One Year of EPIC Partnerships

By Natalia Schoorl

Illustration by Jessamyn Shams-Lau

Illustration by Jessamyn Shams-Lau

It's the one-year anniversary of the book Unicorns Unite: How Nonprofits & Foundations Can Build EPIC Partnerships, and here's what we've heard. Excitement. Discomfort. Gratitude. Urgency. Hope.

In our Regional and Global portfolios we fund organizations implementing ideas that address poverty and have the potential to go to great scale, create systemic change, and make a transformative change in thousands of lives. So it was fitting that one of our grantees from that portfolio asked us, “What is the path to scale for EPIC Partnerships?” This is a great question that we do not have the answer to (yet), and perhaps - just like for social change - there is no "one" path to scale.

What we do know is that it will take all of us to make changes. It will take each of us to share the message, share the struggle, and share the solutions. EPIC Partnerships, Grantee-Centric Philanthropy, Trust-Based Philanthropy - whatever you want to call it - for each organization will look different, but the fundamentals are the same: empathy, humility, humanity, accountability, service, trust, authentic partnership, creativity. It will take all of this and more to make lasting changes to how philanthropy is done.

If you are wondering how to get started, here are a few ideas for what you can do:

  • Read Unicorns Unite with 2 colleagues and pick 1 activity to complete together

  • Share a copy of Unicorns Unite with a peer at another nonprofit or foundation (or send them the Medium summary)

  • Have your team read and reflect on what truly EPIC Partnerships should and could look like for your organization

  • Leave a copy of Unicorns Unite in your lobby to indicate to that you/your team are open to exploring true partnership (especially helpful if you work at a foundation)

  • Check out different resources and see what works for your context. A few resources include, The Whitman Institute’s approach of trust-based philanthropy, Justice Funders’ The Choir Book: A Framework for Social Justice Philanthropy, and GEO’s The Smarter Grantmaking Playbook

  • Write your own blog post sharing what you're working on to be an EPIC Partner

What's your dream for philanthropy? Leave your comments and other resources for improving philanthropy below. To learn more about EPIC Partnerships visit