The past decade has seen a steady uptick in the number of funder collaboratives along with a surge in the volume of funds flowing through them, now over $2 billion annually. There is no shortage of webinarsbooks, and articles tell those of us in the philanthropic field that by working together we can be more than the sum of our parts.

Yet while most collectives report on field-level outcomes, they rarely document the realities of working together. At the Transparency and Accountability Initiative (TAI) we wanted to know what makes collaboration between our funder members work (or not), and how we can do it better. We assessed sixteen substantive instances of collaboration between our funders over the course of four years, ranging from joint evaluations to piloting shifts in grantmaking practice to joint investments in a specific geography or issue. But these collaboration case notes were not a collection of “greatest hits”: There was no requirement that the collaboration be successful (and certainly not all were!).

Consistent with recent literature, we found that (under the right circumstances) collaboration can be a benefit to both funders and grantees. Those we interviewed found some kind of utility in every one of our 16 collaborative efforts—be it the process, product, or both.

Drawing on the detailed case experiences, five factors stand out as integral to the chances of collaborative success.

  1. Clear, Aligned, and Measurable Objectives
  2. The Right People in the Room With a Clear Model for Decision-Making and Trust
  3. Efficient and Timely Information Sharing
  4. Adapt as You Go
  5. Embed Utility for Field Partners

Read the full article about funder collaboration by Michael Jarvis and Chantal Pasquarello at Stanford Social Innovation Review.