Managing Risk for Equitable Grant Making with Melanie Brown, DeAnna Hoskins, and Aleesha Taylor

Over the next two weeks at the Non-Profit Build Up, we will be exploring the context and common concerns on “Managing Risk for Equitable Grant Making”. This week’s episode is part one of a two-part panel discussion originally recorded at the PEAK 2022 Conference. Moderated by Build Up’s CEO, A. Nicole Campbell and in conversation with Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Deputy Director, Melanie Brown, JustLeadershipUSA’s President and CEO DeAnna Hoskins, and Herald Advisor’s Principal, Aleesha Taylor. This presentation was originally recorded in March 2022. This is a two-part series.

Nic, Melanie, DeAnna, and Aleesha dive into the practice of progressive grantmaking, the inequities that traditional grantmaking have on the marginalized communities it aims to serve, and how to align the definition of risk with an organization’s appetite for risk. You won’t want to miss it.

Listen to the podcasts here:

Part 1:

Part 2:


Read the podcast transcription below:

Part One

-Upbeat Intro Music-

Nic Campbell: You’re listening to the Nonprofit Build Up Podcast. I’m your host, Nic Campbell. I want to support movements that can interrupt cycles of injustice and inequity and shift power towards vulnerable and marginalized communities. I’ve spent years working in and with non-profits and philanthropies and I know how important infrastructure is to outcomes. On this show, we’ll talk about how to build capacity to transform the way you and your organization work.

Stef Wong: Hi, everyone. It’s Stef. Buildup’s Executive Portfolio Liaison. This week on the Nonprofit Build Up is part one of a two-part panel discussion originally recorded at the PEAK2022 Conference. Moderated by Build Up’s CEO, A. Nicole Campbell and in conversation with Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Deputy Director, Melanie Brown, JustLeadershipUSA’s President and CEO, DeAnna Hoskins and Herald Advisor’s Principal, Aleesha Taylor. This presentation was originally recorded in March 2022.

Stef Wong: In this episode, Nic, Melanie, DeAnna and Aleesha dive into the practice of progressive grantmaking, discuss the inequalities that traditional grantmaking have on the marginalized communities it aims to serve, and how to align the definition of risk with an organization’s appetite for risk. You won’t want to miss it. With that, here is part one of managing risk for equitable grantmaking.

Claire: Hi, everyone again, and welcome. Now, I’m pleased to turn it over to our speakers for the managing risk for equitable grantmaking session. Over to you all.

Nic Campbell: Thanks so much, Claire. Hello, everyone. My name is Nic Campbell, and I am the Founder and CEO of the Build Up Companies. We work only with brave non-profits and philanthropies to strengthen their organizational infrastructure, so that they are best placed to do their work. For our clients, that means interrupting cycles of inequity and injustice.

Nic Campbell: That’s why I’m so excited to have this conversation today. This discussion is about being brave, calling out practices and perspectives and sharing the thought leadership of black women who often stand in the vanguard of social justice in the sector, both domestically and internationally, to ultimately inform how the entire sector should come to this work.

Nic Campbell: During our conversation today, we will explore what it means to both work and award funding in a way that doesn’t contribute to, or perpetuate harmful practices and power dynamics of the same inequitable system in which we operate when working with vulnerable communities. We’ll also focus on the relationship between risk and decision-making, risk and equity and risk and inclusion, and how risk ultimately informs, support and can even derail equitable grantmaking.

Nic Campbell: My colleague, Stephanie, is also joining us from Build Up. She will be monitoring the chat and be able to get to all the questions that you might have, so that we can make sure that we address them during our key list.

Nic Campbell: Could each of you take a minute or two and introduce yourself and the focus of your work, given the context of our conversation today, which is about managing risk, and equitable grantmaking? Aleesha, I’ll start with you.

Aleesha Taylor: Good afternoon, and I’m excited to join you today. I’m Dr. Aleesha Taylor, Principal of Herald Advisors. My academic background is in international educational development, and my focus is on education policy and systems that enable governments to provide education to even their most marginalized communities. I spent 10 years as a grant maker with the Open Society Foundations. In 2016 when I transitioned, I was the deputy director of their global education program.

Aleesha Taylor: For the past five years, I’ve been working independently at Herald Advisors, partnering with leaders and organizations and supporting them to thrive within the intersections of education, international development and philanthropy.

Nic Campbell: Thanks so much, Aleesha. DeAnna.

DeAnna Hoskins: Yes. Good afternoon. I’m grateful to be here. My name is DeAnna Hoskins. I’m the President/CEO of JustLeadershipUSA. We’re the only national organization that has been founded by and operated by formerly incarcerated individuals. We invest in their leadership by educating, elevating and empowering their voices to change their communities, or addressing the policies that continue to oppress and marginalize them.

DeAnna Hoskins: I came to this work through way of working the increasing levels of government from state to local and federal government and engagement. I realized that the leaders we were missing from the conversation were those directly impacted by the issues we were trying to address. My focus is on bringing that expertise to those tables of policy change.

Nic Campbell: Thanks, DeAnna. And Melanie.

Melanie Brown: Thank you, Nic. It is a pleasure to be here with you, DeAnna and Aleesha. Hi, everyone. I am Melanie Brown. I am Deputy Director at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. I sit on the foundation’s North America team, which is focused on the foundation’s investments in the United States and Canada.

Melanie Brown: I lead a team focused on public engagement. We are responsible for managing the relationships, constituency relationships that are influential to our strategies and our strategies being successful. That includes safe communities and business sector and also communities of color. I believe I said this, but if not, I’ll say again, I’ve been at Gates for about seven years. Prior to that, I was at the Heinz Endowments for eight years. I’ve been in this field of philanthropy for 15 years, as a black woman Grantmaker, managing risk and internally and externally, and moving money to communities of color. Just really excited to have this conversation today.

Nic Campbell: Well, thank you all so much. You can understand why I was very excited about this panel and having this conversation, particularly given the perspectives that each of our panelists bring. My first question is that the relationship between bias and risk inherently informs a Grantmaker’s efforts in capacity building and support of organizations.

Nic Campbell: Now, we talk a lot about risk, but there doesn’t seem to be a shared definition of risk within the sector that we’ve all adopted. How do each of you define risk?

DeAnna Hoskins: I can start from there. Thank you for that question, Nic. I think this came up, because one of my concerns, from a philanthropy perspective, even when applications are denied, or you’re working with philanthropy, that risk of they evaluate each application on is never publicly shared. If you’re a small, non-profit, black-led organization, you never know what gaps in your organizational structure, what gaps in your capacity you need to feel to become a viable grantee of that fund, that grant maker.

DeAnna Hoskins: With that, I internally can look at my operations and how my development team is, how we’re being responsible stewards of the funding granted to us to carry out our mission. Also, always struggling to identify what are the risks, or things that the philanthropist, or the Grantmaker that I’m applying to was looking for, there’s no transparency there. Even when they say they’re investing in capacity building, what is defined as capacity building to them may be totally different as where I’m looking at capacity building of strengthening organizational processes, and expanding the organization and grow where they may be looking at something totally different.

DeAnna Hoskins: Because there’s no transparency, there’s no clear meaning. We struggle with that in the equitable. But you have larger organizations who may not be having the impact to infiltrate the communities we’re actually trying to engage with. Because they have this huge structure, they’ve been around for 60 years, it’s assumed that they are less risky than the newer organizations who are under 10-years-old.

Aleesha Taylor: For me, I define the risk as, or understand it as just simply the level of comfort that an organization, or a funder may have. I think it’s also important to recognize that at a definitional term, it really is obscure. That risk can be identified as, well understood as what Levi Strauss referred to as a floating signifier. Meaning, that there’s no agreed upon meaning and essentially means – inherently means different things to different people. I see it as an opportunity, or even a requirement really, for organizations to stop and define it. What does it mean, and what does it even refer to?

Aleesha Taylor: Also, to understand what or who is being put at risk? Do we understand if the organizations understand risk in terms of reputation, resources, physical safety, impact, or even emotional security of grantees? Also, who is impacted by risk? Just the funder? To what extent do we consider the risk to grantee partners? As DeAnna was saying, the critical piece there is for organizations to clarify and be transparent around their unique understanding and approach to risk.

Melanie Brown: I’ll just add, I mean, I agree with much that has been said. What I think of and I don’t think that funders do a good job of explaining this to grantees is that when I’m looking at making an investment, I’m also thinking about, is this investment going to allow me and therefore, the foundation to achieve its goals? Is it a risk to us meeting what we are being told we need to achieve in order to reach our goals, or to stay in alignment with our broader priorities?

Melanie Brown: It’s not always just about that individual partner, but how does this partner fit within a portfolio of investments that I’m trying to move in order to achieve a goal? I agree with DeAnna that it is very obscure, and it is very difficult to understand when a foundation says that you’re risky. At the same time, foundations should be willing to make risky investments. If we’re not making risky investments and making some mistakes, then we’re actually not doing our job. It is that balance of comfort, but it’s also a willingness to understand that you may have some outliers.

Melanie Brown: I always think of my work as a target. I have some partners who are on the bull’s eye of that target. Maybe those are ones that are a little bit safer, for whatever criteria I may use per se. Then I have some that are in the outer rings of that target. It doesn’t mean that they’re not good investments. It could mean that I’m testing some things out, but I’m willing to take a risk. I’m trying to see, is this something that could eventually go into that bullseye?

Melanie Brown: Then sometimes not everything has to fit into that bullseye, because that’s not how change happens with just one strategy. It is a combination of things. Then, the last thing I’ll say is just I often ask myself, what is the risk of not investing in a partner? I think, DeAnna, that you really hit on this. As I said, I lead our work foundation’s engagement with communities of color in the US. What does it risk if we don’t invest in those organizations? If we don’t invest in them at the same level, and over the same amount of time, we are other investments, our white-led organizations.

Melanie Brown: I just wanted to add that nuance that there is often a risk that if we look at these organizations, some of them who’ve been around for 60 years, and they’re not having impact with communities of color, the risk is actually to keep investing in them. That is the risk. Not to move funding to a new organization, or a person of color-led organization.

Nic Campbell: No, I really appreciate all of your definitions and the way you are looking at risk. From even what you just shared, you’re talking about risk being the level of comfort that a Grantmaker might have. There’s the risk of not investing and what happens if you don’t. Then really, that taking a step back and looking at the grant as a part of a portfolio of grants and within your grant making a single, how does that fit? Does it fit? And raising those questions.

Nic Campbell: I’m going to ask a follow-up question to what you all just shared. Do you think that black-led organizations are more impacted by how risk is perceived, defined or not defined at all? Do you actually think that the lack of definition that exists throughout the sector, particularly within grant making organizations is deliberate?

Melanie Brown: I would say yes, and then not have to expand on my answer. Yes, I do. Philanthropy is intentionally obscure. It’s not just for black-led organizations. Philanthropy doesn’t want you to know how we do what we do. Pushing for transparency in a sector that does not want to be transparent, historically has not – We’ve certainly seen some changes in that more recently, is a challenge in and of itself.

Melanie Brown: I think, if you look at anything in our society, where black-led, people of color is put at a disadvantage, we see that having some entropy as well. I think that we don’t define risk. One, I don’t think we could define risk. I don’t think there’s one definition for risk for every – That would be a blanket for the sector, but do think every institution could be better at thinking about risk. I have to believe that it’s intentional, even if it’s not intended to be harmful. I think, it’s intended to be a little bit close to the chest, to protect ourselves. I welcome a challenge to that.

DeAnna Hoskins: No, I totally agree that when I look at the risk of funders, and I’m a person who’s known to be very authentic, and just speak my voice. I look at situations that are happening now. I’ll take MacKenzie Scott. I love what she’s doing, actually disseminating it, but no one knows how to get on her radar. When you look at the organizations that she is investing in, you know there’s a team of researchers that are just investing and looking at people organizations from the outside, and not really even having conversation with operations, what is the impact?

DeAnna Hoskins: When you look at that, you look at okay, do I need to increase my social media presence? Do I need to be a nationally attached organization with chapters in 50 states? Do I need to be the black-led organization ran by formerly incarcerated individuals that’s attached to celebrities? Those different things that is actually being highlighted, when the true passion and the work lies within the impact that we’re having and the people were touching in the communities we’re empowering. Nobody knows. Nobody knows, even if it’s a secret anonymous ballot, how do you put who you are, so that they can identify these organizations that aren’t attached to celebrities, these organizations that don’t have chapters in every state, such as the Boys and Girls Club, or Planned Parenthood, that are actually have any impact?

DeAnna Hoskins: When I say, is it intentional, I think it is. Now, let me say something that I wanted to follow up on when she said, it’s risky not to invest in other organizations. Because here’s the thing, if we’re really going to change and our investments is around changing and making the world better in some way, we have to be willing to try something different. Sometimes trying something different is the innovation and the thinking outside the box, but it’s really hard to get philanthropy to move in that direction and take those chances when you don’t have those major celebrity connections, or you’re not in 50 different states.

DeAnna Hoskins: Do I think it’s additional? I think it is. While they’ll pick up some black-led organizations, or formerly incarcerated, you then look who they’re attached to. The one philanthropy doesn’t want to be the first one. Once one takes a chance, everyone else will follow, because it actually looks safe and we won’t be the only ones called out if it doesn’t work out.

Aleesha Taylor: Just to add to that, briefly, I think in addition to transparency around funders’ appetite for risk to build on what something that Melanie pointed out, I think there’s a lack of transparency around the actual goals and intentions of some organizations, and a need for transparency and clarity around that. Just to know, is an organization a funder seeking to create more diverse organizations, or diverse leadership in a sector? Is it to get more refugees in schools?

Aleesha Taylor: Some funders, their goal is to be perhaps, develop a reputation of being the riskiest, or being the largest and most prominent philanthropy that’s moving the needle on a particular issue. I think, understanding that broad goal and then finding the appetite, identifying the appetite for risk was in that framework.

Nic Campbell: What I’m hearing from you all is this idea that it’s intentional. There’s not a lot of transparency, and that’s deliberate. Then you are also struggling with this idea of what is actually the stated goal of the program, of the work, of the organization? I’m thinking about, how do we start to shift risk frameworks? I missed all of what you just shared, lack of transparency, it’s really deliberate. This lack of definition of risk is also very deliberate. How can we shift risk frameworks within Grantmakers, particularly in the context of capacity building? Given that we struggle with all of the things that you just called out? We’re also struggling with this idea of how do we invest in organizations? Do we focus on deliverables? Do we focus on outcomes? Do we focus on impact, which is building on what Aleesha just shared? How do you start to shift risk frameworks within Grantmakers, given the context in which we’re operating? Melanie, I’d love to get your thoughts on that.

Melanie Brown: I’d love to hear from one of my fellow panelists. I will admit to nothing sure. I’m not sure how we shift it. Individual crashes, yes. I think as institutions, it’s a lot more difficult. I don’t mean to not contribute, but I don’t want to fumble around in an answer. DeAnna and Aleesha has something much more brilliant to share.

Aleesha Taylor: Oh, no. Well, actually, it is brilliant, because I’m going to pick up on something that DeAnna has said. I’ll pick up on her brilliance. I think, one of the ways we can start to shift risk frameworks is really, perhaps by interrogating the grant-making of organizations. Looking into, for example, the example that Deanna held up around MacKenzie Scott, using this just as an example, and really tracing the types of organizations that funds are going to and really asking the question and assessing like, “Is this actually a risky investment when investments are channeled towards organizations with higher profile, celebrity connections, international and international networks?”

Aleesha Taylor: Who is favored and who is left out and asking those questions? Then looking at what, again, the goal that funders want to contribute to, or achieve and looking at and comparing their investments to their decisions around investments to the organizations, or a broader understanding of organizations that are on the ground and doing the work that they say that they want to invest in, and to see is there some space between that. Again, it’s almost forcing additional transparency.

DeAnna Hoskins: I’ll follow up to what Aleesha said. To even go deeper than that, I always question when funders say, “This is what we want to do with our money.” Versus, what is the mission you came to the work to create this foundation? Was it identifying the injustices that you see in a community, the injustices, or the disparities that you see? Are you perpetrating disparities in even your grantmaking while you’re saying your funding is going to disrupt disparities, right?

DeAnna Hoskins: I shy away from finding opportunities to say, this is what we want you to do with our funding. Because what you want me to do, because you don’t have close proximity to the problem, you’ve just read some research, may not be applicable in practice. Is there a way for funders to say, “This is our mission to disrupt the disparities that we see, the injustices?” But we’re going to support organizations that have close proximity to those issues, to help provide the solution and we’re not going to tell them how to drive the solution. We’re going to support their proposed solutions in that manner.

DeAnna Hoskins: I don’t know if that makes sense, because what happens, you typically go after funding, ad if you’re a small shop like us, while we’re national, if you’re a small shop like us, when I first took over JustLeadership in 2018, and coming from federal government managing the second chance portfolio, I felt like an octopus. Because I felt as if for sustainability of the organization, because most organizations or businesses fail within the first five years. As a new nonprofit, launched international attention, we were just grabbing funding. What that resulted in is me doing a different report for every funder, because I didn’t feel it was aligned to the mission of what this funding was supporting.

DeAnna Hoskins: We’ve been able to strategize, come up with a strategic plan, that any funding that comes into this organization is going to support and align with our mission to educate, elevate and empower the most marginalized individuals in those communities. Whether that’s through training, whether that’s through communications, whether that’s through actually working with Congress to address the policies, helping them build campaigns. I now have a strategic plan. No matter what funding we get, I can write a report that demonstrates our impact, our strategies, where we’ve been able to touch people, instead of actually building a development team that was more of donor management around the reporting, because we had to do all these different reports, because every funder expected me to do something different.

DeAnna Hoskins: What that has caused me to do, let’s be honest, I don’t have as much funding, because I’ve aligned and transparent with our mission. These are the funders that we actually go after and work with, who allow us the space to be who we are, who allow us the space to be authentic, but also, who allow us the space to invest in communities the way we have aligned with our mission, instead of telling us what to do. Which to me, sometimes take me off mission.

DeAnna Hoskins: As a small shop, I have probably have to hire a team to manage that grant for two years. After two years, I’m perpetrating what I’m trying to disrupt. Because now I’m laying people off, because that program no longer have funding. If you support us as an organization, we can build our capacity around sustainability, because we’re aligned and driven.

Aleesha Taylor: I think, that’s another critical piece that DeAnna brings up. I think, we often think about risks at the decision-making point of the funder, and don’t consider the risks to the organization after funding is dispersed. Then also, more importantly, after funders decide to perhaps shift and make a decision, when no longer funding education, or we’re no longer funding a particular issue and what risks have you exposed that grantee to after you have supported their organizations, or their programs as opposed to the organization.

Melanie Brown: Just something I was going to – that just came to mind, DeAnna, as you were speaking is a question of, I don’t think I even asked enough in engaging with partners, but what can we do together? I think that sense of not I’m giving you money to achieve our goals, or that it’s just a sense of like, okay, well, it’s charity. I’m just giving you money. But it’s like, we can strategically come together. We need each other.

Melanie Brown: Now he’s trying to say that, that I can’t do my job without really good organizations who can execute on the work. We know that really good organizations who can execute me the resources to do it. That shift in power dynamic about approaching these issues is something that we can achieve together that we need each other is something that I think more funders need to do.

Melanie Brown: Then, that also led me to think of when I heard you talking about the different reports and reporting sectors and timelines is that we can work together more. We say this all the time. We always say we can collaborate, and we can we can work better together. It really is something that just hasn’t happened enough. To your earlier point, DeAnna, around foundations are often afraid to be the first, if you’re partnering, then you don’t have to be the first. You’re doing something together. It is like you said, Aleesha, where eventually your foundation says, “We’re not doing education anymore.” You’re not dropping the ball on these organizations. They have other opportunities to still receive funding.

Melanie Brown: I don’t think there’s a role for funders to vouch for the organizations that they invest in. There’s a responsibility for funders not to just say, “Oh, here’s your grant.” But to introduce you. Maybe you’re not as out there. Maybe you don’t have a celebrity connected to you, which to me is always a red flag, by the way. Any org that has a celebrity attached to it, I’m like, “I don’t know about that.”

Melanie Brown: But then I can be the person to vouch for you, right? It’s not just about our dollars vouching for you. It’s actually me taking the time to talk to other funders about your work, even if I’m not able to invest in. Maybe I say, this is a great organization. It’s not aligned to our work, but I think it’s aligned to your work to make a connection. Can I do that for you. I think that we can do that more as funders.

DeAnna Hoskins: I really appreciate that, Melanie, because I do think looking at it as a partnership, and not just a giving of funding. I’m going to hold you accountable. This is a partnership. In reality, the mission of the foundation should align with the mission of the organization, so that would be a partnership to actually address some change. Also, another thing we have to be strategically aware of is nothing in the world is going to change in one or two years. This is a conversation I’ve been having with funders.

DeAnna Hoskins: I have to, as a black-led organization say, do I take your generous gift over 24 months, and knowing after 24 months, this generosity is going to leave, versus going with a funder who gives me a smaller gift, but gives me five years runway? As those impacts, because as an executive director or president, what I find myself, I never can leave the organization, because I’m always in fundraiser mode. I’m always in fundraising mode. I have 15 people, families who depend on me raising funds for the next year, that the stress that is on me to still show up publicly on panels, to still show up as the face of this organization. After 5:00 when everybody else goes home, I’m strategizing on what relationships and doors I need to open, because there are 15 families making sure I can raise the funds for next year, because I’m losing 2.5 million in two year grants that’s getting ready to drop off.

DeAnna Hoskins: Even if funders look at how do we wean people off? If I give you a million a year, and we’re changing our direction, we don’t drop you. I think Melanie said, we don’t drop you. How do we wean you off? Because so you can start to replace. But we’re introducing you to other funders as well, because our portfolio, our name is not as big as a Goodwill, or Salvation Army, but our impact smashes theirs of being in marginalized communities than you can ever think about.

DeAnna Hoskins: What are we really looking at? How do we define that partnership is very important, because we have to make real decisions? Sometimes that can cause us harm. As a organization, if you really want us to have a presence and have an impact, how do we stay on that trajectory when we’re always in fundraising mode, because funders are only allocating funding for one or two years, but change doesn’t happen in that short amount of time.

Nic Campbell: Right. What I’ve heard from each of you is talking about this increased partnership that’s needed between our among funders, I’m thinking about risk management, which is this idea that risk doesn’t just end after you ask the question on the application. It’s also about what happens post-award and throughout the grant as well. Then listening really intently to your grantees, to your organizations that you’re funding and saying, you’re closest to the problem, and likely the solution. Where can we leverage your expertise? How can we support that?

Nic Campbell: What a lot of this then comes down to is accountability. How do you make sure that funders are doing exactly what we just described, or creating an environment that we just described? When we think about accountability, who holds folks accountable? Who was making sure that these Grantmakers are actually doing what we just talked about? That they are funding in the way that we’re talking about? Aleesha, you said something that really stuck with me, which was, we need to interrogate their grant-making. Who’s doing the interrogation?

DeAnna Hoskins: That’s dangerous to be in. It is. Are there certain Grantmakers I can have that conversation with? Honestly, yes. Because we built a relationship, right? Is there fear of backlash and the power dynamics? There is, and I’ll share one. When I first took over this organization, there was a huge funder that supported campaigns that were going on through this organization. As I was coming in, looking at shifting, they wanted me to make certain hiring decisions.

DeAnna Hoskins: One, they didn’t believe in my leadership, as an African-American woman, not from New York, and never had touched feet and Close Rikers, how was I going to lead the Close Rikers Campaign? I immediately had the conversation that they didn’t understand leadership, because leadership is not about me. Leadership is about me empowering other people who have been impacted to lead that campaign, which we successfully did.

DeAnna Hoskins: Two, she demanded I make a hiring decision in leadership that I was not willing to make. In terms, let me know that if I didn’t, that she would not be supporting this organization moving forward. I had to be okay with that. It was a huge amount of funding that we lost. What I realized that I was giving up was my voice and authentically who I was. The conversation switched. I remember returning the current funding we had, because I was determined, you couldn’t talk to me like that. You weren’t going to belittle me like that.

DeAnna Hoskins: What that resulted in was her going to other funders, character assassinating me. Thankfully, I had relationships with other funders who knew my integrity of working in the federal government, managing 85-million-dollar federal grants, work in state and local, that she was not able to have the impact. I thought about the power dynamic of that position she was in, because I wouldn’t leave the power, or do what she wanted me to do, which was not in the best interest of the organization, because she didn’t have close proximity, and didn’t understand leadership.

DeAnna Hoskins: I always go back to that. Even today, when I’m in funder spaces, she shows up. She’s there. We speak. We’re cordial. Even in my organization, I will not submit an application to that funder for supporting funding, and she’s huge in the criminal justice realm. Because of the power dynamics that she shifted on me, one, I know she’s not going to approve it. Two, I have to maintain my integrity. Because if I have to lose my voice, I no longer need to be in this seat of leadership that I’m in.

Aleesha Taylor: I think, it’s really critical for to answer your question, Nic, and to build on what DeAnna has said for – Your question made me reflect also on my role in the field, and how oftentimes, when I’m contacted either to sit on panels, or to do some strategic work, a common thread that I tend to get is that, “Well, Aleesha, we need you in the room, because you’re able to speak the truth to funders.”

Aleesha Taylor: I think, there’s a responsibility for those of us who don’t have the restrictions and the constraints of getting our funding cut to our organizations to actually step up and play a larger role in calling out and exposing those power dynamics. Actually, it’s horrible, that DeAnna would have to – just the fact that she has to remain cordial to someone who really tried that character assassination, and also attempt to diminish the work of her organization in the field. Calling out that specific issue, and I think it’s a reflection of the lack of accountability that we have towards that we place on funders.

Aleesha Taylor: That risk and accountability is always just placed, put at the feet, or laid at the feet of the grantee partners that are doing the work. In some ways, I also see that as a call to action for some of us, depending on our positions in the field.

Melanie Brown: I would just say, I agree. I mean, I think, Aleesha, you set in a really interesting in between space where you can be that advocate, or that person that speaks truth to power. I think, philanthropy needs to have a reckoning. I mean, I can’t very well think that people should be called out for one thing over here and then think – but don’t call out funders. We’re trying our best. No, these power dynamics that are in play or in philanthropy and are in so many other things. My belief is as hard as I know that it is is that it should be called out. It should be a conversation that if we are committed to making the world better, whatever that means for different organizations and for different philanthropies, then we can’t somehow think that we are immune to critique, that we are above critique, that we are not ourselves perpetuating many of the issues that we say we are committed to achieving.

Melanie Brown: I try to build relationships with my grantees where they feel they can come to me, but who’s to say I don’t have blind spots? Who’s to say that, that there still aren’t things that I’m doing, that I need to be more aware of? I think, there’s moments when it makes sense to call out. There’s moments where we call people in, and we try to – It sounds like in your situation, DeAnna, calling in was probably not going to work.

Melanie Brown: Let me also just say, that is absolutely horrible and that is disgusting. That is someone who would probably behave like that in whatever profession they were in. Not to take anything off of the responsibility as a funder, but that sounds like someone who has their own issues and hasn’t done their own personal work. A funder who is advising you on, or even forcing you on hiring decisions, in 15 years, I have never done that. I don’t understand why someone feels they have the right to do that. You were right not to accept those dollars. I do think that the balance of calling in and calling out is what is needed.

Nic Campbell: What I’m hearing from you all is that if you’re in the room, and you’re a stakeholder in this entire grant-making process, think about the role that you’re playing. When you’re seeing behaviors, practices, policies, that are not in-line with equitable grant-making focus, to call it out. Particularly when you are sitting in “the power seat,” or you are in that power part of the equation.

Melanie Brown: Can I add one thing, Nic, that when I was early in my – starting in philanthropy, I had a colleague say to me that I have to be willing to risk my privilege as a funder to do what’s right in the sector. I’m in the room in a way that my grantees aren’t. If I hear the way that we’re talking about people of color-led organizations, or the way that we’re talking about an organization in particular, and I know that it’s wrong, I have to be willing to risk my privilege as a program officer, as a director, as a whatever I am inside that institution to say, that’s not right. I challenge other funders to do the same.

Stef Wong: That concludes part one of this series. Next week, Nic, Melanie, DeAnna and Aleesha will go in more depth regarding equitable grant-making. Additionally, if you’re interested in partnering with a law firm that leverages a global network of experienced attorneys with decades of legal training and practical experience, and focuses on social impact organizations to serve as an outsourced general counsel and thought partner, then schedule a discovery call with the Campbell Law Firm today. 

Stef Wong: The Campbell Law Firm works with brave non-profits, philanthropists, ultra-high net worth individuals and movements, offering high-touch counsel to social impact entrepreneurs and organizations around the world. We would love to hear more about your brave mission to change the world.

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Nic Campbell: Thank you for listening to this episode of Nonprofit Build Up. To access the show notes, additional resources and information on how you can work with us, please visit our website at buildupadvisory.com. We invite you to listen again next week as we share another episode about scaling impact by building infrastructure and capacity in the non-profit sector. Keep building bravely.

Part Two

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Nic Campbell: You’re listening to the Nonprofit Build Up podcast. And I’m your host, Nic Campbell. I want to support movements that can interrupt cycles of injustice and inequity and shift power towards vulnerable and marginalized communities. I’ve spent years working in and with nonprofits and philanthropies, and I know how important infrastructure is to outcomes. On this show, we’ll talk about how to build capacity to transform the way you and your organization work. 

Stef Wong: Hi, everyone. It’s Steph, Build Up’s Executive Portfolio Liaison. This week on the Nonprofit Build Up is part two of a two-part panel discussion originally recorded at the PEAK 2022 Conference.

Stef Wong: Moderated by Build Up CEO, A. Nicole Campbell, and in conversation with Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Deputy Director, Melanie Brown; JustLeadershipUSA’s President and CEO, DeAnna Hoskins; and Herald Advisor’s principal, Aleesha Taylor. 

Stef Wong: This presentation was originally recorded in March 2022. You can jump back to part 1 of the conversation to learn more about managing risk for equitable grant making. But with that, let’s dive into the second part of Nic, Melanie, DeAnna and Aleesha’s discussion where they dive into the practice of progressive grant making, the inequities that traditional grant making has on marginalized communities funders’ aim to serve, and how to align grant making with an organization’s appetite for risk. You won’t want to miss it. 

Nic Campbell: I really like that framing, Melanie. And you know we’ve talked about funders, the role that they can play and how we can hold funders accountable to make sure that we are in this equitable grantmaking space. And I want to make sure that we focus on grantee practices as we think about grant making as a whole. What do grantees need to wrestle with when it comes to risk? And what does reframing of risk look like for grantee organizations? DeAnna, I would love to get your thoughts on those questions. 

DeAnna Hoskins: One, I think grantee organizations have to take a look internally. I actually look at internal processes to ensure that safety nets are in place. And I guess this is my – People say my PTSD are coming from government, because I just believe you have to be good stewards of the money entrusted in you. So, what are the processes and procedures you have in place? 

DeAnna Hoskins: One, to physically be held accountable. But two, that you’re not even wearing your staff out that Just is going to be an opportunity to build your staff and build the capacity of the organization. That even when this funding goes, that’s going to be sustainable, right? 

DeAnna Hoskins: So, one of the things that I do within the organization that I had to do to minimize risk was I couldn’t be the only decision maker in the organization. I realized structures, our titles, are there because we’re in a capitalist world. And they need to know somebody’s running the ship. But in decision making or funding opportunities, we collectively do it as a team. And sometimes I get outvoted because my team is actually delivering it. They’re actually doing the work. And I have to be mindful of the harm I’m causing them by chasing funding, right? 

DeAnna Hoskins: But I also think we have to be honest with ourselves. Am I, one, operationally prepared to go after five million dollars? Two, do I have the capacity to deliver on what I’m saying I’m going to deliver on in this proposal? And then three, what is my potential sustainability plan if I get this and I expand my organization, I do these things, what are my potential sustainability plans to keep it on that I keep my staff on? That I’m able to have a team. I’m not just chasing funding and hiring people, firing people. But then two, what does that sustainability look like, right? And for me, again, you could tell I’m a storyteller. I’ll share that, for me, being bold, we have this this culture in our organization that we’re going to boldly call out what it is. 

DeAnna Hoskins: So, while we address criminal justice issue, we’re boldly calling out the racial disparities and equalities in the various systems that filter into criminal justice. Because if I stay talking about criminal justice as the only problem, criminal justice ain’t going to be sexy in seven years with funders, right? Funders are going to go somewhere else. 

DeAnna Hoskins: But the one thing, no matter if it’s education, reproductive rights, criminal justice, mental health, substance abuse, it’s always a racial disparity to it. And if you follow it, through the end results of those failed systems, that systemic poverty and all those things, always fall into the criminal justice system, right? 

DeAnna Hoskins: So, in order not to bury ourselves and be limited to funding and then everybody’s going after the same money, we’re trying to change a system that has created racial disparities in economics, reproductive rights, education, mental health, access to all these things. 

DeAnna Hoskins: So, as an organization I had to strategically look, “How do I sustain this organization while still meeting our overall mission of disrupting the oppressive and marginalizing policies that are actually having the impact on the communities we’re trying to empower?” 

DeAnna Hoskins: So, it was like turning a ship in the middle of the ocean without anyone on board feeling the turn? Without anyone on board filling the turn. And then you’re here, you have this strategic plan. And just so happened what was happening in the world at the time unfortunately aligned with what you were saying. So, when everyone was saying, “We don’t know what you’re talking about. Why you’re doing that?” George Floyd happened. Breonna Taylor happened, right? COVID happened. And now everyone’s like, “Oh my God! We get it.” No. We’ve been screaming this, and that’s because you didn’t have close proximity to the problem like we did is why we were screaming it before the world noticed it. But you have to be bold enough to stand in your own lane and own that lane. 

Nic Campbell: No. I really appreciate just your response, DeAnna. Because what it what it signals to me is that we need to think about preparedness. We need to do this introspective look into capacity. And I really like this focus on sustainability planning. That you’re not just taking in funds for the moment, but you’re looking in the go forward. What do we need to actually be able to stand up for the long term? And I really appreciate all of that framework. We’re thinking particularly about grantee organizations. 

Nic Campbell: We also talk a lot about this term cultural competence, right? Sure, this is not the first time that many of us have heard that. But we talk a lot about cultural competence within the sector. And I’d love to hear how you all think about cultural competence, particularly as we’re talking about equitable grantmaking and we’re trying to center equity in our work. What role can cultural competence play in grantmaking strategy and implementation? 

Nic Campbell: Again, listening to all of your responses. So far, we’ve talked about listening. We’ve talked about accountability. How to work collaboratively? How does cultural competence come into play when we’re thinking about strategy and implementation?

Aleesha Taylor: I think with cultural competence, it’s about the importance of understanding the dynamics within the communities being served and really knowing if and when multiple sets of norms and rules are in play and the dynamics between them. And it gets directly to also what DeAnna was talking about around partnering. The importance of partnering with individuals who are closest to the problem. And understanding also cultural competence within communities. But then also cultural competence within our organizations, within the funding organizations and how the different dynamics play together. And so, I think the first step is just having an appreciation for overlapping interest. And understanding how power and power dynamics impact them. 

Melanie Brown: Yeah, I would agree. And I think for me, a lot of it is being able to show up in my work as my full self, as my full intersectional self, and allowing that to be an asset. And not something that has to be diminished in order to make a good investment. And so, I think it’s not far from what you’re saying, Aleesha, is being able to say like, “I do understand some of these dynamics in these communities. And some of them maybe I don’t understand because it might connect to my black identity, but it may not have connected to my class identity,” for example. 

Melanie Brown: And so, Just being funders is not being philantropoids as I like to say, right? Like, we are people and bringing that full personal self to the work. And I’ll add, at the Gates Foundation, a lot of our work is – The majority of our work is global. And so, even though we focus – My team focuses on relationships in the US. It is relationships that allow us to do our work in the US and across the world on issues around global health and global development. And so, humility is required, right? To act with the cultural competence is a respect that your culture, your ways of working, of knowing, of being are not the only ways. And so, that is when I think of cultural confidence. 

Melanie Brown: And I initially have like a knee-jerk reaction to that label, because it does become like another way of just saying, “This is how we should be treating people, right?” And so, we should need a label for it. We should value the perspectives of folks who are different than us. But that’s something that I always start with. 

Melanie Brown: And I always look, I will say – And this is related to managing risk, is I’m thinking about values and skills. And so, cultural competence is not solely focused on the skills or the way that we think about skills and executing, but also the values that people bring to their work. And balancing that as being equal to someone’s ability to do it is what are the values that are coming from these communities or these constituencies that are just as important to the work that we’re trying to do as what might be a focus on another cultural way of knowing, or doing, or being. 

DeAnna Hoskins: I’ll just follow up in total agreeance, but also being willing to be culturally competent is to be self-aware. That I need more than one opinion at the table. So, when we start talking about having a cultural awareness of different things, we do technical assistance with federal government entities who are implementing re-entry initiatives across the country. And when grantees struggle with recruitment or retaining participants who are leaving incarceration, moving to their community, they kind of reach out to us as formerly incarcerated people and say, “What can we do?” 

DeAnna Hoskins: And I immediately know, if this is a tribal grantee, working with a tribal population, DeAnna is not the person that acts on how to do recruitment, right? DeAnna reaches out to another leader who has a native American background who’s that’s their culture. There are certain things that we will never be able to tap into that taps into a person. But self-awareness of knowing just because I’m in the power seat to make the decision, I don’t have the knowledge culturally to actually have the impact that’s intended. 

DeAnna Hoskins: And I think it goes back to Melanie’s talking about humbleness and knowing when to step back that this is not my lane. Just because I’m the one who’s in charge of the project or in charge of this portfolio, I need. So, I wonder when organizations or funders say we’ve created a DEI task force, right? And then I look at the task force and I’ll be like, “Well, who are they culturally for the change to actually do something?” Because just because you’re actually making a task force to say you’re addressing that, are you truly having representation of the various cultures of the constituencies that you’re trying to impact at that table? And it goes to what Melanie said, just because I’m an African-American person at that table, can I put aside my class privilege to actually have the impact, of my black impact, that is happening in the marginalized communities? 

DeAnna Hoskins: Even having the ability to separate it even if I, within a race, identify, I may have obtained other privileges that I can no longer connect to. So, I have to be self-aware to put that on the table to say, “DeAnna, you’ve broken through glass ceilings of careers and different things. That’s on the table. Go back to the impoverished community from where you were with. And how is this policy, or this impact, or process going to impact those most marginalized who have not yet to obtain that?”

DeAnna Hoskins: So, self-aware. But also, just not how we give our grants. Do we go deep enough within organizations to look internally within their own HR hiring policies and different things of that nature that actually perpetrate the same disparities and cultural impact that they’re saying they’re trying to have outward? Are they doing it internally? Because I believe you can’t sustain it outwardly if you haven’t changed your culture and adaptation internally.

Nic Campbell: It makes me just think about the different ways in which you can lead, right? So, when we think about cultural competence, it’s this idea that you just don’t always have to be at the forefront knowing everything. I’m being that person. But it’s actually knowing when to take a step back and saying, “Someone else should lead this conversation. And I will be supporting that leadership.” So, everything that you all shared makes me think about how do we re-envision leadership in many of these contexts in which we find ourselves? 

Nic Campbell: And something you said, Deanna, was about how do you look internally, right? We start that evaluation process. And it should happen first internally. And then we start to look at what are the impacts of our work and our grantmaking? And so, I would love us to just talk and highlight a little bit about evaluation of work and impact just to hear from you all on how do you develop a shared understanding of risk within your organization? Where neither its application of risk, of this definition, or the definition itself perpetuates systemic racism in grantmaking and promotes equitable evaluation. 

Nic Campbell: So, we’ve talked about all of this to this point where we’re saying, “How can we continue to be self-aware enough to realize when we are not stepping into those same harmful practices and protocols that we’re trying to fight against?” So, how do you develop that shared understanding of risk to actually get us to the point where we are not perpetuating harm? 

DeAnna Hoskins: Nic, are you asking from an organizational standpoint? For me, just in this work, I’ve always, whether hired by the Board of County Commissioners, the governor, whatever the work that we were supposed to do externally, I would always look internally to see are we even doing it? And I could not be a voice for organization externally about practices and procedures that we weren’t following internally. 

DeAnna Hoskins: My current position, we’re promoting that formerly incarcerated directly impacted people need to be in positions of leadership making decisions. But I was the only person formerly incarcerated in leadership. So, I had to immediately change that and address that, that I had to walk the walk that I was talking to authentically own it, to have the credibility. But that was, if I truly believe that people who have close proximity to the issue should be in leadership in decision making at those policy tables, I had to actually replicate that internally because I believe in that, right? 

DeAnna Hoskins: So, it shows where the organizations are. I always say I look at an organization and they say this is what we’re doing for the most marginalized communities in African-American communities. Then I look at your whole executive team and leadership in your board of directors and there’s not one African-American on there. You’re just actually saying it. Because you internally have not ingested that to say, “This is what we believe in. And this is how we operate because we’re going to role model.” 

DeAnna Hoskins: Part of leadership, we teach principles of leadership. And the main principle of leadership is modeling the way. Don’t tell me what you want to do. Show me what you are actually saying you want to do because it will perpetrate out. And that’s a huge component of leadership even when I look at opportunities of advancement for myself. And people say this is what we do and what we want to do. And then I look inside internally and you don’t replicate what you’re saying. So, I think that, for organizations, we have to internally digest. If we’re asking people to be fair and equitable, are we internally fair and equitable to our team that we’re building as well? 

Aleesha Taylor: I think, and also, to build on that beyond the representation amongst decision makers and leadership is looking at, even if you have a diverse table, who has power and who has voice? And who feels supported enough to take risks and present perhaps risky portfolios? 

Aleesha Taylor: I think one thing I’m going to start suggesting to some of my clients is to, first of all, study the facial expressions that we saw this week with Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson and study them and look around your tables during board meetings and portfolio reviews. And if you see them, just note that perhaps your organization has a problem and needs to take a step back. 

Aleesha Taylor: So, I think, again, it’s really that focused attention on power and voice really. And who is able to really speak freely once they are at what we hope to be as a diverse decision-making table? And speak freely without repercussion. 

Melanie Brown: Yeah, I’ll just build on that just to say one thing as a leader and as a newer leader, someone who’s just recently within the last year taking on a leadership position, is giving my team permission to fail. And so, sometimes I don’t fully see the vision, I will admit. But to say like, “Okay, let’s try it. Let’s see.” And that being okay to do something that’s a little bit more risky. Something that is challenging the norms within our organization or within the sector. And let’s see if it works. Let’s try it. 

Nic Campbell: I love it all. So, I completely agree. And again, this theme of leadership. Giving folks permission to fail when we’re thinking about how do we start this evaluation process? And making sure that it’s starting internally before we then move externally.

Melanie Brown: And let me say something, DeAnna, to your point if you’re not able to walk the walk or talk the talk. Then don’t be out in front, right? If you know something is a direction that you should be going into – And I say this all the time. Like, funders and grantees are partners. And often, I have in the past used my funders to push my organization towards a direction. And so, sometimes you’re right. We may not be doing the work internally that we need to be doing. But I can move money into this organization who is and begin to show that we could be going in this direction. But then I shouldn’t come to you and say, “Oh, DeAnna, I’ve already figured it out,” right? I need to then understand to be behind you and to let you lead the way until my organization is ready. 

Nic Campbell: So, we wanted to also save some time for some Q&A. And we already have some questions that have come in. And so, I would encourage you to continue to submit questions in the chat and we’ll see if we can get to them during this conversation. So, the first question, and this is to any of you. And it’s, “Can you address the line between the technical assistance that’s offered by a funder and that kind of prescriptive dictation of how funds should actually be spent?” We see this come up a lot. I would love to get some thoughts. 

DeAnna Hoskins: I hate to keep going first. But I think it’s the clear definition of what is technical assistance, right? Because it can take on many facets of it. And I think Melanie talked about one. One of the technical assistants can be simply I need the introduction to other funders or relationships that you have around the work we’re doing. But then you get into a technical assistance of, “This is how you should be running your program. This is how you should be hiring your structure and different things of that nature.” 

DeAnna Hoskins: I think identifying what technical assistance look like, or is it technical assistance, or is it simply support? We’re here to support you. If you find yourself struggling with carrying out some of the objectives of the grant. Maybe the technical assistance of support is actually moving your grant date. Giving you an extension of time, right? That you don’t feel overwhelmed because you had to ramp up to actually get to the deliverables of the grant. Or in the middle of the grant, the technical assistance can be the flexibility of working with you to put in a budget modification or a scope of work modification. Because once you got into it, what you outlined to implement, the community had another direction and priority that you need to address and support with getting to the overall goal. 

DeAnna Hoskins: So, what is technical assistance? I think it’s kind of like risk. It’s not a broad topic. Philanthropy comes at it as we’re going to hold your hand around finances, operations or programmatic issues where it simply may be supporting you to actually move the needle. Because sometimes when you write the grant was the issue. But when you get to the community, the community may have identified another priority. So, I think transparency and clarity on is it technical assistance that guides you? Or is the support that supports you? 

Aleesha Taylor: I think it’s also important for funders to think about technical assistance beyond the program or project deliverables and to think about what additional support might, as DeAnna was saying, the organization need around perhaps around institutional development? Perhaps it can be about board strengthening or strengthening their governance systems and things things that will support the organization to be stronger after technical assistance that enables the organization to be stronger after the grant period. I think, again, like it’s about reframing our understanding of technical assistance. 

Melanie Brown: And I’ll just say quickly about the line when it goes too far, is I wonder if that’s a call-in, call-out moment for an executive director to say to the funder, “I appreciate the assistance. But this is actually not where we need the help.” And to have that be a conversation between what feels like overstep on part of the funder. Or just quite frankly, missing the mark, right? Of just not being able to see the organization in the same light they do. 

Melanie Brown: I will never see and understand an organization better than any of the grantees that run it because I’m not thinking about it day to day. It’s not my organization. It’s not what I do. And so, how can you use that example where there is that line being crossed to say, “This technical assistance is not helping. This is not where we are right now. And how can we work together to get some clarity on that and to get to a place that achieves what you need to achieve, funder, but is also beneficial to our organization?” 

Nic Campbell: Right, that reframe of, “How are we actually supporting you? How are we continuing to invest in your sustainability?” 

Nic Campbell: So, another question is, have any of you done work around assessing risk tolerance with the board, with the organization, with the organization’s leadership or their staff? And if you have, have you seen a disconnect where the board might want to be riskier but the staff wants to move a little bit cautiously? Or vice versa? And what have you done in that situation? 

DeAnna Hoskins: That’s scary. And I’ll say it’s scary because, as a President, CEO, not only am I running an organization to have an impact driven around the mission. I’m actually running a business. And sometimes those are making business decisions and your board may be focused on the mission and not understand investments, right? Stabilization of the organization. Why are we moving in that direction? 

DeAnna Hoskins: I think one of the biggest for me was I came into an organization that had a founding board. And so, we know founding boards support the founder more so and get aligned with the mission. As we were pivoting, we had people who struggled. Why are we pivoting? This is not – And literally, I had to go search and find the founding documents that talked about, “I’m not driving us away from my mission. I’m just trying to get us aligned with our mission,” right? 

DeAnna Hoskins: But because what threw us into the natural spotlight was so opposite, it literally became the tail wagging the dog versus the dog wagging the tail of the organization. But that was bringing the board along. But then I had staff who literally came on for the actual other things of the organization and not the founding principles, the mission, and had no understanding why we were going there. And I had a huge turnover. But I had to plan for that because I knew it was coming. 

DeAnna Hoskins: As a leadership position, I was transparent. I prepared for the huge turnover. But I also prepared for the huge turnover to actually work with the staff that I knew was going to be a part of the reduction in force and give them options of other job assignments that aligned with the mission and still was in line with what they did. And of course, people were not there. 

DeAnna Hoskins: So, I was struggling. And at one time I thought, “I’m going to be the only person in this organization with a laptop. I’m going to have to start from scratch.” But it was understanding the business model of it. And I was faced between staff who was not okay with the change in the pivot or the risk. And then I was a risk to the funders, because funders had got behind this national theme, and here I was pivoting this shift. 

DeAnna Hoskins: But as a leader and understanding of non-profit management, that mission drift happens. And if you don’t stay in line with your mission, you’re going to find yourself all over the place. And staying focused on that, we’ve survived it. But it was. I lost some funder relationships. I’ve lost a couple of board members. And I’ve lost over 50% of the staff when we were doing that pivot. We’ve built back up since then aligned with the mission. But that was a scary time, because I had to look from a personal career objective. Am I killing my career by being willing to take this risk and moving everyone in the organization along from the board, the funders and the staff in this direction to get in line? Turned out to be the right decision. But it was a really stressful scary time. 

Nic Campbell: Thanks for sharing that, DeAnna. And I think in terms of the time, I know we just have a five or so more minutes. And I want to make sure I ask a question that sort of can tie up all of what we’ve talked through today. And so, based on everything that we’ve discussed and we’ve talked through practices, tools, mindsets as well, right? That shift that has to happen even individually when you are a grant maker within a grantmaking organization. What do you all think is the next step for grant makers to legitimately support the storytelling of historically marginalized communities in such a way that strengthens both grantee capacity as well as the communities in which those grantees operate? 

Nic Campbell: So, it’s a big question. But we’ve had a big conversation. So, I would love to get your thoughts on how we move forward from here. 

Aleesha Taylor: I think, briefly, one of the key things is just to embrace the messiness of narratives and storytelling. And to really recognize that change is not linear. And I think we fundamentally understand that. But then we still want these sort of neat and linear strategies and stories that are tied with a bow. And so, I think a first step is just understanding that we move through paradoxes. And stories just aren’t neat and linear. 

Melanie Brown: I would say a return to – I don’t know if it’s a return. But truth-telling. I think we have to be honest with ourselves that the stories that we’ve been telling are not the full stories and they’re not the only stories. And in a world where truth is in question – I forget the phrase that was used by the last administration. But there was some phrase that that was used about something. It’s like not a true – There’s some in between truth and a lie. 

Melanie Brown: And we can’t even just blame it on the last administration. We’ve been down this path. There’s been a long history especially – Of course, in the world, especially in this country, of people lying about how things have gotten to the place where they are. And so, I think a return to truth. And one way to do that is through stories. 

Melanie Brown: I will just give a shout out to an organization that I love, which is Pop Culture Collaborative. I think the way that they are tapping into pop culture to reframe those narratives. If you’re not familiar with them, I encourage everyone to take a look. But I think that’s what’s needed for philanthropy, is a reckoning with the stories that we have told ourselves and how we’ve allowed those stories. Because some of them are done with really good intentions, right? 

Melanie Brown: I mean, I’m not saying that it’s always negative. That we tell ourselves these stories about who people are, and what they need, and how they don’t know what’s best for them and for their communities. And so, all of that needs to change. And I don’t want to change that. I don’t need to look at a chart and a graph to know that that needs to change. And I think what will change hearts and minds is the stories that we amplify with the stories that we allow to also infiltrate our thinking and our work. 

DeAnna Hoskins: I’ll just follow up that I concur with everything Melanie says something really powerful, that stories change hearts and minds. People change policies based on humanizing the issues. But also knowing the stories, tell the story that – From my perspective of the world, that people committed violent crimes, people formerly incarcerated are not hindered by advancing and becoming productive members of society. But we’ve kept that so secret only to the nonprofit narrative to raise funds, but not actually to storytelling to actually change and actually humanize the issues around the individuals we’re addressing, right? 

DeAnna Hoskins: And we continue to allow – Melanie said something very important, and it made me think of where we are in this country. That even in spite of knowing truth-telling has to be centered, there are still people fighting for certain populations of knowing the true history, right? And I just believe that if you don’t understand where a person has been or what the process has been, you can’t make adequate changes that actually undoes that injustice. So, storytelling has to be centered. But the space has to welcome it as well. Instead of charts and graphs, as Melanie said, how do [inaudible 00:32:10] from the theory of change? That people change? Communities are changing? Because that is actually the deliverable and the impact we’re actually finding to do in this work.

Nic Campbell: Yeah. And I think I think what you each have shared, these are really the principles around equitable grantmaking at the end of the day, right? This idea that change is not going to be linear. It’s about how do you step in and really manage any sort of risk that might come up. 

Nic Campbell: As Aleesha said, embrace the messiness. And then truth-telling. There needs to be this reckoning for philanthropy to make sure that we are accountable for the things that we say we’re going to do and how we’re going to do it. And then finally, DeAnna, your point about just centering. Humans human-centered work at the end of the day. 

Nic Campbell: And for everyone who joined us, this conversation should not end here. The question now is how do we take forward what we heard here to change our own personal behavior as grant makers transform organizational behavior, and the culture of grant making organizations and institutions, and continue to build bravely. 

Nic Campbell: I want to say my immense thanks to our panelists, our wonderful panelists, Aleesha, Melanie and DeAnna for such powerful sharing of your own experiences and your expertise. And I want to thank all of you who joined us for your time and your engagement. 

Stef Wong: And that completes this two-part series of managing risk for equitable grantmaking. As we wrap up, if you are interested in partnering with a law firm that leverages a global network of experienced attorneys with decades of legal training and practical experience and focuses on social impact organizations to serve as an outsourced general counsel and thought partner, then schedule a discovery call with the Campbell Law Firm today.

Stef Wong: The Campbell Law firm works with brave non-profits, philanthropists, ultra-high-net-worth individuals and movements offering high-touch counsel to social impact entrepreneurs and organizations around the world. We would love to hear more about your brave mission to change the world. 

Nic Campbell: Thank you for listening to this episode of Nonprofit Build Up. To access the show notes, additional resources and information on how you can work with us, please visit our website at buildupadvisory.com. We invite you to listen again next week as we share another episode about scaling impact by building infrastructure and capacity in the nonprofit sector. Keep building bravely.