Trust, Transparency, and Transformation – A Health Equity Funder Panel Discussion

In this webinar, colleagues from CareQuest Institute for Oral Health, The Healing Trust, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Rx Foundation join forces to share authentically about their lessons learned, challenges, and how meaningful change happens in the funder landscape.

Trust, Transparency, and Transformation: A conversation with funders

from Rx Foundation’s Power is a Social Determinant of Health series

Session description: This hour-long moderated conversation will bring together four panelists from CareQuest Institute for Oral Health, The Healing Trust, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Rx Foundation to answer pre-submitted audience questions and speak authentically about their lessons learned, challenges, and how meaningful change happens in the funder landscape.

Recognizing that foundations often strive to be thoughtful and to embrace innovation and build trust, it’s also true that structures and approaches can challenge grantees- especially small mission-driven non-profits. The conversation aims to bridge that gap through elevating best practices, asking and answering the hard questions of “why” current practices exist and “why not” explore alternatives.

Participants were invited to anonymously submit questions about philosophy, process, practices, and improvements in advance. Moderator Jennifer Goldsmith shares an overview of themes and facilitates the discussion.

Watch the Recording

Additional Resources

  • Stanford Social Innovation Review, The Future of Philanthropy Is Trust-Based Spring 2024 supplement catalogue, featuring 8 pieces from colleagues in the sector, sponsored by the Trust-Based Philanthropy Project
  • CUNY’s Leadership for Democracy and Social Justice’s Emerging Leaders Fellowship | The Emerging Leader fellowship is for people interested in social justice work, across a wide variety of movements and issue areas who are either looking to start working in social justice work or who have recently started their social justice careers. The program will provide special training, mentoring, and career services. The weekend programs will include in-person and virtual opportunities to learn from seasoned national leaders in movements for social change about everything from strategy and power to the history of social movements.

Session Highlights

“No wrong door” approach to grantmaking – CareQuest Institute for Oral Health takes a teams approach, across departments, to support its grant partners
Private foundations must distribute 5% of their asset value annually for charitable purposes – that’s the only steadfast rule in philanthropy, “everything else is something that philanthropy created”. The Healing Trust is breaking down rules, making general operating grants, taking a trust-based approach, removing written midterm and final reports for conversation-based reporting, and more.
“It’s not for us to trust organizations, but for organizations to trust us”
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is working with 13 movement-building and social justice organizations in a cohort to hear feedback from partners, piloting and modeling new trust-based practices to bring into other arenas of their grantmaking
Philanthropy is largely set-up to act as a gatekeeper – Rx Foundation believes that the leaders, communities, and organizations that it partners with are the most valuable asset they have
Being trustworthy is more important than being trusted – doing what you say you will do, being consistent, supporting people, and taking a relationship-based approach is what unites each funder on the panel
Being transparent with grant partners about your “how” is important for maintaining or developing relationships = THT has rubrics to show prospective partners just how funding decisions are made
Who are we accountable to? RWJF is collecting and sharing data on their own grantmaking practices with partners and the public = “we have not always held the mirror up to ourselves”
Change happens at the big and small levels – when partners share authentic feedback, we can operationalize changes (i.e. small level = scheduling meetings more in advance)
Philanthropy needs to reorient itself around the concept and dynamic of “risk” – moving away from “risk management” TO re-conceptualize it, “what do we risk by not funding XYZ?”
Convenings are an important tool for bi-directional growth and development, between and among funders and nonprofits

Panelists & Moderator

Erica Andrade, President/CEO of El Centro

John Gabelus (he/him)

John Gabelus is a Grants and Programs Associate with CareQuest Institute for Oral Health. He is responsible for providing interested and returning grant applicants with technical information, guidance, and support to request funding to support oral health systems transformation. In addition to supporting the administration of grant funding, he is also involved in several collaborative initiatives at CareQuest Institute and works closely with grantees to connect them to forums for shared learning and networking. John joined CareQuest Institute in August 2021 after several years working at a regional foundation based in Massachusetts. Prior to entering the philanthropic sector, John served as an educator and campus minister. John earned his BA in Theology and his Masters in Theology and Ministry from Boston College.

Erica Andrade, President/CEO of El Centro

Jennifer Goldsmith, MS, MEd (she/her)

Jennifer Goldsmith works as a consultant to senior visionary leaders focused on domestic and global health equity. In addition to coaching with Rx Foundation, Jen works on equity projects with University of Global Health Equity, Groundwater Institute, and the Boston Public Health Commission, as well as serving at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health as an Instructor and on the leadership team for the DrPH program. Jen also teaches a practical introduction to global health at Tufts University and lectures on project management at Boston University School of Public Health.

Jen has served as a senior leader in health equity and at Brigham and Women’s Hospital co-launching programs and initiatives focused patients, employees, and community, recruitment and retention of diverse clinicians and trainees, and improving equitable healthcare delivery. She also served as Managing Director at EqualHealth helping to launch the Social Medicine Consortium and Campaign Against Racism. There she focused on funding, finance, communications, and program planning. Previously, she worked as founding Chief Administrative Officer for Seed Global Health, Assistant Dean for Finance and Strategy at Harvard University and Director of Strategic Financial Planning at Brigham and Women’s.

Erica Andrade, President/CEO of El Centro

Samuel Jackson, CFRE (he/him)

Samuel Jackson is the Vice President of Programs and Grants at The Healing Trust, overseeing the management of the grantmaking program and driving THT’s advocacy initiatives within Trust priority areas. With a rich background encompassing two decades in education and the nonprofit sector, Sam has demonstrated leadership in diverse roles, crafting programs, forging partnerships, and excelling in campaigns, marketing, major gifts, annual giving, grant writing, events, and volunteer and staff management. Prior to his role at the Trust, Sam served as the Executive Director of a local nonprofit focusing on youth and families in Nashville. Holding a Bachelor of Science in Social Work and a Master’s in Health, Physical Education, and Recreation from Tennessee State University, Sam is not only a dedicated professional but also a certified fundraising executive, Hull Fellow, and LiberTea graduate. Beyond his professional commitments, on weekends, you can find Sam honing his woodworking skills in his garage or coaching basketball.

Erica Andrade, President/CEO of El Centro

Fiona Kanagasingam (she/her)

Fiona Kanagasingam joined the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF, the Foundation) in 2022 as the Foundation’s first vice president, equity and culture. She is a key member of the Foundation’s leadership team, reporting to the president and CEO, responsible for internally advancing RWJF’s mission and vision by building the strategy for and operationalizing equity, diversity, and inclusion Foundation wide.

Fiona comes to RWJF with more than 20 years of organizational development and equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) experience, and has managed change and scaled impact across multiple sectors as both a consultant and executive leader. In a former executive role, she served as the chief equity and learning officer at Planned Parenthood of Greater New York, where she designed and operationalized a rigorous and measurable strategy for the organization’s transformation process to center equity, especially racial equity, across all operations, programs, and services. In this role, she set and executed a vision and strategy for the organizational equity transformation process; launched a comprehensive Equity School for staff and managers; and implemented systemic changes that transformed all aspects of talent management, patient safety and care, and fundraising and development, among other areas.

As a consultant, she has advised numerous nonprofits, foundations, and funder collaboratives looking to build the will, skill, and alignment for organizational change and social justice. She has partnered with these organizations through the BIPOC Project, an organization she co-founded in 2016 to build authentic and lasting solidarity among Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), to undo Native erasure and anti-Black racism, and to ensure these focus areas are conditions for sustainable racial justice work within organizations and movement spaces.

Fiona received her Executive Certificate in Nonprofit Management from Georgetown University, her master’s degree in Counseling from Monash University, Victoria, Australia, and her bachelor’s degree in Comparative Politics, with a concentration in Women’s and Gender Studies, from Columbia University.

Born in Singapore, Fiona also calls Brooklyn, N.Y., where she lives with her partner, Grace, home. She is most joyful when eating spicy food and dreaming of our collective liberation.

Erica Andrade, President/CEO of El Centro

Jennie Riley (she/her)

Jennie Riley is Executive Director of the Rx Foundation, where she led a transformation of mission and philanthropic practice to advance health justice throughout the United States. Jennie is a graduate of Smith College, and The Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy.

Green Arrows

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