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Use Examples

Here are some examples of how the tool has been used by grantmaking foundations, diverse in size, location, grantmaking budget, and degree of experience with participation. Each foundation approaches using the APPT differently. These examples are presented as possible avenues for tool utilization by other foundations; they also include tips for other users.

Fondation Botnar

The tool was piloted by Fondation Botnar, a Swiss-based philanthropy with currently over three billion dollars in assets and a small staff of less than 30 employees, distributing around 60 million dollars of new grants each year.

The Foundation began a journey to strengthen the voice of its beneficiaries in its work and operations. They were also in the process of completing an organizational assessment and embarking on a process of organizational change. They wanted to use the tool to realize their ambition to become more participatory.

To pilot the APPT, they set up a group of three people, including their Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning lead and an external consultant who was helping the organization become more participatory. The consultant facilitated the APPT process and began by converting each functional area into a worksheet. The team then ranked and discussed the organization's current and desired status in the relevant functional areas, paying the most attention to the areas they knew best.

They then asked a larger group of people representing all the Foundation's functional areas to validate their rankings. The tool provoked productive discussions about becoming more participatory and highlighted differences in staff understanding of power and participation.

In total, the self-assessment took place over a period of three days and included planning and carrying out the assessment. They learned that it is important to first agree on who the foundation's community is. They also learnt that it is better to assess the foundation's status first and address aspirational goals separately.

The biggest challenge they faced was timing. They realized that such an exercise needs to be well timed with other organizational evaluation and change discussions. When the timing is right, the tool can contribute to productive conversations that lead to the next steps. In this foundation's case, they felt that conducting the APPT process after receiving an external evaluation would have been more in line with organizational development discussions, as the evaluation results could be used to build organization-wide agreement for change. 

TIP: The Foundation is currently exploring how to use the tool's pilot in a gamified way to facilitate internal discussions about participation and continues to look for opportunities to broaden the organizational learning journey on how to engage more meaningfully with young people.

Communities Transforming Policing Fund

The Communities Transforming Policing Fund (CTPF) - one of many different funds at Borealis Philanthropy - piloted the tool. CTPF makes grants totaling a few million dollars annually, and has a small dedicated staff team of three. They have a participatory grantmaking model that they have been implementing and refining for a few years. 


The small staff team decided to use the APPT during a quarterly strategic planning retreat. They chose a lead team member who reviewed the tool and reflected on the questions for about two hours in order to design an activity that would work for their fund. The lead then organized an interactive activity for the team to take place during a 90-minute conversation over Zoom. 


In this activity, team members were each assigned a different shape (like a square, circle or triangle). Each reviewed the spectrum of participation for all functional areas and, using their individual shape, placed it where they felt it  fit best. They did this activity virtually by using the Whiteboard feature of Zoom.


After each shape was placed, the lead asked everyone to share why they had chosen that particular level. The lead sometimes followed up, asking questions and highlighting differences, to help the team dig a little deeper. 


While they did this assessment for all eight functional areas in the APPT, they focused most deeply on the Grantmaking area, the area where this fund staff has greatest control. 


The team felt the process helped them to take the time to consider their growth and the increase of participatory practice across their work since their inception. It also supported them to dig deeper into their grantmaking processes and to highlight areas where they could become more participatory.


One challenge they had was that many times, they felt they didn’t fall neatly into one level of the spectrum or another. They often found themselves straddling two levels of the spectrum.  

TIP: Focus on areas where you have the most control/decision making power. The tool helped to consider ways fund processes could become more participatory in those areas.

Diverse City Fund

Diverse City Fund grants locally in their community, and makes grants of approximately $750,000 to local groups, organizations, and coalitions. It has a very small staff team and includes members of the community with lived experience in the area it funds on its Board of Directors. The Board is highly engaged. They are committed to participation of their community at all levels of the organization and use a participatory grantmaking model.

The Executive Director and a member of the Board decided to both review the APPT. They each read through the materials, reviewing the instructions and background information as well as the content of the tool. They both then individually assessed where they felt their foundation fell on the spectrum of participation for each relevant functional area. Following this, they came together to discuss the results and their understanding of the language. They  were quickly able to identify functional areas that were not applicable to their foundation, and removed these from consideration. They noted those areas may be useful to reconsider down the road. 


They found their results were quite similar and felt the need to check their assessment by involving additional community members for deeper discussions around a few priority functional areas. To that end, they asked an additional five Board members to participate in roundtable discussions. These Board members reviewed the instructions and content of the tool and then the ED and the primary Board member held an hour-long listening session in which they dug deeper into three functional areas. 


They appreciated the tool for instigating a level of self-assessment for the organization that aligned to a review of their strategic plan.


They found they were challenged by the concept of “community” because the team and Board come from the communities served. As they reviewed the tool, they had to re-orient themselves to focus on power and specifically, who has decision-making power. Using the APPT helped them to see the power differentials between their Board and their grantee partners and to identify several communities and identity groups that were not (yet) reflected in their structure. Full community input and ownership is envisioned and desired by the foundation, and the tool helped articulate areas for growth. 

TIPS: Start by defining who your community is. For constituent led funds, take the opportunity to consider the power dynamics between grantees and decision makers at the fund. And finally, understand the differences between informing and consulting versus deciding.

Stupski Foundation

Stupski Foundation is an independent spend-down foundation returning resources to the communities it calls home by 2029 to support just and resilient food, health, and higher education systems for all. The team engaged with APPT to explore their participatory grantmaking, which was just beginning at the time of the pilot. 


A program team and the grantmaking practice team piloted the APPT. Six team members (five staff, one consultant) participated in the process over a six-week time period. They developed a calendar and roles for team members as well as oriented themselves to the tool. They practiced assessing one functional area together to make sure they were on the same page in how they were utilizing and interpreting the tool. This included a discussion of terms and concepts such as “governance” and what these meant in their context. 


Each team member then assessed the Foundation across all areas of the tool. They selected statements that reflected current practices and ones that reflected where they would  like the foundation to be in the future.  


The team met over two sessions to share their ratings. They created a shared spreadsheet to capture individual assessments, collectively reviewed the range of responses to the spectrum of participation, discussed reasons for their differences, and considered adjustments to their ratings. They discussed successes in the Foundation’s progress in using participatory approaches, and opportunities to deepen them, centering on equity. 


Their experience with the APPT facilitated individual and collective assessment of participatory practices and future visioning. The tool stimulated productive conversations, including how to identify actionable practices as a spend down foundation.  This was a practical discussion, recognizing that there were places where strategies were relatively “set” and other areas where there was an opportunity to shift practice.


IIn 2023, the foundation engaged in several different types of participatory processes from formal external groups with charters to granting to partners leading participatory processes of their own. The team continues to learn, adapt, and engage in practices that center building power in communities and expand its decision making practices.

TIPS: 1) Plan thoughtfully, incorporate reflection prompts, and examine how other foundations have shifted practices when thinking about next steps.


2) Develop an action plan based on areas you identify in your assessment.


3) Be generous, generative, and expansive in your thinking. You are likely to find you have moved far in some dimensions but are more challenged in others. Consider why and how this is and what might be needed to bridge what appear to be divergent inclinations.

Want a Printable Copy of the Entire Tool? 

Fondation Botnar
Diverse City Fund Anchor
CTPF Anchor
Stupski Foundation Anchor
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