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Understanding and Advancing Funder Partnership with Parents

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This event was held on April 13, 2023 @ 3:00 pm - 4:00 pm EDT

ECFC and FFL hosted a discussion with philanthropy and parent co-creators of The Philanthropic Self-Reflection Tool for Equitable Parent Partnership to explore how how funders can apply it their work and support authentic relationships with parent leaders and community-based grantees.

  • Mike White, Program Associate with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), to share about their experience using the tool as inspiration for the Family Advisory Committee at RWJF.
  • Muna Hussein, Parent Leader with UPLAN, who also collaborated with RWJF on the Family Advisory Committee.
  • Margarita Alvarez, Program Officer with the William Caspar Graustein Memorial Fund, to share about their experience using the tool for internal theory of change discussions.
  • Sara Morrison, Parent Leader with UPLAN, who will also share about their experience partnering with the Heising-Simons Foundation on the Families Lead California project.
  • Rosazlia Grillier, Parent Leader with UPLAN to share about the development of the tool.

Event Takeaways

Creating more equitable partnerships and outcomes in communities requires relationship building, honest communication and commitment to authentic partnership. Philanthropy is embracing this need, but some are still struggling with what authentic engagement looks like with those we seek to support.

In 2020, Funders for Family Leadership (FFL), in partnership with VIVA Social Impact Partners (VIVA) which provides backbone support for the FFL, partnered with the United Parent Leadership Action Network (UPLAN) to conduct interviews with parent leaders and funders to understand the ways in which foundations have both effectively and not effectively partnered with parent leaders.

The Philanthropic Self-Reflection Tool for Equitable Parent Partnership is a result of that partnership, and includes many of the stories, quotes, and lessons learned as told to UPLAN by funders and parents themselves. The tool is not a formal assessment, rather it is intended to serve as a catalyst for reflection about shifting philanthropic mindsets and practices to enable equitable partnerships in the service of stronger outcomes.

Among the key considerations we discussed for engaging parents and families:

  • This work takes time, build in sufficient time to get feedback from families.
  • Consider what parents and families need to participate. Hold meetings at times when they are available. Compensate them for their time. Consider the variety of needs to fully participate (timing of notifying their employers that they need time off, finding and covering the cost of child care).
  • Get to know the community you are in (beyond a grant application, grantees might not have staff to write grants). Understand their culture.
  • Trust is key – some parents and families have been devalued. They hear they are needed, they give their feedback, then never hear how their feedback is used.
  • Make sure your whole funding team is on board and working out the logistics of engaging parents and compensating them (including administrative, financial)
  • Acknowledge power dynamics – there will always be a power dynamic between funders and non-funders, be up front about it. Facilitators (third party, non-funders) are important to help funders and parents check biases, encourage pushback when there is disagreement, and hold everyone accountable for their work together.
Find webinar resources:
Funders interested in further connections and thought partnership around parent partnership:
Additional Tools and Resources:

At the end of our discussion, some other tools were referenced that offer practical considerations for engaging parents and families. You can find these and others in the Funders for Family Leadership resource library:

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