When it comes to public policy efforts, foundation leaders believe that collaboration is particularly important. CEP’s recently released report, Policy Influence: What Foundations are Doing and Why, finds that 80 percent of surveyed foundation CEOs engage in collaborative efforts when seeking to influence public policy. In fact, two-thirds of CEOs say that collaborative policy efforts are extremely important for their foundation to be able to achieve its goals.

How — and with whom — foundations engage in policy collaborations

Foundation CEOs describe a diversity of collaborative structures and partners. In addition to supporting the policy efforts of their grantees, they also participate in multi-sector collaborative efforts and collaborate with other funders and government stakeholders. Eighty-five percent of interviewees told us their foundation collaborates with other funders, and 61 percent said their foundation collaborates with the government.

Collaboration with other funders

As described in Policy Influence, foundations most frequently collaborate and coordinate with others in the nonprofit and philanthropic sector. Collaboration among funders is frequently formal, such as participating in co-funding initiatives or efforts led by issue-based foundation affinity groups and regional foundation associations that pool money and align policy strategies. Some foundations also collaborate informally — signing letters to advocate for public policies, informally aligning grantmaking, coordinating messaging, or sharing expertise and knowledge.

One leader described a collaboration between their community foundation and a public charity foundation to advocate for a piece of health-related legislation. Combining the community foundation’s resources with the other foundation’s deep health expertise led to an effective partnership, as the two foundations coordinated their funding and lobbyists’ messaging. The legislation passed and the two foundations provided funding to match that of the government. By working together, the leader of the community foundation says that both funders were able to both put their “best foot forward.”

Collaboration and relationship building with government stakeholders

Since changing government policy is often the intended outcome of public policy efforts, many foundation leaders say that coordination and collaboration with the government itself is another important way for them to achieve their policy goals.

For example, one foundation CEO highlights a city-wide partnership between their foundation and the Mayor’s Office, Police Department, and District Attorney’s Office to implement a criminal justice model aimed at reducing homicides in their city. The foundation brought together the government stakeholders, funded the partnership, and helped develop a plan which, ultimately, contributed to a reduction in homicide rates.

More commonly, foundation leaders describe longer-term commitments to engaging with government stakeholders on policy issues. For most leaders, “relationships are paramount.” Of survey respondents who collaborate or engage in activities outside grantmaking, 79 percent say their foundation develops and maintains relationships with elected officials. Developing strong relationships with government officials, elected or otherwise, enables foundations to assess the political feasibility of their goals and have a seat at the table in important discussions about government policy.

Read the full article about collaborating to achieve policy goals by Kate Gehling at The Center for Effective Philanthropy.