A rebalancing act: How funders can address power dynamics
Power imbalances can:
- Limit funders’ ability to understand the issues they wish to influence and make effective decisions
- Limit grantees’ and communities’ ability to thrive; and undermine relationships between funders, grantees and communities
- Limit funders’ ability to influence social issues and achieve their goals
We recommend three levels for balancing your power dynamics:
- Focus on yourself: Rebalancing power in your organisation will help you understand the issues you work on so you can make effective decisions. A good place to start is understanding your power and how it affects others. Rebalancing power also means diversifying your decision-makers and reforming your organisational structures and culture.
- Focus on grantees and communities: Rebalancing power in the grant-making relationship will support grantees and communities to pursue their goals. You can have a significant impact through (re)designing application and reporting processes to meet both your goals and the applicants’ goals. You can also reset the grant-making relationship through approaches like trust-based philanthropy. And you can rebalance power in your wider sphere of influence through supporting grantees to listen to lived experience.
- Focus on your goals: Sharing, building and wielding power in new ways in pursuit of your goals can help increase your impact on the social issues you care about. Consider how to leverage all your assets for change, from your influence and convening power to your investments and physical buildings. Look at opportunities to build collective power and create spaces for change.
Addressing power dynamics is not an easy task and there are no silver bullet solutions. It is an endeavour that requires constant vigilance matched with humility and a willingness to be challenged. Power permeates every aspect of philanthropy and rebalancing power can revolutionise all aspects of your work. This report is not the end of the story, but we hope it provokes further conversation and prompts action across the British philanthropy sector.
If you have any questions about the report or would like to discuss further, please get in touch with Katie Boswell or Fatima Asif at firstname.lastname@example.org.