Insights: Our Principles
/ Dana Schmidt / Insights / February 28, 2023
Echidna Giving made its earliest grants in support of girls’ education in 2009. We have always been guided by a desire to do the most impactful, innovative, and promising work possible, and to pursue that work in ways that respect and enable our grantee partners.
We are proud of our latest grantee perception survey results. They indicate to us that we are showing up with our grantees in ways that we aspire to. But we recognize that the results will not simply reproduce themselves. As we look towards growing our team and grant portfolio in the coming years, we felt it was time make explicit the many implicit dimensions of our culture and the way we do our work.
Over the course of 2022 we worked with our board to identify the principles at the heart of what we do and the way we seek to be with each other and with external partners, including grantees. We share the resulting five principles here, so that you know how we aim to show up. You can also find them on the “Our Work” page of our website. We hope that we have identified the aspects of Echidna Giving’s values, systems, and structures that are contributing to grantees’ strong positive experiences. Having articulated them, we will work to ensure these strengths are reinforced over time.
We support organizations and work with them to build the field of, and to enable systematic change in, girls’ education.
Our core function is making grants to nonprofit organizations. We default to multi-year support and the least restricted form of grant that aligns with our strategy. In addition to core grants, we invest in the success of organizations through organizational effectiveness grants and support beyond our grant dollars — e.g. we open our networks, provide advice as requested, share best practices from other grantees, increase grantees’ exposure, share field resources like our monthly blog, etc. We accept that operating as a supportive grantmaker sometimes looks “boring” by traditional metrics. We share our approaches to philanthropy and create them as public goods in case others find them useful.
We are guided by the ideas, knowledge, and expertise of those closest to the problems our grantmaking is helping to address.
We prioritize investing in local leadership and supporting others’ visions for change rather than dictating what grantees should do. We aim to contribute without being controlling: we let grantees take the lead while also asking questions and offering advice where relevant and welcomed. We aspire to incorporate the voices of communities we seek to serve in our strategic planning processes. An Advisory Board of diverse experts in our sector provides advice and input on our strategy and work.
We invest in building understanding and strong relationships with our grantees, our board, and each other.
We invest time in understanding what grantees are trying to accomplish, the challenges they face, and the larger context of their work. We respect grantees’ time and are sensitive to the burdens we place on them: we do our homework, do not ask for information that we will not use, avoid bureaucracy, offer flexibility, and take pride in our responsiveness. We share information openly and transparently, including our grantmaking strategy, list of grantees, tools, practices, and lessons learned. We communicate proactively: we actively share information with one another, we encourage grantees to express challenges, if we are worried about performance we tell grantees directly, we say no to inquiries as soon as we know that’s the answer.
We are comfortable taking measured risks and prioritize learning about what is and is not working and iterating to improve.
We ask for feedback and seek to continually learn as an organization and as individuals. We recognize the value of grantees taking measured risks, even if it means they will sometimes fail. Our response to failure is measured: what matters is learning from failure, not avoiding failure altogether.
We believe in the value of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Our work focuses on gender equity for marginalized populations, but we continuously examine our practices and approach in light of this commitment.
Achieving diversity in our hiring, our decisionmaking, and our culture, is a priority. We recognize that there is a correlation between funding and power. We question our power and privilege and work to cede it to communities we hope will thrive. We recognize and try to correct for our biases as an organization based in the United States. As we learn more, we will seek to improve in every dimension, including with respect to integrating best practices in diversity, racial equity, and inclusion into our operations and approach.