JEDI, Strategic Approach | October 13, 2021

What the Foundation’s New Values Mean: Trust

Trust deepens our relationships and enables people to be their authentic selves.

On the surface, trust is straightforward: Trust is having confidence that others will do what they promise. It allows us to be vulnerable with those we care about. It helps strengthen relationships.

But trust also extends beneath the surface. It’s something that must be earned, and often it’s easy to lose.

A trusting environment allows people the freedom to dream, to express their opinions, and to be themselves. When we build trusting relationships, it helps us meet our mission and vision more effectively.

Trust among staff creates a safe space and a healthier work environment.

Work happens more efficiently and is more satisfying if there’s a high level of trust among colleagues. Without it, work gets bogged down, hidden agendas flourish, and people may feel anxious.

Trust shows up in how we treat each other, in how we listen with empathy, and in how we support one another. It makes us less defensive and more understanding, and it allows us to let go of control.

When colleagues don’t wish to be on camera for a Zoom meeting, there’s no judgment. When coworkers share personal stories during meetings or through blogs, there’s compassion and understanding. It takes trust and courage to feel safe when showing vulnerability.

Listening to and learning from colleagues’ stories and experiences contributes to a genuine culture of trust.

Trust is key to building strong, authentic relationships with grantees.

The essence of trust building is captured in a phrase we use: Relationships are built at the speed of trust. Relationships can only develop as quickly as two individuals or groups learn to trust each other.

Trust is key in our relationships with grantees. Otherwise, the relationship can be too transactional. We can’t learn from or effectively collaborate with our grantees if transparency and power aren’t balanced.

In the past year, as we’ve worked on the refinement of our strategic grantmaking, we reached out to grantees for help. We wanted to hear their feedback, get their advice, and learn how we can be a better grantmaker and a more reciprocal partner.

In 2020, in response to multiple crises, we also began offering less restrictive grants and more general operating support grants, giving our grantees flexibility to tailor grants to their unique needs. We’re showing that we believe in the work our grantees do and we have confidence in their expertise and experience in how they respond to their communities.

Our less-restrictive grantmaking was especially important at the outset of the pandemic. By simplifying grant applications, amending grant agreements, and making smaller grants more available, we showed grantees we trusted them to use the funding for what they truly needed.

The essence of trust building is captured in a phrase we use: “Relationships are built at the speed of trust.” Relationships can only develop as quickly as two individuals or groups learn to trust each other.

Trust empowers meaningful change in our DEI journey.

Trust is also necessary to live out our aspirations on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).

In the past year, we developed a tool we refer to as the racial equity magnifier (REM). It helps us examine policies and practices through a racial equity lens with the goal to center racial equity in our decision-making processes.

In the process of decentering white-dominant perspectives from our work, it requires a considerable amount of trust for staff to talk about racist narratives and historical inequities and how individual perspectives contribute to those inequities. We’re fortunate to work with coworkers who can think critically and compassionately.

Unlearning the status quo isn’t an easy process, and it can sometimes be uncomfortable. But it takes staff leaning into this discomfort and trusting the process—and each other—to ensure change will follow.

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