The K.M. Hunter Charitable Foundation has been supporting United Way for at least 35 years. Through that long, close relationship, the Foundation saw how strategically their gifts were being allocated and the incredible impact they were having, which is one of the reasons they chose to make a three-year unrestricted gift to the organization.
“We want to maximize our donations as much as possible, so we try to find organizations that are doing really good work and can use the donations properly,” says Sarah Hunter, the Foundation’s President and a former member of United Way’s Major Individual Giving Cabinet.
Doug Hart, the Foundation’s Vice President, agrees. “We had been very impressed with the programs that United Way offers and the breadth of its work,” he says, noting that the Foundation’s support of United Way has spanned decades for good reason. “The community hubs we were proud to fund have worked out very well, and the organization continues to be well managed.”
That’s why, when United Way asked the Foundation to consider an unrestricted, multi-year gift, the board listened.
“Many foundations require that the money they donate be spent only on programs, not on administration. But very often, work needs to be done that is not attributable directly to programs, so that kind of funding is very valuable too,” Doug says. “We feel it’s more effective to start with an assumption of trust and effectiveness on the part of United Way, rather than trying to direct where funding goes.”
The term for this approach to giving is trust-based philanthropy, and it describes a style of giving that empowers non-profits to make decisions about how gifts can be used based on their expertise and treats the funders as well as community members as partners.
“One thing that came up over the pandemic was the need for more immediate assistance and flexibility for organizations to direct the funds themselves,” says Andrea Holtslander, a member of the Foundation’s board. “United Way knew where the help was needed, so we could just go, ‘Okay, you’re doing work in this area, and you know where this money needs to go.’”
Approaching philanthropy in this way is both relatively new and, in some ways, radically different. But both United Way and the K.M. Hunter Charitable Foundation see the value in this more equitable approach to giving to ensure that more people receive the help they need, faster.