Although many foundations continuously seek to expand both the impact and sustainability of the initiatives they sponsor and/or support, limitations in foundations’ financial, intellectual, and relational capital can thwart their ability to realize such objectives.

Many foundations attempt to overcome these limitations through collaborative partnerships with other funders. But foundation-to-foundation collaboration can be challenging and too often fails. And consequences of failed collaboration are not trivial — especially for the individuals and communities that foundations’ work ultimately seeks to benefit.

There are many important issues to consider when preparing for and facilitating foundation-to-foundation collaboration, but planning is too often hindered by a paucity of empirical guidance for navigating the dynamics underlying collaboration. The existing literature offers a variety of theoretical frameworks and recommended strategies for improving foundation collaboration. Unfortunately, too little of this guidance is based upon evidence-based research.

Rural grantmaking is one space in which greater philanthropic collaboration is especially needed. Rural communities receive, on average, only 50 cents for every dollar allocated to urban communities by both the federal government and private philanthropy. In addition to resource deficiency, rural communities are further challenged by unsophisticated leadership and decades of deteriorating civic capacities and infrastructure.

The needs created by rural circumstances often call for more resources than most foundations can alone provide. In this way, resources from multiple foundations are typically needed for achieving scalable and sustainable impact in rural areas — meaning that effective foundation-to-foundation collaboration is essential to overcoming rural challenges. Further, rural funders working together effectively can make an important difference by instilling and bolstering confidence within rural communities.

Grantmaking efforts simply should not fail merely because of ineffective partnerships between foundations. But collaborating among different actors in rural philanthropy can be perplexing, as on-the-ground realities are highly nuanced by community-specific circumstances and severe resource insufficiency.

Read the full article about rural philanthropy by Bob Reid at The Center for Effective Philanthropy.