Flipping the script on funding and funders

Updated: May 16

This article is an adaptation of a post originally written by Shannon Delaney.

Image credit: Future of Good


If you work in the not-for-profit sector and haven’t yet encountered the humour, truth and advocacy work of Seattle-based Vu Le of Nonprofit AF - stop everything you’re doing right now and visit nonprofitaf.com.


Vu speaks at length about the harmful power dynamic that exists between non-profits and our funding overlords.


“Power imbalance is pervasive in our sector, as ubiquitous as hummus, though not nearly as delicious. There is always asymmetry in power when one party holds resources that another party needs. This imbalance leads to all sorts of awfulness.”
- Vu Le

In B.C., through the Right Relations Collaborative, the Aunties Council is reversing this power imbalance by taking a different approach to grants, funding and Indigenous philanthropy.


In 2020, during the COVID-19 crisis, food security threatened B.C.’s Indigenous communities and philanthropic bureaucracy (aka filling out a ton of paperwork, providing letters of support and organizer biographies) seemed almost as ludicrous as a superbug disrupting the entire world. Indigenous leaders needed to act fast to access emergency funding and distribute resources without creating a 20-step project plan and working through an oppressive, colonial granting framework.


Enter the Aunties Council. Through the creation of the Right Relations Collaborative, Kim Hardy and Jess Housty challenge funders to “show up with authentic, low-barrier support that trusts community wisdom and addresses the inequities reinforced by conventional philanthropy - and it uplifts community leaders by setting the table for just, ethical, and lasting relationships that empower the work they know is right for their territories.”


Through their Funder Engagement Framework, funders (not grant recipients) are vetted against a framework that recognizes and values Indigenous leadership. Essentially it is the funders applying to work with Indigenous communities and leadership, not the other way around.


Flipping the script on funding is part of the larger pathway to “joyfully dismantle the harms and inequities of the extractive financial system from which philanthropy was formed.” And at the end of the day, works towards getting financial support into the hands of the people who know best how to distribute it to those who need it most.


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