Drawnversation by Brandon Black
bi3 is leading the way to a day when every person has a fair and just opportunity to be as healthy as possible; when a person’s health can no longer be predicted by race, ethnicity, (dis)ability or zip code. To achieve this day, we practice Trust-Based Philanthropy, an equitable approach to grantmaking. We build trusted relationships with our funded partners grounded in power-sharing, transparency, mutual accountability and continuous learning.
One of the six practices of Trust-Based Philanthropy is soliciting and acting on feedback in order to:
- Gather insights to serve grantees better
- Encourage mutual trust and authenticity
- Improve funding practices and policies
- Build opportunities to be more inclusive and equitable
To that end, in spring 2022, bi3 commissioned a series of focus groups with our grantees to (1) evaluate if and how bi3’s commitment to trust-based practices manifests for grantees; (2) gather feedback to improve our practices and (3) gather insights as to how bi3 could better support its grantees. bi3 contracted with DataShine Consulting, an independent evaluation firm to conduct the focus groups and report on the findings.
What We Heard
Focus group participants indicated that bi3 has an authentic relational approach to grantmaking. Our partners used words like “transparent,” “innovative,” “supportive,” “responsive” and “approachable” to describe bi3. The participants identified practices that illustrate bi3’s trust-based approach and encouraged bi3 to continue to:
- Be open and have transparent discussions about how ideas or potential requests may fit with bi3 priorities
- Trust and empower grantees as experts
- Stay committed to learning and adaptation
- Be an accessible thought partner through the grant period and beyond
- Support bold and innovative ideas and approaches
- Sustain the commitment to racial and health equity
- Streamline and adapt application and reporting processes
- Connect grantees to one another and to other resources
- Lift up the successes and achievements of our grantee partners
Opportunities and Next Steps
The focus group participants also identified opportunities for bi3 to improve its practices and further lean in to its trust-based approach to grantmaking. bi3 has taken these suggestions to heart and is committed to acting upon them.
|Areas of Opportunity||bi3’s Action Steps|
|Expand bi3’s relationships with and opportunities for smaller, community-based organizations||
|Provide operational and sustaining funding||
|Provide feedback, particularly when grant applications are declined||
|Be flexible and adaptive with grant check-ins||
|Incorporate community voice into decision making||
|Clearly communicate bi3’s goals, as well as the definition of systems change and the parameters and requirements for funding||
bi3 began practicing Trust-Based Philanthropy five years ago and will continue to leverage this approach to achieve greater impact for our community. We will continue to support our partners by being accessible, transparent and responsive. We are constantly reviewing our processes to simplify and streamline paperwork and ensure that we are only asking for what we need. We will continue to offer support beyond the check, acting as a thought partner and resource to our grantees. bi3 commits to getting to know prospective grantees before asking for an investment of time in a formal proposal. The focus groups were bi3’s first formal solicitation of grantee feedback and bi3 will explore how to gather grantee feedback in the future.
Many thanks to our current and former grantees who participated in the focus groups and survey. We appreciate your honesty, thoughtful feedback and willingness to be a critical friend.
Thank you to DataShine and Drawnversation for being our collaborative partners through this process.
Thank you to the Data Party participants, for reviewing the focus group findings and helping to develop responsive action steps.
Finally, deep thanks to the bi3 Committee and the Bethesda Inc. Board for your ongoing commitment to the equitable practice of Trust-Based Philanthropy that leads to better outcomes and joy for both bi3 and grantees.