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PEAK Grantmaking

A Conversation on Risk, Trust, and Equity in Philanthropy

The idea of “risk” in grantmaking is pervasive. A critical factor in reaching awards decisions, it’s also a stand-out feature of the traditional philanthropic approach that has come under intense fire for its long-standing exclusion of smaller, grassroots organizations – the kind that are often led by BIPOC and devoted to the neighborhood-level work that is so badly needed. Part of the problem is the slipperiness of the term, as it’s used in philanthropy: Without a functional and universally-accepted definition, “risk” provides cover for any number of implicit biases – a way to scuttle the development and practice of trust, and short-circuit efforts to build equity.  Recently, we asked four members of the PEAK community to delve into the ways “risk” has been misused, its potential for rehabilitation, and the encouraging ways that we are already reframing it in the wake of 2020’s multiple overlapping crises. Following are highlights of