Change Incubator Story — What Are Some Whys and Hows of Grantee Inclusion?

  • Justin Laing, March 6, 2017

Since 2012, The Heinz Endowments—in partnership with artists, community development professionals, teachers and colleague funders, many of whom are grantees and prospective grantees of the Endowments—have been developing a grantmaking program called the Transformative Arts Process (TAP). The program has led to more than $2,500,000 in grants to strengthen and improve the arts experiences available in African American and “distressed” neighborhoods, particularly for youth.

And in 2015, the Endowments were honored to join Grantmakers for Effective Organizations’ Change Incubator, a program to deepen the practice of grantee inclusion in the field of philanthropy. Here, we’ve had the privilege to think through and test ideas about inclusion in concert with colleague funders, as well as some members of TAP’s advisory board, and it’s been a truly helpful experience.

One of the goals of the Change Incubator program is for the participants to share their grantee inclusion experiences with the broader field, so, to that end, two members of the TAP Advisory Board—Dana Bishop-Root, program coordinator of the Braddock Carnegie Library and co-founder of Transformazium, and Celeste Smith, CEO of 1 Hood Media—and myself decided to share some of what we’ve learned over the last two years developing the TAP grantmaking strategy, particularly as it relates to the principles, practices and benefits of grantmaker-grantee partnerships.

Ultimately, we are excited to share this work because we are interested in expanding beyond the idea of inclusion, which still implies an “includer” that provides access to an “includee.” We want to be part of network of people working toward “mutual accountability” as a means of undoing systemic racism in the philanthropic sector. It is our aspiration that the practices we’ve developed could be improved upon, added to others and scaled up, so that we could see greater movement to justice for Black and Brown communities as philanthropic power is shared as a matter of sector policy, rather than as the decision of individual foundations and program officers. However, we hope this article supports other colleagues who are taking on this work in the here and now, because we know more communities of practice are needed for philanthropy to become a sector focused on justice.

Principle: Increase Transparency
Practice: Heinz explained in “Art Transforms How and for Whom” and “Where Do We Go From Here?” that it was including grantees in the design and implementation of TAP.
Benefits to the Process: Grantees are often fearful of program officers because of the immense differences in power between the nonprofit and the foundation, but simply sharing why the grantee is being included is an act of transparency that builds trust between the funder and smaller budget grantees, particularly those working in African American neighborhoods. Our hope was that this would 1) make TAP a better designed program; 2) give the program a higher chance of success due to partner buy-in; and 3) lead to a higher number of positively transformative experiences for youth, teaching artists, organizations and neighborhoods.

Grantees are often fearful of program officers because of the immense differences in power between the nonprofit and the foundation

Principle: Explicitly Address Systemic Racism
Practice: In response to questions and comments made by members of the Advisory Board and potential grantees, a working group was formed to better engage and disrupt systemic racism both in the TAP process and to make this disruption part of the TAP process.
Benefits to the Process: By creating a specific location to confront racism in the inclusion process, space is made for Advisory Board members to raise and have their voices acted upon, pushing back against the silencing of Black and Brown voices that is predominantly white philanthropy, unless we disrupt it.

Principle: Establish Fairer Wages and Value Labor
Practice: Advisory Board members are compensated for a specific term.
Benefits to the Process: Payments to grantee partners acknowledges the financial nature of the grantmaker-grantee relationship, as well as attaches an approximate monetary value to grantee insight and work. We have heard in this process that grantees paid for their time are better able to be committed to the project since they represent a part of the sector that is already underpaid and over extended.

Principal: Build Genuine Partnerships
Practice: Co-create agendas with Advisory Board members.
Benefits to the Process: Our most successful meetings are those that center on subcommittee work and are co-designed and co-facilitated by Advisory Board members. These meetings show Advisory Board members as thought leaders, allow the foundation’s work to be strengthened by the hard-won knowledge in the room, and help to facilitate future collaboration as board members build relationships while working together on tangible philanthropic projects.

Principle: Organize Around Diversity
Practice: The Advisory Board is made up of an eclectic group of community members who represent many facets of the field, including direct grantees, youth, advocates, neighborhood members, informal organizations, grantmakers and parents, to name a few.
Benefits to the Process: By bringing a broad range of ‘members of the field’ into the room, we are pursuing inclusion but also communicating that our work absolutely requires the breadth of expertise that our extended field has to offer. Advisory Board members have built cross-field collaborative programming with each other and have increased resource sharing as a result of the relationships they have built while serving on the Advisory Board. Having a multidisciplinary and intergenerational board allows for shared professional development and emphasizes the necessity of continued work towards multidirectional inclusion.

Principle: Disperse Power and Increase Accountability
Practice: Heinz makes a commitment to partner with Advisory Board members when sharing the work publicly.
Benefits to the Process: Respect for our shared and individual experiences is what gives TAP its vitality and what we hope to represent to the public, so Heinz representing the program on its own would undermine that effort. Additionally, in this arrangement foundation staff is more likely to make reasonable claims to the field about the program’s impact and is incentivized to build experiences that show the project to be making authentic claims of inclusion.

Principle: Show Me the Money
Practice: Explain the total dollars available at the outset of the initiative and use participatory budgeting strategies with the Advisory Board to decide the initiative’s priorities.
Benefits to the Process: Sharing the total dollars available at the outset helped clarify the kind of impact possible (and not possible), and the opportunity to define how the dollars would be spent focused the Advisory Board and facilitated their strategic expertise. When understanding the financial scope of the initiative, both members of the Advisory Board and the broader field find a greater sense of agency to determine the outcome of a foundation’s strategy. This—coupled with making strategic plans, the theory of change, and budgets available to the public—is helping broaden what grantee inclusion can look like.

Principle: Trust the Field
Practice: Develop grantmaking strategies together.
Benefits to the Process: As members of the community that will spend the money, our idea is that the Advisory Board has a better sense of where the dollars can be of most use and have the greatest positive effect. Ideas the foundation staff would not have thought of are now underway and will allow the spending of foundation dollars in a manner grantee partners have requested. This allows the foundation to have new grantmaking pathways opened to it and for grantee partners to eventually assess strategies they had an important role in developing.

Principle: Program Officer Leadership
Practice: Person or persons hold space for ideas and practices of inclusion.
Benefits to the Process: The TAP effort has a person with the time and privileges afforded by working for the foundation to develop, document, champion and assess these practices, and this facilitates the growth of the project. It also allows the foundation to develop internal capacity for inclusion that it can deploy in ways that best make sense for its strategy.

This piece was written in collaboration with Dana Bishop-Root, program coordinator at the Braddock Carnegie Library and co-founder of Transformazium, and Celeste Smith, chief executive officer for 1Hood Media