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Embracing the Power Shift: Insights from the Trust-Based Philanthropy Summit in Bogotá

Updated: Feb 12

By Jennifer Belmont: CEO Wakatipu Community Foundation


In a transformative moment for philanthropy, the Shift the Power Summit in Bogotá brought together leaders from around the world to discuss and promote trust-based philanthropy. Among the attendees were four representatives from New Zealand, including myself, chosen to participate in this global dialogue. Organised by our Australian colleagues, Ian Bird, CEO of Australian Community Foundations, and supported by a generous grant from the Mackenzie Scott Foundation, the summit presented a pivotal opportunity to explore how this movement holds direct relevance for our community foundations in New Zealand and the Wakatipu Community Foundation in particular. I felt extremely honoured as an immigrant to represent New Zealand in this international forum.


Understanding Trust-Based Philanthropy:


Trust-based philanthropy, most recently celebrated and supported by Mackenzie Scott, emphasizes shifting power dynamics in philanthropic relationships. Instead of solely focusing on project-specific funding, the movement encourages a deeper engagement with the mission of organizations. This approach recognizes the local expertise of organizations and trusts them to use funds in the way they deem most effective. It's about building trust, fostering collaboration, and empowering communities to lead their own initiatives.


Local Implications for New Zealand's Community Foundations:


At first glance, one might assume that the summit primarily addressed issues pertinent to the Global South and indigenous populations. However, as a representative from New Zealand, I found that the principles of trust-based philanthropy are directly applicable to our community foundations. These foundations, locally based and supported by donors committed to perpetuating local missions, are well-positioned to champion this movement.


The Perfect Vehicle: Community Foundations and Trust-Based Philanthropy:


Community foundations in New Zealand play a crucial role in supporting locally led initiatives. They act as a bridge between donors and community needs, focusing on long-term impact rather than short-term projects. The summit highlighted that community foundations are the perfect vehicle for trust-based philanthropy due to their inherent connection to local communities and their commitment to supporting missions over specific projects. I was fortunate to lead a session on how community foundations can lead in this space. It was well attended, and I asked an amazing woman from Colombia whom I had chatted with earlier to co-lead the session. There was a wealth of great information from participants, but one thing was clear—community foundations are the key to locally-led philanthropy.


Lessons for the Wakatipu Community Foundation:


We are one of the youngest foundations in New Zealand, but several lessons from the summit stand out. First and foremost is the importance of building strong relationships with local organizations. Trust is at the core of this approach, and establishing open lines of communication fosters a deeper understanding of community needs and aspirations. Euni Borrie, our grants and scholarships manager, is doing this daily. She works with local charities every day, helping them with ideas for funding, working with other organizations, and providing them with an overview of what is happening in the area for funding. It has become a valuable initiative where she has garnered close to $1M in funding streams for local charities. Fostering these relationships is key to this movement.


Another key takeaway is the shift from a project-centric mindset to a mission-centric approach. By focusing on the broader mission, community foundations can be more adaptable and responsive to evolving community needs. This flexibility allows for a more holistic impact, aligning with the principles of trust-based philanthropy.


The Role of Community Foundation Donors:


Interestingly, many of our community foundation donors are already embodying the principles of trust-based philanthropy. By contributing to sectors or allowing organisations to decide where the funds are most needed, donors are enabling local expertise to guide decision-making. It's a testament to the shared belief in an organisation's mission and the trust placed in them to allocate resources effectively. And an off-shoot to this is ensuring that those that work in this vital field are adequately paid, something that our charity sector has neglected for too long.


The Shift the Power Summit in Bogotá served as a catalyst for redefining the role of philanthropy, not just in the Global South but also in New Zealand. Trust-based philanthropy offers a pathway for community foundations to strengthen their impact by focusing on missions over projects. As the Wakatipu Community Foundation explores these principles, we are poised to create lasting change, aligning with the global movement led by Mackenzie Scott towards a more trusting and empowering philanthropic landscape.

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