The SOCAP24 Agenda is now released! Check it out + get your ticket before July 16 to save $700

Trust-Based Philanthropy as a Catalyst for Impact Investment

SOCAP Global June 20, 2024

A Money + Meaning Podcast with Clay Colombe of Sicangu Co., Hamdiya Ismaila of Savannah Impact Advisory, Tricia Levesque of the Decolonizing Wealth Project, and Renee Kaplan of Forward Global

By shifting to a more just and inclusive approach to philanthropy, funders can help support the development and scaling of more sustainable social enterprises and build long-term impact. It’s an approach that reimages philanthropy by developing trust-based relationships that better center the experiences of community groups on the frontlines of social and environmental challenges.

A new Money + Meaning podcast features a SOCAP23 conversation with three practitioners who discuss the role of trust-based philanthropy in the impact ecosystem. They demonstrate how relationship-building can help address the inherent power imbalance between funders and communities seeking resources to achieve their goals.

Renee Kaplan of Forward Global, who moderated the session, said trust-based philanthropy is an effective tool to address some of the tension between typical short-term funding and efforts to create lasting, equitable change. “You may get grants for one year and then they’re not necessarily renewed, and then you’re back to fundraising,” she said. “This blended approach has real opportunity for how we think about the models and amplify those that are actually working.”

Hamdiya Ismaila is leading the design of a new blended finance vehicle, the Ci-Gaba Fund, to help unlock pension funds in West Africa. Through her work, she seeks to help companies become more profitable and sustainable — “so they don’t rely on donor funding and grant funding for good,” she said. This means making sure funding is used for effective training programs for applicable skills such as accounting, inventory, and hiring.

Identifying effective, long-term solutions to local challenges requires taking a deep look, Ismaila said. That requires funders who take a leap of faith and allow the people most familiar with the problem to shape the solutions. It’s “giving unbiasedly and also having that leap of faith … to trust people who don’t look like you, who didn’t go to the same school with you, but knowing that they can get things done.”

At the nonprofit Decolonizing Wealth Project, Tricia Levesque helps with the work of redistributing wealth through a reparative framework. “We’ve looked at our histories of wealth, we understand why our organizations have this much, and we want to do something to return that back to the communities from which it was extracted,” she said.

The Decolonizing Wealth Project is a philanthropic intermediary that receives some of its funding in grants and others from programs like its Liberated Capital ongoing giving community, then redistributes unrestricted funds to Black, Indigenous, or other People of Color grantee partners. “We’re giving it back to the communities, and we’re letting the community decide,” Levesque said.

Liberated Capital provides funders with holistic programming that connects them with grantees through in-person events, learning webinars, and other opportunities. “If you don’t understand the deep narratives that exist that are anti-Black, anti-Indigenous, anti-Brown, anti-immigrant, those are at play and have been at play in our society for years. And those are going to impact your decisions,” Levesque said. “So we invite people to participate in a learning journey and to understand how they can use money as medicine.”

Clay Colombe of Sicangu Co. is shaping a place-based ecosystem to revitalize the economy and culture of the Siċaŋġu Nation through business, community development, and asset transfers. He said a partnership with the World Wildlife Fund demonstrates how trust-based philanthropy can incorporate tribal heritage and create positive impact.

The Wolakota Buffalo Range project aims to restore the bison population on the range and regenerate the land and local economy. The World Wildlife Fund has been a “true partner” with the Siċaŋġu Lak̇ota Oyate, Colombe said. “They came in, they listened,” he said. “We can reach out to them for anything. … We’re all taking a risk here, but it’s been working out great.”

Initial grant money paid for a feasibility study that helped lay a foundation for the project, which now has five-year funding. That initial buy-in and willingness to listen have been crucial to the project’s success, Colombe said. “Now we’re controlling it. We’re doing what we want to do with it.”

Listen to the full Money + Meaning podcast to learn more about trust-based philanthropy.

Don’t miss out! Subscribe to Money + Meaning on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, TuneIn, Spotify, or anywhere else you find podcasts. 

Listen to more episodes of Money + Meaning here.

Money + Meaning is the official podcast of SOCAP. The series aims to expand the conversation around impact investing and strategies to finance and support social change while stimulating innovative and valuable new partnerships across sectors.

Impact Investing
Join the SOCAP Newsletter!