Grantee Partner Insight Circles Report

Oct 4, 2021 | News, Reports

We are so excited to share with you the highly anticipated results from the Headwater People Insight Circles Report. You can read a summary of the report findings summary below [or] You can also read the full report here.

Satterberg Leading the Way in Trust-Based Philanthropy

Grantees call upon Satterberg to push others to disrupt systemic inequities in funding.

SEATTLE, WA, October 4, 2021 — In the wake of BLM protests and against the backdrop of the pandemic, philanthropic institutions in the U.S. have been subjected to increased scrutiny over the vast power differentials between funders and the funded. Family foundations in particular, whose wealth was accumulated largely as the result of work done by people outside the families themselves, are being called upon to reframe their identities as stewards of public assets and to adjust their grantmaking practices through the lens of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

To that end, since early 2016 the Satterberg Foundation’s grantmaking program has increasingly centered around the concept of Trust-Based Philanthropy, which aims to put grantees on a more even footing with grantmakers through an emphasis on authentic relationships and community building. In 2018, Satterberg joined forces with the Trust-Based Philanthropy Project, which describes itself as “a peer-to-peer learning and advocacy initiative that seeks to make Trust-Based Philanthropy the norm.”

Recognizing the inherent power imbalance between foundations and nonprofits, Satterberg believes philanthropy is more successful, rewarding, and effective when funders approach their grantee relationships from a place of trust, humility, and transparency. The theory is that removing elements of the funding cycle that put the onus on the grantee to prove its trustworthiness allows grantee partners to make better use of funds and resources, and systemic inequities are greatly reduced.

But is it working? In early 2021, the Foundation engaged Headwater People, a Native-owned consulting firm with expertise in organizational design, to answer this question and make recommendations on how to continue to improve the impact and effectiveness of the Foundation’s funding model. Headwater facilitated seven Insight Circles grounded in a strength-based Indigenous approach to generate feedback from 109 nonprofit members, including 94 grantees, in California and Washington. Respondents came together to answer a range of questions that aimed to evaluate the Foundation’s responsiveness, communications, processes, relationships, reputation, and areas for growth relative to its grantee partners.

In short, the report found that Satterberg has made incredible strides, but also has plenty of room to improve:

· Responsiveness: Respondents strongly approve of Satterberg’s new, low-effort grant application and renewal process for multi-year, unrestricted operations support, which “not only frees priceless time but…also cultivates a sense of faith and confidence.”

· Communications: Respondents overwhelmingly report that communications are clearer and staff is more accessible, especially through the increased site visits that have largely replaced written reporting and allow for continual relationship building.

· Processes: Respondents also spoke positively of the value of unofficial support related to networking and community building, such as Foundation-hosted cohort spaces and access to other funding sources.

· Relationships: Grantees reported experiencing deeper and more authentic friendships with Foundation staff, who in this new Trust-Based model have been given greater freedom, leeway, and opportunities to interact with grantees and partner with them on their funding needs and challenges. “This holistic embrace of the work for the funded partners is an experience [Headwater] consistently heard described as ‘singular.’”

· Reputation: Grantees consistently called upon Satterberg to share the story of the efficacy and humanizing effects of Trust-Based Philanthropy and to compel others to replicate its model.

· Areas for Growth: Headwater recommends Satterberg take a closer look into helping organizations integrate emergent strategies like new technology, influencing systemic drivers of inequities, leveraging other foundations to be more progressive, and increasing opportunities for community members to be better represented at the Foundation.

Foundation staff were also asked to share their reflections, and they related their positive experience of how the Satterberg Foundation’s Trust-Based Philanthropy approach allows them to “center humanity, recognize the power imbalance, and see themselves as partners” with grantees.

So far, Trust-Based Philanthropy as practiced at the Satterberg Foundation appears to be moving the needle in a major way towards equity. Headwater found that, “This philosophy is clearly having significant impacts. Grantees have enough trust to be vulnerable in sharing their visions as well as their difficult times without fear of losing their funding. The simplicity of being recognized as the expert in their own field by funders can be a new and freeing experience and opens the door for more authentic support and shared strategy.”

But the Foundation is not stopping there. “The Headwater Report really drove home with our staff and Trustees that, even though it is right for us to take a back seat in terms of grants dispersal, we have a very important role to play in pushing other funders to embrace this model,” says Rosa Peralta, Senior Program Officer for Equity Impact at Satterberg Foundation. “It’s not just about sharing power—although that’s a big part of our approach to TBP; it’s about using your power and influence to transform the entire system.” Now that Satterberg can highlight the efficacy of its grantmaking program as proof of concept, the Foundation plans to launch a multimedia campaign targeted at local and regional philanthropic leaders and fundraising professionals to challenge and inspire them to adopt Trust-Based Philanthropy. “Our grantees want to see us be leaders in this approach,” says Peralta, “and we are listening.”

About Satterberg Foundation

Satterberg Foundation is a family-founded philanthropic organization committed to equitable, trust-based philanthropy practices to serve the needs of grantees and their communities. The foundation has provided over $90 million in grants to nonprofit organizations in the state of Washington, California and Arizona since its founding in 1991. The foundation’s mission is to promote a just society and a sustainable environment.