Rooted in the notion that working together leads to greater impact, knowledge, and opportunity, a philanthropic collaborative is a model in which funders (and sometimes other participants) join forces to work together toward a common goal. By combining resources, willpower, networks, and expertise, participants in a philanthropic collaborative can magnify their capacity to address large-scale social, economic, and environmental challenges and better contribute to change.

Collaborative Grantmaking: Best Practices, Challenges, and Benefits

Although various forms and traditions of collaborations have existed for a long time, the current funder collaboratives model has gained traction in the last decade in terms of formalizing concerted funding efforts, governance structures, strategic frameworks, and direct consideration of social dynamics and power relations at play. Moreover, the number of philanthropic collaboratives has steadily increased over the past few years—and many of those are focused on the urgency and complexity of existential and systemic crises such as climate change, racial injustice, migration, and economic inclusion. The funders coming together are typically focused on systemic, transformational impact, and have realized the need to coalesce different resources, experiences, knowledge, relationships, and more to maximize their impact.

Common approaches that contribute to the success of funder collaboratives, regardless of the issues the collaborative is created to address, include:

  • Clear governance processes
  • Explicit alignment on values, strategy, impact measurement, and potential new partners
  • A defined time horizon for the collaborative
  • Alignment on confidentiality, publicity, and credit for work done
  • Robust internal and external communications and feedback mechanisms

In addition to enhanced external impact, collaboratives offer several meaningful benefits to the participating funders themselves. These include learning opportunities to help inform giving strategies and practices, as well as diffusing risk and encouraging greater innovation and experimentation. Collaboration also can, and increasing does, enable co-creation, which allows for more strategic leveraging of resources and inclusion of diverse voices and perspectives in the decision-making process.

However, it is important to note that even when there is alignment and clarity, collaboratives can face several unique challenges. For example, divergent priorities and visions over time, dissatisfaction with member roles and responsibilities, program fatigue, lack of trust, and limited resources are just some of the areas where even the best-planned collaboratives can struggle. To maximize the chances of success, it is important to acknowledge these hurdles and to reflect on, share, and incorporate lessons learned.

Read the full article about funder collaboratives by Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors.