What Donors Want – Participatory Grant-Making at the National Lottery


Jasmine Awad


Podcast listeners – a new episode of What Donors Want is out! We had the pleasure of diving into participatory grant-making (PGM) with Hannah Paterson, Senior Portfolio Manager at The National Lottery Community Fund.

If you haven’t tuned in before, What Donors Want is a podcast by I.G. Advisors, which offers a fresh, dynamic (and slightly irreverent) view into major gifts fundraising and philanthropy from the donor’s perspective. We are proud to have Alliance Magazine as our Media Partner, and will be sharing insights on this platform.

The National Lottery Community Fund is one of the UK’s largest funders, and Hannah is leading their PGM practice – transforming this buzzword into brilliantly tangible concept:

What is participatory grant-making?
PGM is commonly defined as the practice of ‘ceding decision-making power about funding to the very communities the funding aims to serve’. As its motto ‘nothing about us without us’ suggests, this power-shifting approach is fundamentally about integrity leading to deeper impact. PGM can take on many different forms, and has become a concept funders hear about – but many don’t understand how to implement in practice. A friend of Hannah’s compared PGM to ballet, which we absolutely loved: “You can describe ballet as much as you want, but you’ll never really understand what it is until you’ve seen it happen.”

What does participatory grant-making mean for funders?
The Community Fund has adopted PGM for several programmes, and Hannah regularly shares learnings with other funders. In PGM, she observed, the role of funders goes beyond being a decision-maker. You become an event manager, conflict navigator, community connector, and facilitator, and can energise staff and Trustees by making the grant-making process more interesting and fun. When asked about common mistakes, she noted funders often think they have to integrate communities with their existing decision-making processes (often formal and bureaucratic), without reimaging how those processes could be done for everyone’s benefit.

What does participatory grant-making mean for fundraisers?
As Hannah noted, taking part in such process is not (just) about securing more funding. Instead, it’s an opportunity for non-profits to understand grant-making processes, reach consensus, and learn from peers. Ultimately, being part of PGM groups can be incredibly rewarding, as it enables organisations to grow their network, connect with other leaders in the sector, and better understand the communities they’re trying to serve.

Whether you’re a donor or a fundraiser, PGM is an exciting model that gives you an opportunity to reimagine what ‘decision-making’ looks like, and inject energy and integrity across your organisation. If you want to learn more about PGM, check out Hannah’s Medium and Twitter, and listen to episode #21 of What Donors Want to learn about the With and For Girls Collective’s inspiring approach. 

What Donors Want is a podcast by I.G. Advisors, and available on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher & SoundCloud. Season 3 is officially sponsored by Segal Family Foundation and Alliance Magazine is our Media Partner.

Jasmine Awad, I.G Advisors

Tagged in: Funding practice

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