charity board meeting

Open philanthropy guide

A guide for inclusive and transparent grantmaking

What if philanthropy opened up?

What if… we were all more open? Open to the latest ideas, open to listening to others, and open to sharing what we have learnt? How much more could we achieve? How many more could we help?

It may appear paradoxical to suggest that philanthropy can ever be open and inclusive. After all, philanthropy involves harnessing private wealth for societal benefit. But many funders are now wrestling with how to be part of the solution rather than the problem when it comes to tackling deep seated power imbalances.

In 2022, we set out to test our theory that working in this way can bring multiple benefits. Over 18 months, we researched the field, designed an open process, and quickly gave out over £570,000 of grants to charities and community groups helping people in financial hardship across the UK.

In this guide, we share how you can make your grantmaking more inclusive through an Open Philanthropy process. We define what we mean by Open Philanthropy and offer insights, guidance, and templates that we hope will be useful for others wanting to work more openly. Openness applies to how you design your fund, how you make your decisions, and how you evaluate your impact.

Of course, no guide can ever be exhaustive. We have tested some approaches, and learnt many lessons, but there are myriad ways to embody this vision and we look forward to working alongside an emerging community of practice to bring these into the light.

We thank the generous funders of this work, who believed in our vision from the start: Allan & Gill Gray Philanthropy, Marcelle Speller, The Indigo Trust, and the Shockwave Foundation.


In this toolkit


Introduction: What is Open Philanthropy?

Open Philanthropy is a term we use to mean being as open as possible in the practice of philanthropy – transparently sharing everything you do, and inclusively inviting others into your processes and decision-making. Philanthropy has traditionally been a closed process, with decisions made behind closed doors. Open Philanthropy is about giving grants in an inclusive and transparent way. Most Open Philanthropy will be transparent and inclusive in all aspects – from deciding where to focus, to developing a strategy, designing a funding approach, and making the grant decisions.

Open Philanthropy is inclusive, as it brings in people with direct personal and professional experience of the issue to be addressed. They set the strategy, design the fund, and allocate grants. It’s an approach which centres accessibility, is designed with diversity in mind, and aims to foster trusting relationships between grantees and funders.

Our vision for Open Philanthropy is ultimately to see transformation in the field – for the norm to become foundations and philanthropists operating both transparently and inclusively. A foundation developing a new strategy would default to convening the field to set collective priorities or building on the collective priorities that others have already set. Funds would be designed and deployed through a mixture of funding experience, charity practitioner experience, and lived experience which would collectively drive the insight and decision-making. Learning and evaluation would also be a collective endeavour, not seeking to prove one’s impact to compete with others, but to uncover the gaps in our collective knowledge and share our learning together.

What follows in this paper is a first step for NPC towards this vision – sharing what we’ve learnt from the first Open Philanthropy fund we have developed. Because it is our first experiment in this field, there are lots of things we might do differently next time, and ways in which we think we can be more inclusive and more open with our second fund. So, we offer this learning for what it is – work in progress in an area that we believe is important for others to experiment in too.


What is the problem with traditional grant-making?

Many traditional funding models are closed and exclusive. Decisions are taken by a small group, without specific opportunities to hear a range of perspectives on the issue they aim to address. The risk is that they then design a process that misses those who need it most.

Equally, a foundation may be doing amazing work, but if they don’t talk about it then others cannot learn from their example. This makes it difficult to build upon that work, or even to see what has been funded and where there may be gaps or opportunities to give more. By working in the open, Open Philanthropy aims to foster collaboration wherever possible.


How does Open Philanthropy differ from participatory grant making and trust-based philanthropy?

Participatory grantmaking encompasses a range of models, methods, challenges, and insights. At its core, this approach to funding cedes decision-making power about grants to the very communities impacted by funding decisions. These approaches are brought together in Grantcraft’s Deciding Together guide for funders.

Trust-based philanthropy is about redistributing power—systemically, organisationally, and interpersonally—in service of a healthier and more equitable non-profit sector. The Trust-based Philanthropy project have published a set of values on their website.

Open Philanthropy draws upon co-design, participatory and trust-based methods and aims to take them further. Open Philanthropy considers traditional data and expertise, and it values a range of experiences equally. In doing so, it brings together lived experience, professional knowledge, funders, and researchers to take all the key decisions collectively.

Combining different sources of evidence promotes flexibility in the grants and helps to develop relationships with grantees that are trusting, whilst also reaching outside of existing networks to develop new ones.

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Part 1: How to create an open process

Where to begin?

Begin by being clear how you’re seeking to make a difference.

Where do you seek to make an impact? Are you giving to a specific issue, such as poverty; a specific group, such as young people; or a specific place, such as a town in a poorer part of the country? What knowledge and skills will you need to bring in to achieve your goals? Be curious and thoughtful.

Openness matters right from the start, and you can be open in the following ways:

  • Be confident in sharing what you are planning so the wider community can engage with your work. This can include the wider grant making community, for example through the Funders Collaborative Hub. It could be communities disproportionately affected by the issue, or a geographic community, depending on your focus. The second two of these may not be fully defined at the outset.
  • Tell your story where your intended audience is already active. We gained more engagement posting on LinkedIn than with our own dedicated space to explore new ideas, NPC Labs, for example. Similarly, speaking at funder events such as the Festival of Learning helped us to reach other funders and raise awareness.
  • Involve people from the start. An advisory group is a great way of using existing expertise to inform your project. Be clear on the remit; this is not a decision-making body.
  • Be agile and receptive to adaptation and change. We used agile project management techniques to pivot and incorporate learning all the way through.
  • Be accessible. A quarter of people in the UK and 1 in 6 globally are Disabled. Consider how people are going to access each stage of the grant process, not just as participants but also those working with you to produce it.


Get to know the issue, people, or place you seek to help

Step back and consider more about where you seek to have an impact. What are the needs, and where are the gaps? Who is most affected? What research is informed, or led, by those affected by the issue?

Examine existing research and published data, such as our own Local Needs Databank and 360 Giving, and interview professionals where possible.

A roundtable discussion can be a good way to get to grips with a particular topic. Try to look beyond the ‘usual suspects’ by issuing an open invitation to get involved. Seek referrals from grassroots organisations and networks that have direct links with communities affected by the issue.

Your desk-based research and the good practice you uncover can generate new avenues to explore. For extra transparency, consider filming or visually recording discussions. Publish your research and invite feedback from the wider sector at an early stage. Ask others to help you frame your questions and be open to changing your focus or exploring areas further as the work progresses.

It can be tempting to spend longer on initial research than you need to, as you try to create a comprehensive picture of a sector. However, situations can change quickly, so attempting to get all the answers before you begin can prove futile.

Download: Template for group interviews

Example: Issue based research – Financial Hardship

For our own Open Philanthropy project, we wanted to fund charities tackling financial hardship. We began by asking some key questions to understand the scope of the problem and who is most likely to be disproportionately affected by it.

From this, we prioritised research that was informed or led by people who either had lived experience of financial hardship themselves or were disproportionately likely to be affected by it. In turn, this influenced how we recruited participants to our process, as we were able to invite people with lived and professional experience onto our grant-making panels.

Learn from others

In designing your grant-making process, look outwards to find examples of how you can be open and inclusive in your practice.

Example: Methods based research – Open Philanthropy

As well as researching the issue, we also investigated different methods of grant giving that were inclusive and/or transparent. This search was global, rather than restricted to the UK, so we could draw upon international expertise.

Examples that we came across included sharing strategy openly, publishing grants data on platforms such as 360 Giving, inclusive practice such as participatory grant-making and accessible processes.

We then listed the different mechanisms and considered them all in the light of the constraints we were working with, such as timeframe, capacity, or the external environment.

We then used the MoSCoW framework, a useful prioritisation process to consider:

  • What Must be included.
  • What Should be included.
  • What Could be included.
  • What Won’t be included.

Be proportionate. Consider the percentage of project cost in relation to the grants pot and how people will be able to engage with each element. Allow plenty of time for discussion and clarification and consider who to invite into this process.


Allocate roles and resources

Here are some examples of the roles to consider when running an Open Philanthropy fund. Some of these roles could be done by the same person.:

  • A project sponsor to champion the project and liaise with trustees and senior stakeholders.
  • A project manager to create the agile framework, manage the tasks, and recruit and coordinate a team and participants.
  • An administrator to manage contacts, communicate with panel members and advisors, book venues, manage virtual meeting platforms and draft protocols.
  • A researcher to study the topic and assist with impact measurement.
  • A fund coordinator to open the fund, research organisations, manage applications where relevant, analyse data, and design and coordinate the shortlisting processes.
  • A facilitator to manage the grant panel meetings and decision-making processes, advise on good practice, mediate, and create a trusting, inclusive environment where everyone is listened to.
  • A communications manager to coordinate information about the project, edit any final reports and resources. However, you should still encourage all team members to share their thoughts, using social media or blog channels.
  • An accessibility coordinator who has experience of accessibility – both for physical disabilities and neurodivergence – who can inform language use, reasonable adjustments and be a point of contact for all stakeholders throughout the process.
  • Panel members to set the strategy, design the fund, and make decisions, as well as to contribute to learning and design of any follow up tools or funds.
  • External advisors to refer in panel members and give feedback, and to advise on the overall process. Structure when they will be consulted, such as before and after panel meetings and during the design and evaluation stages.


Recruit your grant-making panels

One of the reasons to bring in panel members is to reflect the diversity, and range of perspectives that are not available within your own organisation. There are several methods you can use to recruit participants for your grant-making panels:

  • Openly advertising. Specialist lived experience networks such as the APLE collective, Sound Delivery, and the growing Participatory Grantmaking Network can really help to bring in people who are outside your existing contacts.
  • Research of funders and academics working in the space you will be funding, and targeted invites for these individuals to join a panel or refer in another.
  • Referrals from professionals working in this field who have direct links into communities affected by the issue.
  • Asking those recruited to nominate someone else they felt would bring key skills and insights to the process. We were inspired by the ‘plus one’ process used by the Shockwave Foundation where grant recipients nominate a ‘plus one’ for funding, thereby extending their reach beyond their initial research and contacts.
  • Asking advisors to nominate panel members to either be part of the process themselves to or nominate someone else. By encouraging those who recommended panel members to also be advisors, you create an independent channel to feed back on the process. If you are planning a rolling programme, some of the first wave of panel members could become the second wave of advisors, and so forth.
  • Working with a facilitator with experience of supporting and recruiting teams that include lived experience.

Make sure you reimburse all participants fairly and equally for their time, and remember to factor in travel, accommodation, and childcare costs. Remember that accessible travel and accommodations can cost more, so budget for it from the start so you don’t exclude Disabled people later on. Have a single point of contact for arranging meetings, travel, accommodation, and payment.

Provide clear information about each stage of the process. You can simplify information using infographics, personal stories, or videos to supplement written research. We also created panel and advisor packs that included terms of reference, timings estimate, and a clear role description so that potential participants could make an informed decision on whether to take part.

Download: Terms of reference for panellists

Download: Terms of reference for advisers

Example: Creating open grant-making panels

We created two grant-making panels, each comprised of individuals with lived and professional experience of financial hardship, funders, and researchers. Their role was to create the strategy, design the funds, allocate grants, and help evaluate what we learnt.

We chose to create two panels to maximise learning from this pilot. We were researching how Open Philanthropy panels might make different decisions to traditional methods, and to each other, and respond differently to the research. Two panels also extended our reach, by involving twice as many people, and gave us double feedback on the process.

Having two groups of people did add a layer of complexity to the process and presented challenges related to connecting them and sharing data. As most users of this guide will be doing Open Philanthropy, rather than researching it, we would recommend using just one panel per fund.
We created an opportunity for panel members to meet each other during a learning and evaluation day, but you could also add more opportunities to connect throughout the process.

Our panels were made up of the same proportions of people with lived and professional experience. We used two facilitators who took both panels through the process, so that we could learn and adapt as we went along.

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Part 2: Making the decisions

When it comes to decision making, you need to be clear on three things: what, when and how?

What decisions need to be made? What conclusions do you need to achieve at each stage?

When is the right time to ask these questions? When do these decisions need to be made?

How will you reach these decisions? How will you ask them? What information and insights do your panellists need to inform their decisions?

Example: Our decision tree diagram (may not be compatible with screen-readers)


Agree ways of working

The first meeting is your first chance to introduce participants to each other, build trust, and start making decisions that will inform the rest of your process.

What: Ratify your terms of reference, code of conduct, and role descriptions. Determine the aspirations of panel members and the wider programme, introduce the wider process, and consider the research.

When: Early in the first panel meeting, after an opportunity for discussion, clarifications, and questions. Panellists should familiarise themselves with the content they are making decisions on prior to the panel meeting.

How: Send your panellists the content they will be ratifying ahead of the panel. For sign offs, accessibility, and quick logistical agreements, a simple poll during the meeting works well, but ensure this is done using an accessible platform.


Facilitation hints and tips

Ahead of time, ask everyone for a photo and short bio that you can circulate in advance. Consider including some personal information too, we asked for a poem or song to create a playlist to use whilst people were joining and in the breaks.

Be considerate to people who may not wish to share personal information. Some lived experience experts may prefer to remain anonymous due to lived experiences of abuse or violence. Disabled participants may fear the potential repercussions that looking healthy in a photo may have on any benefits that they receive.

Lay out expectations around accessibility, ways of working and best practice. Panellists don’t need to know accessibility best practice but there should be an agreement in place to ensure the basics are met. For example, not talking over people and not sharing potentially triggering stories without a trigger warning.

Download: Meet the panels template

Download: Draft agenda for your first meeting template


Things to consider:

  • How much time to allocate to this process. It could be done over two meetings rather than just one.
  • Who your target lived experience experts are. For example, single parents may prefer meetings to be during school hours or outside of school holidays. Disabled people may need shorter but more meetings or may require longer breaks to rest during the day.
  • Enable lived experience experts to meet independently ahead of the main meetings.
  • You could host a residential to build trust and include more time for capacity building and discussing the overall concept and key principles. This needs to be balanced against the time commitment and costs. Keep the time and costs proportionate to the size of the fund.
  • Consider inviting the advisors in at this stage, so panel members and advisors meet and support each other. However, make it clear that they are there to observe and advise, rather than to make decisions.
  • We asked for feedback on our initial research which prompted some further questions for us to explore. Leave enough time between your panels to accommodate this. This is another reason for involving participants in setting the research questions.
  • Consider including some optional grounding exercises, with breathing and stretching to acknowledge that it is quite unnatural to be sat at a desk or on zoom for long periods. Scheduling regular breaks and sticking to the timings is very important.
  • Aim to tackle all the decisions in the meeting. If this is not possible, consider a follow up survey to gain a collective sense check on the issues that were not fully tackled. These surveys can be nuanced, with space for comments and reflections. Do not leave questions ambiguous. Ensure that the required outcomes of each question, decision, and surveys are clearly communicated. They can help to address any concerns ahead of the next meeting and be fed back for context at the next stage.


Set the Strategy

At the second meeting participants will make key decisions on the strategy and structure of the fund.

What: Agreeing the strategy. This includes the criteria and focus area to fund; what types of organisations or individuals to fund and what information is needed. Our panels set an upper limit on turnover for organisations applying and prioritise particular demographics based on the evidence provided and their own experience.

When:  A pre-survey to gain a broad understanding of people’s preferences ahead of the meeting can help. Then, as further research and others’ perspectives are considered, you can re-run the survey.

How: Using breakout groups to discuss the research and criteria in more detail. Facilitators can use examples of work from other funds, such as application questions, to stimulate discussions. Our panels were keen to explore intersectionality in financial hardship and reach individuals and groups experiencing multiple disproportionate affects. Explore the impacts that the panel would like to achieve, and clearly define this. Consider having more in-depth discussions about grant making principles, such as conflict of interest and bias, ahead of this session, then simply review these at this stage. This will help people to focus on the criteria and decisions, rather than the process.

By the end of this stage, you should have enough information to design your fund.


Facilitation hints and tips

  • There are lots of decisions to make at this phase, so we structured these as in-person meetings which received lots of positive feedback from panel members. Some decisions are easier to make than others, so try to put some of the easier/smaller decisions first as this helps build momentum.
  • Some panel members may be less confident travelling, so offer support to everyone for in-person meetings. This includes travel, directions to the venue and clear instructions when at the venue.
  • Ensure that your venue is fully accessible, even if no one has disclosed a disability or access requirement; some people may not feel comfortable doing so. Providing an accessibility rider for the venue ahead of time will ensure that any access issues are brought to attention.
  • Consider bringing in a visual recorder, we engaged Mandy Johnson and Ali Spaul from Sketchnotes UK. This creates an engaging visual record of proceedings. You may also want to record audio quotes and snippets of the conversations/feedback. Obtain consent for any recordings and be clear what they will be used for.
  • If you need signing or interpretation, this should be arranged as soon as you engage a stakeholder with this access requirement. If they are local, consider asking them for their preferred provider. There are rules around how long an interpreter can work for, so factor this into your budget for the day.

Download: Draft agenda for your second meeting template


Things to consider:

  • Our guide on how to embed diversity, equity and inclusion into your grant-making cycle has some very helpful recommendations around reframing risk and reviewing processes through this lens.
  • Discuss the accessibility of the grant application process and expected access requirements your targeted grantees will require. This may need testing and research outside of the meeting.
  • Consider how long the fund will be open. The longer the grant is open, the more time people who require extra support to complete it will have. Similarly, mobilising partnerships takes longer, as does mobilising small organisations without dedicated staff for grant applications.
  • Think about how many rounds there will be for someone to apply, and how much time it will take for someone to fill out. Does the time involved reflect the funding they could potentially receive? If you do have multiple application rounds, consider how the time expectation is communicated from the start.
  • If your grantmaking process involves researching or referral to organisations working in the field, have open conversations with potential grantees, foster collaboration, and share information about what else is being funded so they can complement, add value, avoid duplication, and improve overall outcomes. For example, in our process we gave some grants to individuals. We created a list of organisations that give grants to individuals that met the criteria in the strategy and spoke with them about what was possible. Each were interested in ways to incorporate Open Philanthropy into their work and were keen to make the most effective use of the funding.
  • Provide options to structure the fund in a collaborative way and offer opportunities for grantees to collaborate post-award. For example, we included a session where grantees, panel members and advisors could meet and hear directly about the elements of the process, and the impacts the grants may have.
  • The grantees asked specifically to have another opportunity to come together, to share challenges and collaborate. The panel members asked for opportunities to assist with monitoring grants, either to visit organisations or to be kept in the loop with the results of the impact survey that was co-designed on the day.


Launching the fund

When the funding strategy is in place, and you have designed your fund, it is time to launch.

What: Finalising and launching the fund and ensuring it is promoted in a range of areas.

When: After the strategy panel meeting you may want to finalise and agree the fund application and promotion via a survey and ensure you have time to check accessibility.

How: Ensure you find additional support to check the accessibility of the fund, this could be a panellist if they have the expertise. You also need to ensure there is time to promote outside the usual organisations and networks to reach a wider audience.


Things to consider

  • Consider providing a mock version of what you would consider a successful grant. This can help show what kind of information you’re looking for and in what detail.
  • Allow enough time for accessibility screening and user testing the process. This testing should be done by Disabled people who have the access barriers you’re looking to test for.
  • Consider multiple ways of applying. Provide alternative formats for applicants to use. Can someone submit their application in a written format OR an audio format OR a video? If you’re accepting video or audio applications, provide clear guidance.
  • Check if the system you’re using for submissions can save progress. If not, provide all the questions at the start so an applicant can write the answers and save them elsewhere, so progress won’t be lost if someone loses internet connection, takes a break, or has to complete it over multiple days.
  • Say whether you can offer support in writing and submitting applications for those applying with access needs. If yes, outline what this support looks like and any deadlines for asking for this support before the final deadline. If no, provide any tips and other resources you have to make the grant application process as understandable as possible. Signpost to any specific support, such as small funds to support people to prepare applications, or case studies of organisations who have previously received grant funding which includes application advice.
  • Consider how you will market the fund to your target audiences – panel members are often connected to relevant networks. Be prepared for enquiries and consider setting up a dedicated email and phone number.
  • Publish open and close times for the fund very clearly. Both our panels decided to keep the funds open for longer than our initial planned timeframe to enable grassroots and smaller organisations to access them. Consider this when developing your approach. Try to avoid festivals and holidays.
  • Allocate time to screen applications as they come in. Decide how much due diligence is appropriate at this stage.



We recommend a set of shortlisting ‘mini’ panels ahead of the final decision-making stage so that panellists can discuss a selection of the applications in smaller groups (of two or three) and assess small batches as appropriate.

The mini panels are particularly important if you get a large number of applications, so everyone doesn’t have to read every application.

The results of the mini panels are then taken to the final meeting.

What:  Shortlisting the applications in smaller groups before making the final decisions on which organisations will receive funding.

When: In smaller groups online after the application deadline and before the final decisions panel meeting.

How: Split the panellists into smaller groups and split the applications between them. Create a simple way of scoring and allocate a group of applications to each person in the group to read through and shortlist. The smaller groups then meet to discuss their batch of applications and decide which ones will be put forward to the full panel to make the final decisions.


 Facilitation hints and tips

  • Develop an approach to scoring using the application forms and key criteria for the fund.
  • Ahead of time, send the batch of applications and a scoring matrix and ask each panel member to review a selection of applications in their mini panel. One of our key learnings was to make things as easy as possible for panellists, so consider providing a simple form rather than a complex excel spreadsheet, with clear coding to identify each application. The facilitator assembles these scores and notes in advance for reference and takes notes of discussions. At the meetings, ask each participant to present back on the applications they have assessed and discuss how they found the process.
  • In any scoring matrix, create a space for notes, and a drop-down menu with reasons for rejection to help with feeding back to applicants.

Download: Scoring matrix template

Download: Mini panel facilitation guide


Allocating funding

After shortlisting you should have a smaller batch of applications to shortlist with the full panel and you can make the final decisions of who will get funding and how much.

What: The final panel brings everyone back together to make the final decisions on allocating funding.

When: Choose a date that allows enough time to compile and analyse the applications and feedback and proceedings from the mini-panel process.

How: We clustered the applications into batches according to the amount of funding they had asked for. You could also consider clustering by issue or by geography. Send out the clusters in advance and prepare each participant to report back on those they assessed in the mini panels. Each panel member was allocated 100 points to allocate across each cluster, to capture the nuance of the discussions and to inform final decisions.


Facilitation hints and tips

  • Ensure there is enough time and plenty of breaks. The first cluster is likely to take more time than the others, as people become more familiar with the process. Consider running a drop-in ahead of the panel with a dummy run through.
  • Panel members may be familiar with communities and the grant organisations applying. Ensure that conflicts of interest are understood and declared. Be prepared for a panel member to raise a concern about an organisation, due to knowledge of a community, and have a fair process to deal with this. This includes being open about what due diligence is being conducted and at what stage in the process. Consider developing a mural board to visually represent the grants as you make decisions. This can show geographical spread and the different demographic groups or types of projects you are funding.


Things to consider

  • Write up or record an example of what kind of information and feedback you’re looking for and how you would like people to present it.
  • If you have a spokesperson for each mini panel, they should have relevant notes and have been able to speak to each of the other group members to hear what everyone had to say before reporting on their behalf.
  • Panel members may be triggered emotionally by the content of the applications, and by the scale of need. Be prepared for this and offer support both ahead of time and on the day. Circulate communication beforehand, letting people know what support is available and that they can leave the meeting at any time without providing an explanation.
  • Ensure there are enough facilitators and note takers for this process – discussion can happen quickly and keeping track of the spreadsheet, remaining funding, and mural boards can be challenging.

Download: Draft agenda for your final meeting template


Publishing results

When all the funds have been allocated it’s time to publish the results. Use platforms such as 360 Giving to build a picture of the funds distributed and share with the wider sector. 360 Giving publish easily understandable guidance on their data standard.

This is an opportunity to share the process and tell the story of the key principles behind the decisions taken throughout, so consider publishing on multiple channels and encouraging participants to share among their networks.

In our process, the panels focussed on smaller, grassroots organisations and enabled them to choose between project costs and core costs. In this way, they aimed to reach groups that may miss out on other sources of funding. This point is further substantiated in our guide to embedding DEI into your grant-making cycle.

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Part 3: Understanding your impact

As with all impact measurement, understanding impact means balancing flexibility with rigorous thinking. You will want to draw upon different perspectives and data sources to inform the picture. For a general guide, you may find it useful to refer to NPC’s guidance on measuring funder impact.

We began with a charter of Open Philanthropy team values and principles:

  • Open: To be open and transparent throughout the project and share our experiences as we went along.
  • Collaborative: To work collaboratively within the team and externally.
  • Flexible: To be flexible in new ways of working.
  • Appreciative: To seek the best in people and practices and build on this.
  • Inclusive: To gain regular user feedback throughout all stages of the project by being consistently curious and diligent in our approach.
  • Equitable: To constantly learn and strive for equality in all areas.

Create your own charter and hold yourselves accountable to these values. With an open process, it’s important to measure how inclusive and transparent it has actually been – and connect this to the overall values of the programme.

Look to determine levels of impact in the following areas:

  • Participants
  • Grantees
  • Reach and inclusivity
  • Advisors and wider reach


Positive gains for participants

Do panel members, and advisors feel valued? How open and transparent has the process been to them? Do they feel included?

I have often felt on the outside of the system, but throughout this process I felt included, and my voice was heard.

Sara, panel member

I gained the knowledge and confidence to contribute to my local anti-poverty strategy.

Jo, lived experience expert, panel member

You can find examples indicators of the quality of participatory processes in our guide to assessing impact in user involvement.

Ask panel members how they have found the process. What can be improved, what has worked well? Would they recommend this way of working to others?

We found that participants who had not been part of a process like this before felt it had demystified the process of making decisions around grant funding. Panel members may also report involvement in further work, increased agency, or confidence.


Positive gains for grantees

Ask grantees how they found the application process, and how it compares to other processes they have used. How accessible has it been?

Co-design grantee surveys with both grantees and panel members, which you can send as a survey or conduct as a telephone or in-person interview. Agree a relevant timeframe for this to be sent. Learn from the feedback and structure in ways to adapt and develop the process.

We developed a set of questions at a learning day, that brought together panel members, advisors, and grantees. Keep requests to grantees proportionate to the amount of funding you’ve given them, but open enough to gather rich data on stories and case studies where available.

The same accessible design principles apply to the survey as to the application process. Be clear, use plain English, and offer multiple ways to respond.

Consider paying grantees for more robust reporting, recognising that this level of response takes time that many smaller community organisations can’t afford.

Track any unintended consequences of any part of the process. Consider monitoring visits to grantees. Good practice is for such visits to be done by at least two participants, so they can provide support.

Your evaluation is also a chance to foster continued collaboration and engagement. Include opportunities for grantees to feedback to your panel participants and consider holding events where grantees can meet each other and discuss any challenges and suggest ways to improve practice or optimise their funding.


Reach and inclusivity

Have you reached the intended recipients? Analyse the applications you’ve received and the grant decisions you’ve made to see how many of these are working with the groups identified in your strategy.

Ways to measure this include:

  • Attendance at meetings and engagement with follow up surveys for panel members.
  • Uptake of invitations to present or participate in optional events or meetings.


Impacts on advisors and wider reach

Advisors, who may already be professional grant-makers, may incorporate elements of Open Philanthropy into their day-to-day work. Others may decide to blog about their experiences, contributing to a wider community of practice.

Our advisors reported that the work had reinforced their commitment to inclusivity, as hearing multiple perspectives was one of the most rewarding parts of the work.

Reflecting on findings and iterating what you do is critical. We changed our programme in response to feedback from participants. Here our agile approach was beneficial, enabling us to add in processes, and change course where necessary.

Open Philanthropy is a new way of working for grantmakers, so it’s worth evaluating the extent to which you’ve helped to foster collaboration, and openness in the wider sector. How is this work contributing to a wider movement?

Consider holding a second learning day where you can bring together participants, advisors, and grantees to feedback on each stage.

It has been such a pleasure to attend this event, to communicate how we work and the impact the funding will have, and to see the passion of the panel members who took the decisions.

Grantee – Open Philanthropy Programme

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We’d love to hear from you

This toolkit is based on what we learnt from our first pilot into Open Philanthropy. We hope it piques your curiosity about a way of grant-making that is open and inclusive rather than closed and exclusive.

We have included some of the templates and tools we have developed in the appendices. Feel free to use these and adapt to your own Open Philanthropy projects. In return we’d love to know how you have found them.

If you have been inspired to pilot or adopt open approaches in your grant-making and would like to invest in NPC’s support, then get in touch as we would love to help organisations take these ideas forward.

Part of our overall goal for this project is to start to establish a community of practice, so do be in touch with any work you are planning and sign up to the NPC newsletter for news of future initiatives.

Come and talk to us!

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Thank you to all our panel members and advisors for your time, energy, and enthusiasm.

Thank you to everyone who contributed to the research. Swatee Deepak for her facilitation and her experience in inclusive participatory grantmaking. Jenny Lowthrop, of Home - Feel Good Do Good for her agile coaching, support, and facilitation.

We used The Phoenix Way as a template for our application questions.

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