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Amid increasing climate and health crises; widening inequalities; failures in democratic processes; and rising calls for racial, gender, and disability justice in society and in institutions, many are questioning the models, practices, and values of the philanthropic sector. The slogan of the global disability movement, “Nothing about us without us,” has been taken up as a clarion call for change in how foundations operate. 


To advance progress in shifting power and decision-making, new tools are needed to support foundations, especially traditionally organized private foundations, in making meaningful and effective change.

The Advancing Participation in Philanthropy Tool (APPT) is designed to enable audiences to consider practices of participation, inclusion, and power shifting across their organization. This tool considers who participates in internal functions and how they participate, along a spectrum of participation. 

While we believe that grants will be more equitable, just, and impactful if communities affected by a foundation’s giving are involved in decisions about resource allocation, this tool does not make the case for or offer detailed approaches to participatory grantmaking. Instead, it provides an avenue to query how a foundation works across all functional areas or departments. 


As a tool focused on equitable participation and shifting power, the APPT owes much to critical resources, frameworks, and thinking from changemakers across many movements – such as racial justice, gender justice, climate and environmental justice, and disability justice – that have pressured philanthropy to actively include and engage the communities they seek to serve. We believe that no single movement and no one approach to the practice of grantmaking – such as participatory grantmaking, trust-based philanthropy, feminist philanthropy – has a monopoly on shifting power and resources. Many approaches aim to do this, and they are interrelated and essential to social justice. African-American activist and writer, Audre Lorde said,

"There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives."

Thus, while this tool focuses on who participates across a foundation’s ways of working, it incorporates a variety of other approaches, too. 

Finally, we recognize that tools are only one component of a change process; actual change takes commitment, openness, dialogue, and time. Change is not easy, and the change most needed is a cultural shift in how we view, value, and interact with each other as full and complex human beings, with dignity as well as innate and learned wisdom. We must commit to a continuous and constant assessment of our practices and approaches.

The APPT Self-Assessment

Select the Functional Areas below that apply to your organization to begin your self-assessment. When you click on the area, you will see a set of indicators and key questions. You will select a level of participation that aligns to your practice.  Start with the Instructions.

Want a Printable Copy of the Entire Tool? 

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