In the United States, philanthropic collaboratives—entities that either pool or channel resources from multiple donors to nonprofits—collectively directed between $2 billion and $3 billion to a variety of grantees in 2021, and our research indicates that figure has grown since then. The practices of this relatively new form of philanthropy are still evolving. In a 2022 survey, nearly 70% of respondents cited building measurement, evaluation, and learning capabilities as a critical area in which they would like to invest.

Let’s look at how philanthropic collaboratives can equitably and effectively measure, evaluate, and learn in the pursuit of greater impact. Like other types of grantmakers, collaboratives seek to measure effectiveness and learn from feedback. They are keenly aware that they need to avoid harmful philanthropic measurement practices that overburden grantees, eat up grantee resources, focus on compliance rather than learning, or privilege the concerns of donors over those of grantees.

While grantmaking is often core to a collaborative’s strategy, collaboratives also operate in a unique context: They serve as intermediaries between philanthropy and nonprofits. That means they both receive grants from funders—and thus must demonstrate their unique value proposition—and seek impact through grantmaking and other supports for nonprofits and the field. As such, effective approaches to measurement and learning reflect a multiplicity of stakeholders. In our study How Philanthropic Collaboratives Measure, Evaluate, and Learn, we examined three levels of impact: grantees, systems or fields, and donors.

Here we’ll focus on equitably measuring across a portfolio of grantees. To measure a collaborative’s own progress toward its impact goals, it’s important to look beyond individual grantee results or a handful of compelling stories from the highest-performing grantees and assess the portfolio as a whole.

A number of promising practices have emerged for how funder collaboratives can equitably measure impact across their full grantee portfolio:

  • Tracking grantee characteristics across the portfolio.
  • Tracking feedback across the portfolio to improve grantee support.
  • Tracking common outcome metrics across grantees.
  • Modeling equitable grantee- and constituent-centered practices.

Read the full article about philanthropic collaboratives by Mariah Collins and Erika Caballero Montoya at Candid.