The Power of Participatory Grantmaking to Advance Racial Equity: Part I

Marissa Jackson, Anne Katahira, Leslie Silverman and Pat Vinh-Thomas
August 17, 2021

There is a growing understanding in our sector that traditional philanthropy or “the way that we’ve always done it” isn’t working for most communities, and particularly for Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) communities.  

Philanthropic organizations are examining both the origins of their wealth and the power they hold as decision-makers for how that wealth is distributed. And with this reckoning, a growing exploration of strategies to rectify the wrongs of wealth extraction and achieve sustainable change towards greater racial equity has developed.  

In this two-part series, we’ll be exploring one of those strategies: participatory grantmaking.  

"Participatory grantmaking is an  approach to philanthropy that cedes decision-making authority to the very communities affected by funding decisions.” - Cynthia Gibson, Deciding Together Shifting Power and Resources Through Participatory Grantmaking

We’ve asked our consultants Anne KatahiraLeslie Silverman and Pat Vinh-Thomas to share their individual reflections on a set of questions that we often explore with our clients who are beginning to test participatory grantmaking practices.  
In Part I, we’ll cover:  

  1. Why does participation matter and who should participate? 
  2. What does it mean to practice participatory grantmaking with a racial equity lens?  

We recognize that this single webpage doesn’t provide nearly enough space for the breadth and depth required to fully answer each of these questions. However, the responses below are meant to serve as a snapshot of the individual perspectives of our consultants. We hope that you’ll join us in continuing these conversations to help shift grantmaking culture and practices.   

Why does participation matter and who should participate? 


What does it mean to practice  participatory  grantmaking with a racial equity lens?


As organizations reshape their grantmaking to center BIPOC communities, it’s important to consider and reflect on these questions as they serve as the foundation of a more equitable process. Part II will build on this foundation, exploring accountability in participatory grantmaking and what 'authentic' participation really means.

In the meantime, we recommend checking out Participatory Grantmakers Community of Practice and Cynthia Gibson's reports (Participatory Grantmaking; Has Its Time Come? and Deciding Together: Shifting Power and Resources Through Participatory Grantmaking) for more information on participatory grantmaking. 


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