This blog introduces you, the reader, to me [Cameryn Flynn], as Author and to the field of Philanthropy. In blogs that will be posted in the weeks ahead, each of the Agencies that were awarded a Grant for 2023 will be featured in an every-other-week post.
As the author of these posts, I wanted to introduce you to what brought me to serve as a volunteer for Believe In Me. With a 40+ year career writing grants for healthcare systems, managing wellness programs for a large Health care insurance company, and managing social services programs here in the United States, as well as in Europe and Africa, I was intrigued by the other side of the industry of Philanthropy. The Oxford dictionary defines philanthropy as “the desire to promote the welfare of others, expressed especially by the generous donation of money to good causes”. I’ve been incredibly heartened to see the strong collaborations Believe in Me has with some great social service agencies and leaders servicing children and youth throughout the State of Washington and Northern Idaho. As the agency begins to spend time distributing checks and getting to know our 2023 grant recipients, I have the honor to introduce them to you, the reader, one by one over the next several weeks.
The Call to Action for the Field of Philanthropy
In the field of philanthropy, foundations have opportunities to make significant life-changing events for the beneficiaries of the social service agencies that receive grant awards. The field of philanthropy has been called to action after the publication of a book written by Edgar Villanueva, entitled Decolonizing Wealth. They were called to be more transparent, fair, and just in what has been often unjust in the distribution of funds. “It’s about calling for a flexible “grant-making” strategy. It’s about humility. It’s about trust. It’s about having fun along the way. It is more about holding space for others’ brilliance than being the sole source of answers, more about flexible shape-shifting to meet the oncoming challenges than holding fast to a five-year strategic plan.” as summarized by the Guerrilla Foundation.
Let me re-state in my own words: The field of philanthropy has often been described as holding all the power. The funders have the money, and those of us spending time writing grants have to first of all (1) find the money, (2) interpret the eligibility and criteria, and then (3) jump all the hoops by gathering documents that may or may not be readily available given the small nature of the agency. The larger, more sophisticated agencies are often those that are winning a larger percentage of the money available.
You can well imagine how smaller agencies struggle to compete for these dollars. Unfortunately, many of these smaller agencies are often BIPOC-led agencies (Black, Ingenious, and People of Color). They may have limited resources and therefore cannot afford to access the large philanthropy search engines to even find the resources or grants that are being made available by the funder.
However, I want to say I have seen a small shift over the past few years in the field of philanthropy. I spend my days writing grants to obtain funds for a variety of sizes of non-profits, and recently in the past 1-2 years, I have found funders becoming much more accessible during the process of applying. I have seen funders being more accessible even after receiving denials, they offer sessions for providing feedback and there are now many more accessible and affordable search engines to identify resources available.
Funders Across Nation Answer the Call
Recently, I was pleased to see funders gather and work together to develop a common language when talking with agencies and producing a common application so that those seeking funds would find it easier to navigate. I also was pleasantly surprised when attending a recent funding webinar to find a large state agency making significant changes and taking responsibility for researching Request for Proposals (RFP) applicants themselves. (Standard Practice has been that applicants spent time gathering documents just to prove their legitimacy – when in fact all that information is often available on the agency’s and/or Secretary of State’s website.
Believe In Me Foundation Answers the Call
Of course, there remains much more room for improvement but I have seen how Believe in Me has taken the Call to Action asked by Edgar Villanueva to heart. I was pleased to learn that Believe in Me as a small Funder is working to create a more just and fair analysis when distributing their funds, has policies that hold the agency to be transparent, and invites beneficiaries of our funds to the table to participate in our selection processes, serve on our Board, and/or volunteer at any one of our many events. We also offer a webinar in the pre-application, open application period, and our CEO provides an opportunity to meet with those agencies that received a denial of funding after award selection
Believe In Me also continues to explore new ways of doing the work in order to create greater equity between the institutions that hold the money and those who seek support. I am excited about the field of philanthropy as it truly is a time of change.
You can join this journey by volunteering at Believe In Me or join any one of the 2023 Grantee Award recipients that I will be introducing you to over the next several months.