Participatory grantmaking (PGM) may be a new trend in philanthropy, but participatory and community-driven giving practices have been around since the beginning of time. From Indigenous understanding of how gift money behaves in a community to the mutual aid networks of Black communities in the US, there is a lot for philanthropy to learn from those who have been systematically excluded from it.
Movement leaders have long critiqued a “nonprofit industrial complex” for “blunting political goals to satisfy government and foundation mandates.” With the rise of billionaire philanthropy today, more and more people are questioning the logic of allowing those who extracted the most wealth from the economy being the ones to decide how to distribute it. As a practitioner of participatory grantmaking for 10 years, I have been thrilled to see the conversation turn from a trickle into a stream, and I offer this information to those on the journey of embedding community governance into their decision-making. The work is an ongoing practice of naming power dynamics, embedding equity, ensuring transparency, and for those with privilege and power, letting go.