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Working collaboratively in philanthropy is a powerful tool for funders. Philanthropic collaboration can enhance organizational capacity, keeping lone organizations strong and sustainable over time. Moreover, in a sector where organizations often duplicate services, collaboration can streamline efforts and produce better results. Here are some ways funders are supporting nonprofit collaboration, as well as collaborating with other funders.
Convening nonprofits can be a relatively easy, low-cost way for foundations to support collaboration. Foundations can use their reputations to bring together grantees, local organizations, and other funders to focus on specific issues, or to meet and greet with no agenda at all. These gatherings can foster new relationships, a better understanding of the issues at hand, and even action and partnership among those involved.
- Convene nonprofits working in the same issue area. Nonprofits need to work closely on real issues, not just fundraising. Some Exponent Philanthropy members hold unstructured monthly or quarterly lunches with area nonprofits.
- Provide technical assistance grants to nonprofits exploring collaboration. In the early stages, most of the cost spent by nonprofit leaders is in exploring options and building relationships. A modest grant might provide a meeting space, facilitation, or professional consultants to help move things along.
- Sponsor workshops or provide scholarships. Workshops and scholarships give nonprofits a chance to gather the tools and build the skills necessary to facilitate collaboration.
- Support programs. Programs bring funders, government agencies, and nonprofits together to focus on addressing difficult community issues. This kind of cross-sector collaboration can be a lot of work, but it can also bring about big change.
- Acknowledge that collaboration is hard. Collaboration takes time and uses already scarce resources. Plus, it often relies on tricky interpersonal dynamics. Funders can do their grantees a service by making it clear they don’t expect grantees’ efforts to be easy, or even successful.
- Make a long-term commitment. Collaboration takes more time than most grant cycles. Partners need to develop trusting, open, and committed relationships with one another, which takes time. Consider a funding commitment of at least three years.
- Practice what you preach. Funders interested in getting their grantees to work together might consider participating in a funder collaborative.
Read the full article about philanthropy collaborations at Exponent Philanthropy.