As we at Partners for Impact explore community-based philanthropy through the Kaleidoscope Project’s pilot at Beacon Ridge, we continue to learn about the authentic community engagement needed to drive change and advance equity. This is particularly important when working with communities whose voices are marginalized or silenced by traditional philanthropy.

The Partners for Impact evaluation team’s Beacon Ridge case study identifies several crucial ingredients for authentic community engagement in philanthropy. Three critical elements that grantmakers should explore are:

1. Trust Building

Rather than quick transactions, focus on cultivating strong, authentic relationships with community members. Take time to understand their realities and build trust. This provides the foundation for community-led change.

2. Time and Patience 

Give communities the space to shape change on their timeline, not rigid institutional schedules. Allow an organic process of listening, relationship building, and co-creation to emerge. Have patience; lasting change takes time. 

3. Compensate Community Members

Recognize community members’ experiences as expertise by providing compensation for their substantive contributions of time, insight, and leadership.  

The Kaleidoscope Project put these into practice at Beacon Ridge. They funded a team of eight resident “Ambassadors” to lead an equitable, community-driven grantmaking process. With foundational trust-building, ample time to learn and decide together, and paid roles valuing their expertise, the Ambassadors gathered input from their neighbors and chose to fund a vibrant mural for their community. 

Philanthropic institutions have resources and relationships. Communities possess equally valuable assets – their lived experiences, social capital, and resilience. When funders bring humility, patience, and trust to the table, they can access everyone’s strengths to create change rooted in an authentic and equitable process.