12 Ways to Show Up (or Not) as a Philanthropist

Tuti Scott
4 min readSep 12, 2023


When a group of women donors gathered earlier this summer to participate in the Freedom School for Philanthropy, we invited them to explore their accountability roles in their giving. Specifically, we invited them to share what new practices in their philanthropy they wanted to start doing and which ones they would bless and release (let go of and not do anymore).

The attendees represented people across generation, race, ethnicity and each of them came up with multiple ways of describing the following ways they want to show up as a philanthropist. Their results were very insightful and we were excited to imagine them rippling across the philanthropic ecosystem.

Please note that this list assumes that the trust based, multi year, give to unrestricted gifts message has already been soundly heard and embraced. Those were all mentioned by the women; this list is more nuanced and has some new approaches and additional ways of thinking about the relationship between grantee and grantor as well as how a philanthropist can ‘show up’ in the partnership.

  1. Be bold and generous with our gifts and be vocal about them too!
  2. Center the communities and experts with lived experience and let those closest to the issue(s) set the funding priorities.
  3. Communicate quickly and honestly when I cannot offer funding.
  4. Show up as solution oriented with courage and humility.
  5. Move with grace towards everyone in the story; the grantees, leaders, myself.
  6. Let go of preconceived ideas and control; find joy in the journey.
  7. Give more dollars to organizations that reflect my belief in advocacy and policy change via c4 and c3 funding.
  8. Be intentional about hiring BIPOC and/or women advisors, lawyers, filmmakers, content creators, storytellers, service providers.
  9. Trust that the organization best knows where to use my resources.
  10. Strive to be humble yet not apologetic, adaptive and open yet rigorous.
  11. Have more and bolder conversations with those I can influence.
  12. Ask the leaders; How are you? What does it look like for your community to thrive?

The room was also energized to ‘bless and release’ patterns or practices that do NOT serve them or the grantee partner or movement leader they are funding. This list is by no means exhaustive and, again, has been shortened to include new insights and practices that we welcome the field to consider moving away from.

  1. Acting donor centric and assuming the philanthropist’s (my) passion is the priority.
  2. Failing to ensure we create trusting and accessible processes for our grantees.
  3. Requiring long applications for not much money.
  4. Not advocating for what I believe in publicly.
  5. Funding organizations that don’t have systemic impact on the field.
  6. Being too rigid around data collection and metrics and demanding demonstration of impact.
  7. Asking “can I pick your brain?”
  8. Giving wrong vibes about whose time is more valuable.
  9. Responding to requests inefficiently or never.
  10. Completely giving my power and voice away.
  11. Leading with fear and anxiety.
  12. Not speaking up when I disagree with money choices my family members made.

Imagine what could happen if people let these practices go by the wayside and embraced the ones above? Let’s share broadly in our family offices, board meetings, and dining room tables to see what shifts you can make as a donor to build more generative, healthy, power with relationships.

These lists are the outcome of the Accountability Section of the Freedom School for Philanthropy curriculum. The cohort of women donors that met in San Francisco in June 2023 deserve tremendous credit for being honest with themselves about what they knew and/or learned needed to change to make their philanthropy align with their values and their belief in what equity and justice can look like with their giving. Kudos to the co-Founders Hali Lee, Letarik Amare, and Isis Krause working alongside facilitators Kristin Hayden and Tuti Scott for creating the opportunity for these shifts and realizations to happen.

I have been honored and thrilled to be a facilitator for all the pilot groups for Freedom School for Philanthropy (Fidelity next gen donors, Gates Foundation Philanthropic Partnership team, and the Women+ Donor cohort). The work is transformative as people shape their purpose, build new muscles to move “power with” to center movements and their leaders, learn critical data and system frameworks, and spend time personally reflecting on their own journey with social change, their values, courage, community, and more. Let us know if you are a high impact donor and interested in being part of a 2024 Freedom School for Philanthropy Women+ Donor cohort. Contact asst@tutiscott.com for more information.



Tuti Scott

Strategic philanthropy & investing consultant. Convening conversations on women, money, justice, and power. Lifelong athlete, feminist, and gender avenger.