Over the past decade, philanthropic collaboration has entered a new era of popularity and ambition. Driven by institutional and high-net-worth funders seeking greater impact by acting collectively and by fund leaders challenging traditional ways of working, the number of collaborative giving platforms has grown, as has annual giving. With over $2 billion flowing annually to collaboratives working on a range of social, economic, and environmental issues—and that’s just from the funds who responded to our survey—it’s time to shed light on the changing landscape of these philanthropic partnerships.

Our goal with this research was to learn about the growing popularity of collaborative philanthropy, the reasons current donors find it attractive, and the pathways to increased collaborative giving. What we found is that a significant number of collaboratives have charted a course that differs from traditional philanthropy: they tilt toward equity and justice, field and movement building, leaders of color, and, for some, power sharing. And, perhaps most importantly, they’re capable of much, much more.

Peering Under the Hood of Collaborative Philanthropy

For more than a century, donors have pooled resources to create change through community foundations and organizations like the United Way and faith-based giving circles. In 2018 our research (in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation) uncovered a set of philanthropic collaboratives1 that were growing significantly. More recently, research on funder collaboration found that, when executed well, collaboratives can produce significant impact.2 Yet, there hasn’t been an examination of the momentum and scale of what has seemed to be a trend toward more collaborative giving platforms.

The Gates Foundation’s Philanthropic Partnerships team, which aims to increase the quality and quantity of philanthropy, funded a 2021 survey by our team at The Bridgespan Group to better understand how the landscape of collaboratives has evolved in the past decade. For the research, we defined these collaboratives broadly as entities that either pool or channel resources from multiple donors to nonprofits. (We call them “funds,” “collaboratives,” and “platforms” in this report. They are not all pooled funds.) Ninety-seven initiatives responded out of nearly 200 contacted. (See “Research Background and Methodology.") We supplemented the survey with interviews and group discussions with roughly 100 donors and fund leaders.

The survey confirmed that the pace of establishing new collaboratives has shifted into high gear. Nearly three out of four respondents formed their collaboratives since 2010. More than half launched after 2015. And 16 survey respondents reported establishing their collaboratives in 2020, the highest number of organizations established in a single year. Said a senior advisor to an environmental funder about momentum in collaborative giving platforms, “I’ve never seen anything like this moment we are in.”

Read the full article about philanthropic collaborations by Alison Powell, Simon Morfit, and Michael John at The Bridgespan Group.