Detroit Regional Chamber > Mackinac Policy Conference > How Justice Demands Are Changing Philanthropy Dynamics

How Justice Demands Are Changing Philanthropy Dynamics

May 30, 2024

Key Takeaways

  • Trust is the foundation to modern philanthropy.
  • For successful philanthropy, it’s vital to include communities in the work being done around and to its residents.
  • Philanthropy imparts a legacy outside of just the donors, including the nonprofits and their communities.


Trust-Based Philanthropy as the New Norm

The changing environment of philanthropy has led to what Diallo Smith, President and Chief Operating Officer of Life Remodeled has called a “trust-based approach.” And speaking from a philanthropy perspective “is just a recognition that in order for us to make significant changes in our communities and our neighborhoods, we have to entrust the people who are closest to the ground to do their best work.”

“It allows for the knowledge base to shift from what foundations and other philanthropic givers may see as being what they think is best and trusting nonprofit leaders and people who are on the ground level seeing that day-to-day realities allowing those persons to work.”

Andrew Stein, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Children’s Foundation, agreed with this shift in philanthropy, but noted that while the terminology is new, it is recognizing the “behavior that folks have demonstrated for years,” he said, “and there are plenty of funders in our community and examples around the country and people who have been putting trust-based philanthropy into practice … and I think nonprofits in particular have understood the importance of proximity to those they serve and elevating the voice of their communities.”

This approach has influenced funding and found to be fruitful for both donors and communities due to the ability to “hear what [a] community wants and they trust [us] … once we deliver what the community is saying they want,” said Deanna L. Stewart, Founder and Executive Director of Equity Alliance of Michigan.

Trust as A Form of Currency

Stein said that “trust is the currency in which you trade in this business,” that highlights the ebb and flow of philanthropic relationships when it comes to delivering on promises to both donors and the community and the skepticism that some communities and nonprofits face when they hear of aid opportunities that will impact them and their communities. Therefore, communities have a right to be involved and influence decisions being made.

Stewart followed this by saying that they should question themselves and “say did we just give someone trust because of a name of a person, or did they earn our trust?”

Creating an Inclusive Legacy

“You can’t move so fast that you’re not actually listening to the people that you’re serving. What that’s going to create is an environment in which people think that you’re doing something to them right … and not with them,” Smith said on working alongside residents and including them in the work that is happening within their communities.

“I see this routinely – grandmothers, grandfathers, aunts, and uncles – they’ll bring their grandchildren they’ll bring their nieces and nephews to come … because it means legacy, it means equity and it means that they are invested.”

This session was hosted by Delta Dental of Michigan.