What are the benefits of participatory grantmaking? 

Fri, 16 Jun 2023

A new report from CEI reviews the latest global evidence on the benefits, challenges and methods of how funders can share decision-making power with grant-seekers to put lived experience at the centre of the issues they both seek to shift. Watch this Philanthropy Australia webinar reviewing the research and read the report. 

Participatory grantmaking is a subject that is growing in interest in the sector and was identified recently by Philanthropy Australia as a key trend. Participatory grantmaking, sometimes referred to as PGM, is an approach that can drive equity in the power-sharing process of grant allocation and design, embedding the lived experience of people whose lives will be impacted by the grant into its DNA.  

Philanthropy Australia’s webinar Participatory Grantmaking: From Research to Practice, held on 14 June 2023, reviewed the launch of new research in the emerging practice where evidence is still needed for the sector to better develop the approach.  

The research, undertaken by the Centre for Evidence and Implementation (CEI) and commissioned by the Paul Ramsay Foundation, looked at participatory grantmaking approaches, how they have been applied in practice, what it can achieve and recommendations.  

What is participatory grantmaking? 

PGM is an approach that believes centring decision-making in communities that are most affected by social challenges can deliver better outcomes.  

The webinar, introduced by Philanthropy Australia’s CEO Jack Heath, consisted of a presentation on the report followed by a discussion panel. Over 100 audience members joined from across the globe, to hear insights from the CEI, with Maryanna Abdo, Managing Director for Singapore and Asia, Dr Vanessa Rose, Director, and Research Advisor Chloe Ang. They were joined by Jo Taylor, CEO of the Siddle Family Foundation and Dr Renee Lim, a palliative care doctor and CEO of Changineers. 

The online panel also discussed a case-study of a peer-to-peer review involving 10 organisations. 

Five common advantages of PGM were identified in the report and expanded on by the panel. PGM was found to help relationship building between funders and grant-seekers; increase networking and collaboration opportunities; expand knowledge about grantmaking capability; foster flexibility and innovation to develop high-quality projects that address complex social issues, and it supports transparency.  

Challenges include that the PGM process requires more time and capacity to build relationships; the difficulty of ensuring diversity and representativeness of participation, and that there will still be inherent bias in the decision-making process. 

Key recommendations 

A key finding was those whose lived experience contributes to the grant-making process need to be financially compensated as any other expert adviser would be for the expertise and insights they bring to the process.  

It was also highlighted that more evidence will benefit the development of PGM across the sector. Having independent evaluations can be crucial, to find out what works and what can be done differently.  Funders already using participatory approaches are urged to more consistently document and share lessons on what they have found works well and where there are opportunities for growth. 

In summing up a diverse set of recommendations, Vanessa Rose said: “We are at a really exciting phase of developing the evidence for PGM. There are so many opportunities in the area.” 


The full webinar is available to view on our Better Giving Hub

The report, Participatory Grantmaking: Building the Evidence, is available on our website