During the last eight years, TFF staff and board have learned valuable, sometimes humbling lessons about both the feasibility of their investment approach and the difficulty of supporting investees to move the needle on outcomes within a complex and ever-changing landscape. Over time, it became clear that tactical aspects of TFF’s model–such as the structure of the investments, and tools and templates–while very helpful, were not the main drivers of their most successful partnerships. Ultimately, TFF learned that the quality of the partnerships and perceived success of the investments rests on:
1Trusting, authentic relationships;
2Strong, decisive investee leadership; and,
3Alignment of values between TFF and investee organizations.
Building authentic partnerships, despite the power imbalance of funder-grantee relationships, takes time. Over the years, TFF’s consistency and openness engendered trust and transparency. Exemplified through its investing values, TFF’s approach has come to be aligned with Trust-Based Philanthropy. TFF understood that without intentional and sustained effort to build relationships based on genuine care, it would not be possible to be a ‘critical friend,’ asking tough questions and receiving unguarded answers from investees.