Participatory Philanthropy Toolkit

Learn how to integrate participatory practices that share decision making, build trust, and shift power.

Introducing the Toolkit

Introducing the Toolkit

We created this resource to offer insights, recommendations, and the nuts and bolts of design and implementation to inform and inspire your own journey toward more participatory practices.

Participatory Philanthropy Primer

For funders committed to shifting power to, and sharing power with, those most impacted by their work, participation is key. Participatory approaches in philanthropy center the leadership, wisdom, and voices of communities. They shift power from philanthropy’s traditional power centers (i.e., the donors and institutions that control the money) to the people and communities directly affected by the issues being addressed.

Done right — authentically, with an open mind, and with a commitment to equity — participatory approaches allow funders to truly listen, respond to what they hear, and shift power to meet the needs and aspirations of the communities they aim to serve. Participatory approaches leverage the invaluable knowledge and insights that can be gleaned only from firsthand experiences, and cultivate partnerships that enable individuals to play an active role in shaping their own destinies. Participation can mitigate power imbalances; surface the most-effective solutions; promote trust, accountability, and transparency; and lead to more equitable philanthropy.

Participatory philanthropy is a broad approach that calls for participation not only in grantmaking, but across the entirety of a foundation’s functions, including governance, grants administration, and evaluation. Participatory grantmaking is an approach under the participatory umbrella that cedes decision making around grants.

Funders across the country are moving toward participatory practices at different rates and from different starting points and perspectives. Shifting power is not easy work and requires a strong internal commitment and continuous learning. It’s best to be clear on your organization’s motivations, capabilities, and goals when considering including participatory approaches in your work.

A Look at Shared Insight’s Participatory Philanthropy Project

Be transported into Fund for Shared Insight’s Participatory Climate Initiative through the words of a poet and observations from community members, activists, nonprofit leaders, grantees, and funders involved. 

Play Video about “Can you see me?” asked Artis Romero Burney, a poet and community activist

How to use the toolkit

Play Video about How to Use Fund for Shared Insight’s Participatory Philanthropy Toolkit
This video walks you through the Participatory Philanthropy Toolkit, offering an overview and ideas about how you might want to dive in.

Glossary of Terms

Consensus: an approach to decision making where every member of a group of decision makers must meaningfully agree to support a decision/outcome before moving forward.

Consultative Grantmaking: a structured process in philanthropy through which participant-stakeholders with lived expertise in a relevant issue area are consulted about grantmaking decisions, improving the knowledge of the grantmaker but without the funder ceding power.

Participatory Grantmaking: a structured process in philanthropy through which community members with lived expertise in a relevant issue area (non-funders) make decisions about grants. Participatory Grantmaking is an approach within Participatory Philanthropy, and Participatory Grantmaking refers specifically to participation in decisions about grants.

Participatory Philanthropy: a philanthropy practice that explicitly includes the participation of community members with lived expertise in a relevant issue area (non-funders) and shifts power from traditional foundation decision makers to participants during any part of the philanthropy process and in the organization more generally, including strategy, planning, design, grantmaking, implementation, communications, fundraising, and/or evaluation. Participatory Philanthropy may include a variety of approaches to participation at different stages of the philanthropy cycle, and includes Participatory Grantmaking as one approach.

Participatory Design: in the context of Participatory Philanthropy, a structured process through which participant-stakeholders with lived expertise in a relevant issue area define or influence a funding program’s design. Participatory Design is an approach within Participatory Philanthropy that is specific to decisions that are made prior to any grant decisions, about how a funding program will work.

Spectrum of Participatory Decision Making: refers to degrees of ceding power within a decision-making process, from autocratic decision making (not participatory) through well-executed participatory consensus-based decision making.

Trust-Based Philanthropy: an approach to philanthropy that centers relationships, deprioritizes control and surveillance, and works from the assumption that funders and grantee partners are working together in good faith toward similar goals.

Have questions about the toolkit? Or want to learn more?

Please reach out to our program manager Katy Love who co-authored the toolkit with Winifred Olliff, both consultants with experience and expertise in participatory grantmaking. 

Our Appreciation

Fund for Shared Insight would like to express deep gratitude to all who participated in, supported, and contributed to our Participatory Climate Initiative, on which this toolkit is based.  We especially thank:

  • A-dae Briones
  • Austin Ahmasuk
  • Billy Kinney
  • Cynthia Naha
  • Donald Bogen
  • Elsie DuBray
  • Garett Blaize
  • Janiece Watts
  • Jayeesha Dutta
  • Reverend Leo Woodberry
  • Lindsay Louie
  • Rosalinda Guillen
  • Soledad Gaztambide Arandes
  • A-dae Briones
  • Annie Jane Cotten
  • Austin Ahmasuk
  • Billy Kinney
  • Cicely “CC” Moore
  • Crystal Yankawgé Nelson
  • Dewey Kk’ołeyo Hoffman
  • Donald Bogen
  • Fix Cain
  • Garett Blaize
  • Jayeesha Dutta
  • Katia R. Avilés Vázquez
  • Kilia Purdy-Avelino
  • Melinda Tuan
  • Miwa Tamanaha
  • Reverend Leo Woodberry
  • Aimalama
  • Bering Sea Elders Group
  • Chickaloon Native Village
  • Hui Maka’ainana o Makana
  • Inuit Circumpolar Council-Alaska
  • Kamiloloa One Ali’i Homestead Association
  • Kawerak
  • KUA
  • Laulima Kuha’O
  • Maui Nui Makai Network
  • Organized Village of Kake
  • Organized Village of Savoonga
  • Organized Village of Shaktoolik
  • Punana O Kaiona
  • Roots Program (Kōkua Kalihi Valley)
  • Tanana Chiefs Conference
  • Village of Port Heiden
  • Waimea Homestead
  • Alliance of Native Seedkeepers
  • Another Gulf is Possible/Otro Golfo es Posible
  • Colmena Cimarrona
  • Cosmic Poetry Sanctuary
  • Ekvn-Yefolecv
  • Hijra House
  • ISER Caribe
  • Living Hope Wheelchair Association
  • New Alpha CDC
  • North Carolina Climate Justice Collective
  • Nottoway Tribe of Virginia
  • Sejah Farm, St. Croix
  • SouthCentral Louisiana CDC
  • Southeastern African American Farmers’ Organic Network (SAAFON)
  • Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards
  • Stay Together Appalachian Youth Project
  • Alaska Venture Fund
  • Another Gulf is Possible/Otro Golfo es Posible
  • Appalachian Community Fund
  • Climate Justice Alliance
  • Dogwood Alliance
  • Filantropía Puerto Rico
  • First Nations Development Institute
  • Foundation for Louisiana
  • Hawaii Community Foundation
  • Headwaters Foundation
  • Kua’aina Ulu ‘Auamo
  • Native Americans in Philanthropy
  • Quivira Coalition
  • Spruce Root

Anna Loizeaux, JPB Foundation
Ciciley “CC” Moore, WK Kellogg Foundation
Chris Cardona, Ford Foundation
Claire Poelking, MacArthur Foundation
Doua Thor, Sobrato Philanthropies
Genny Biggs, Moore Foundation
Jamaica Maxwell, Packard Foundation
Jennifer Chavez Rubio, Gates Foundation
Jennifer Ryan, Moore Foundation
Jessica Kiessel, Omidyar Network
Karla Ruiz, Sobrato Philanthropies
Kate Barnes, MacArthur Foundation
Linda Baker, Packard Foundation
Lindsay Louie, Hewlett Foundation
Rachel Huguet, Hilton Foundation
Shaheen Hasan, Target Foundation
Shaheen Kassim-Lakha, Hilton Foundation
Trevor Pollack, Barr Foundation

  • Anne Nsimbi
  • Debbie Blum
  • Gita Gulati-Partee
  • Jaqueline Hartley
  • Katy Love
  • Meenakshi Abbi
  • Melinda Tuan
  • Michelle Mengel
  • Rick Moyers
  • Sarah Stachowiak
  • Winifred Olliff
  • Annie Jane Cotten
  • Artis Burney
  • Braulio Quintero
  • Camille Hebert
  • Claire Poelking
  • Dale KK Browne
  • Elda Guadalupe Carrasquillo
  • Jayeesha Dutta
  • Jodi Lasseter
  • Kaiulani Odom
  • Karla Ruiz
  • Katia R. Avilés-Vázquez
  • Rev. Leo Woodberry
  • Liana Lopez
  • Loretta Slater
  • Marselle Alexander-Ozinskas
  • Osvaldo Capmany
  • Roberto Thomas
  • Rory Neuner
  • Sydney Underwood
  • Taysha DeVaughan
  • Whitney Jaye
  • Yvonne Belanger