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PEAK Grantmaking

Risk, Impact, & Equity: Frames and tools for grantmaking

The idea of risk in grantmaking is pervasive. Part of the problem is that the term risk is hard to define as it relates to philanthropy. Without a functional and universally-accepted definition, risk has the potential to undermine the development of trust, provide cover for implicit bias, and derail efforts to drive equity. Our risk culture is a reflection of our values as grantmakers, and is closely linked to trust. It informs our biases, and our tolerance for things not going to plan. It also affects our decisions about who, what, and where we invest. Grantmakers and grantees continuously confront a trust divide. After all, one seeks the resources that the other controls. Across this trust divide, there is an inevitable tension that can discourage frank conversations about the inevitability of risk in any situation.

This session will explore ways that grantmakers can challenge bias and build trust by understanding the concept of risk and risk culture. This will include an in-depth look at tools for funders to use to build transparent and open relationships with grantees, creating more opportunities for transparent exchanges with grantees. Opening the door to such conversations can help both the funder and grantee determine if there is a good fit, identify roadblocks that might arise during project implementation, and learn important lessons from past experience that lay a foundation for forming more trusting relationships that lead to greater equity and impact.


Maya Winkelstein
Chief Executive Officer
Open Road Alliance