AVPN Global Conference 2023 | 20 - 22 June 2023



Unlocking Lasting Change: Trust-Based Philanthropy for Maximum Impact in Asia

An Ongoing Initiative By


Why trust-based philanthropy?

In the face of increasingly complex and, sometimes rapidly, changing needs on the ground, it is crucial to take a step back and reconsider the status quo.

Trust-based philanthropy offers an alternative approach founded on the premise that funders and grantees have much to gain from increased transparency, collaboration and accountability.

Funders and grantees must reimagine their relationship. AVPN is both a grant recipient and a deployer of capital through our philanthropic funds. This puts us in a position to contribute to the knowledge around trust-based philanthropy in Asia, where the practice is still emergent.

Through this ongoing initiative we intend to share our learnings, develop insights with our partners and lead the conversation about this essential and evolving approach to giving.


What is trust-based philanthropy?

Trust-based philanthropy has a long history in the West, dating back to the mid-20th century with key milestones including the emergence of community foundations that engaged local residents in decision-making, social justice movements advocating for equitable and participatory approaches, and the rise of venture philanthropy. It is now gaining traction in Asia.

At its core, trust-based philanthropy recognises that those closest to the issues and communities being served are often in the best position to decide where resources are needed most. It encourages funders to listen to and learn from grantees, valuing their expertise and lived experiences.

It encompasses some key practices, including but not limited to:


Power of trust-based philanthropy


Trust-based philanthropy can empower impact organisations by acknowledging their expertise and local know-how. It allows them to be flexible and responsive to needs on the ground, reacting to issues and opportunities as they arise, trusting that funders will and can support them regardless.


Trust-based philanthropy enables participatory models of solutions development, viewing grantees as core to the grantmaking and iteration process as equal decision-makers as opposed to funding details being predetermined.


Trust-based philanthropy deepens impact by moving funders and grantees from being outputs driven to prioritising outcomes in order to address root causes of issues at hand.


Trust-based philanthropy in action


How trust-based philanthropy can go where other funds do not


How trust-based philanthropy empowered a grassroots leader to innovate for big returns


Frequently Asked Questions

No. While it is one of the key practices of trust-based philanthropy, it does not encompass the entirety of the approach. Unrestricted funding is an alternative to providing restrictive grants tied to specific programmes or projects. Instead, funders offer more flexible support, allowing grantees to allocate resources according to their evolving needs and priorities. This gives grantees more power to make decisions and is a key aspect of trust-based philanthropy, but there are other principles that include building long-term relationships, moving away from purely transactional engagements and providing responsive and tailored non-financial support alongside grants.

No. There is a common misconception that trust-based philanthropy is remiss in upholding grant accountability. In fact, monitoring and evaluation in this context is still important, arguably even more so, as it can in itself provide a framework for reimagining the funder-grantee dynamic:

  • Trust-based philanthropy challenges traditional evaluation methods that may be rigid and top-down. Instead, it encourages more flexible and context-specific evaluation approaches such as qualitative methods, participatory approaches, and incorporating diverse perspectives to capture the complexities of measuring impact on the ground.
  • Funders and grantees can work collaboratively to design and implement monitoring and evaluation processes. By involving grantees in the design and implementation of evaluation frameworks, the evaluation becomes more participatory, and leverages the knowledge grantees hold which helps to foster a sense of shared ownership and learning.
  • Both funders and grantees have to undergo a process of unlearning.  Funders must move past the concept of unilateral reporting and towards a two-way feedback mechanism. This requires openness and a willingness for shared learning, while acknowledging and utilising the grantee’s expertise of realities on the ground when designing programmes. 
  • Grantees who are accustomed to reporting outputs as outlined in the grant application process, need to become  comfortable with voicing their needs and surfacing necessary programmatic shifts in a timely manner.  
  • Funders might face challenges in obtaining internal stakeholder buy-in as organisations are not typically equipped to move away from programmatic support. This might involve rethinking reporting structures and how to articulate impact.


Explore trust-based philanthropy further


Share with us how you are ingraining trust within your practice.

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Connect with fellow philanthropists who are placing trust at the centre of their practice.


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