture, and values. Funders can help their grantees by being open about what they are doing, why they are doing it, and what outcomes they are trying to improve as part of their mission. The Trust-based Philanthropy Project provides a Self Reflection Tool to help funders get started with the process of developing a trust-based internal culture. It is equally important for grantees to establish a trust-based culture both internally and with their funders.

According to Trust-based Philanthropy, “Open, honest, and transparent communication minimizes power imbalances and helps move the work forward.” One way to build mutual trust is for both sides to seek and act on feedback on their performance. Funders and grantees who can build a relationship with transparent communication and feedback are able to increase the effectiveness of their interventions. We would like to take that one step further and state that openly communicating and sharing real-time data helps both sides understand the true impact of their interventions and find ways to continuously improve.

Capacity Building

Foundations are in a unique position to help build the leadership and measurement capacity of grantees. Community organizations with strong leadership are empowered to thrive and increase their impact in the community. According to SSIR, “Funders need to support leadership development with a focus on education, skill-building, and resources to help local communities become more engaged at every level of the funding process.”

In order to develop a culture of continuously learning, funders and their grantees need real-time access to the outcomes and collective impact of the funding network. As funders and grantees understand what interventions are driving the most impact and build a transparent, mutually-beneficial relationship, they become co-creators in creating healthy communities where individuals and families thrive.

Shared Measurement Infrastructure

A shared measurement infrastructure enables grantees to track how they are improving outcomes for their clients while also demonstrating their success and how they align with the mission of their funders. SureImpact’s collaborative data model was specifically designed to connect funders and grantees and provide a means for transparently communicating client, program, and outcome data. In the collaborative model, funders are able to set the reporting requirements and then all their grantees have to do is enter the data. The data is automatically shared with funders, simplifying the grant reporting process and saving both sides valuable time.

SureImpact enables direct-service providers to quickly enter client information, share data, measure impact, and provide closed-loop referrals to other services in the community. In addition, SureImpact simplifies the reporting process for social-good organizations with multiple funders. SureImpact eliminates the need for case managers to enter the same data into various software systems with its one-click data export. Organizations can use SureImpact as their “one source of truth” and then quickly export data in a flat Excel file that can be uploaded into another data system.

This increased technology capacity also benefits funders. Instead of grant managers having to manually review cumbersome spreadsheets from every grantee, each direct-service provider enters their own data and standardized outcomes metrics directly into SureImpact, saving grant managers countless hours and headaches.


Both funders and direct service providers seek to create healthy, happy, communities where everyone has an equitable opportunity. As both sides work to build cultures of mutual trust and shared measurement, we will witness the systemic change that truly creates communities that thrive.

To learn more about strengthening the relationships between funders and their grantees, check out our on-demand virtual fireside chat “Impact Measurement: Bridging the Gap between Funders and Grantees.”


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