The Future of Philanthropy

In a year of transformative change, the Community Foundation of Louisville (CFL) embraced a new concept of philanthropy. In collaboration with members of the community, the Racial Justice Cohort (RJC) found opportunity for growth through trust-based philanthropy. But what is trust-based philanthropy? We’ve heard the term philanthropy used throughout the years to describe acts of charity in the community. Yet, our traditional forms of charity stop after the donation is made and consider the donor’s aspirations more than the community’s actual needs. In trust-based philanthropy, we build relationships with those closest to the issue to guide investments based on community knowledge and build a network of support. The Community Foundation of Louisville has implemented these practices by:

  • Providing multi-year, unrestricted funding
  • Learning about nonprofits and partners through research and outreach
  • Simplifying and streamlining paperwork
  • Increasing transparency
  • Soliciting and acting on feedback
  • Offering support beyond the check

In December 2022, Hip Hop Into Learning (HHN2L), an RJC member, was awarded $500,000 as a finalist for The Lewis Prize for Music. This nationally renowned prize is an award designed to invest and partner with Creative Youth Development leaders across the nation by filling gaps “where systems fail and imagin[ing] new systems for young people to thrive and lead the way for future generations.” As a local, Black-led nonprofit, Hip Hop Into Learning is thrilled to expand their local programming to create nation-wide impact through this award.

“This [prize] changed our lives and it changed the scope of our program,” said Antonio Taylor, Co-Founder of HHN2L. “This relationship with The Lewis Prize will take us to the next level. While realizing this is a huge accomplishment, none of this would be possible if the Racial Justice Cohort [hadn’t invested] in us first [because] we wouldn’t have been qualified to submit a grant to The Lewis Prize [otherwise.] The Lewis Prize came from being connected to the right people. You can get 1,000 no’s, but that first yes, that’s all that matters.”

In addition to this exciting achievement, other cohort members received significant funding through local and nationwide funders:

This funding resulted from support beyond the checkbook, which began at a close-knit gathering called Ujima Fest. “Our first effort to gather was the Ujima Fest at the shelter at the Southwick Community Center last summer, and that really showed the power of collaboration,” said Albert Shumake, Executive Director of River City Drum Corps. “It brought in some potential funders, staff members of the Community Foundation [of Louisville], and people from the community-at-large to see and experience the thoughts and actions of organizations in the RJC. It showed the impact, culture, and implementation of service and our core values. The Racial Justice Cohort has shown that we have more in common than we don’t have in common. It shows the power of collaboration and creating equity, and I haven’t seen it done anywhere else. It removes an element of competition normally in the application and funding process and makes it seem less combative and more cooperative.”

While RJC members share the spirit of collaboration, funders were able to observe the impact their work is doing in the community as well. It made such a significant impression that many funders decided to act on that impact through trust-based philanthropic funding. “It has been an interesting experience because you’re getting funding from people you don’t have contact with,” said Vanessa Fitzpatrick Anderson, Executive Director of CYTE. “After meeting [funders] at Ujima Fest, we were chosen for funding [from the Sutherland Foundation] because the Community Foundation of Louisville was already working with us. After Ujima Fest, we received a $1,000 check in the mail. I called my treasurer, and he came and got the check and then went to the Federal Business Bureau to make sure it was a legit check. Then we got an email from the Sutherland Foundation, and once we realized the check was real, we built a relationship. I didn’t have to write a five-page grant to get $1,000 in the mail, and then in December to get another $20,000 from them. It was amazing, and it’s because of the trust-based philanthropy practices.”

On top of the surprise funding, it breaks down the barrier for nonprofits having to “talk the talk” to have local funders understand the importance of their work. “Having trust-based philanthropy allows us to shift the narrative,” shared LaToya Whitlock, Executive Director of the Decode Project. “We don’t have to speak of our constituents and our community in a way that appeases funders. We’re able to talk about the folks who are working in a way that shows decency and humanity. It shows that your dollars and your support in [the West end] of Louisville, and it feels like there is a level of integrity versus the traditional philanthropic system.”

Creating Opportunities for Growth

The efforts of cohort members participating in these new practices with the Foundation have seen benefits first-hand.

“It opened possibilities for networking with other leaders and funders in the community,” said Eboni Cochran, Executive Director of the West Louisville Math and Science Project. “Even like The Hope Buss and TECH-Nique and a lot of other people around the RJC table – I had not really understood the work they did or even heard of them. It gives me the opportunity to learn more about the organizations in the Cohort, spread the word to the families we do our programming with, and let them know that other organizations are doing some other things within the community. That’s been a big thing there – finding out new things about organizations who are doing really important and good work in the community.”

“We’ve partnered with about seven of thirteen organizations in the RJC,” stated Da’Marrion Fleming, Executive Director of Sowing Seeds with Faith. “That’s a result of filling out a self-evaluation tool and needs assessment. We have found ways each member can help fill the gaps that our organization may be missing in the work we do. Each organization we have collaborated with has played a part in growing the curriculum and the programming aspect to get more kids engaged, involved, and exposed to different things.”

“It’s the money, but it’s also the support as well,” shared Alisia McClain, Executive Director of TECH-Nique. “I know there are people at organizations like CFL that are advocating for TECH-Nique to donors and to other foundations, and it doesn’t make [the work] feel as scary. It doesn’t feel like I’m on my own; I feel very supported, period. That is something that is lacking in the nonprofit community. If you think about the startup community, they have all these networking events, [but] if you start a nonprofit, there’s no one saying ‘Hey, here’s a meet-up [event] here.’ It doesn’t exist. This RJC feels like home and part of that is because it’s a safe place for people who are trying to move progress forward, and that is really, really needed. It’s special and significant because the work we do is not easy, the lives we live are not easy, and the issues that compelled us to take action make us people who are burdened with the weight of the world. If I am like ‘I’m going to dedicate my livelihood to trying to address this issue,’ then we’re people who are thoughtful, we’re empaths. We need a place where we can be comfortable, especially being a Black person who is leading a nonprofit while recognizing the lack of funding that goes to Black-led nonprofits. We really need a place, a safe space, and that’s really all that’s provided by the RJC.”

As we turn a new chapter in philanthropy, the Foundation recognizes how our role must evolve to provide equal opportunities of access to social and financial capital, especially in the Black community. “For CFL to take that on as an institution, it’s leading individuals who are thinking about their money and how they’re investing in our community,” said Whitlock. “I don’t know that people expected this to make the impact that it has, but I’ve seen a lot of [funders] changing their language [in their grants], and I think a lot of it is a result of the leadership of CFL and the RJC cohort.”

Looking to invest in the future of philanthropy? Donate to a Racial Justice Cohort member by emailing