Giving Compass' Take:

• Funders need to recognize the strengths of the communities they are serving and make intentional moves to build relationships within those communities. 

• How are you supporting your local community, and what are you doing to build and sustain connections? 

• Learn more about how to be responsive to community needs. 

As practitioners, advisors and consultants to funders, conveners and conductors of community collaboration, we have observed collaboration and collective impact in communities across the country. From our on-the-ground experience, we have seen it done well, and not so well.

In this first of a two-blog series, we’ll provide several guideposts about how funders can better see the communities they are working in and more effectively navigate their relationships in those communities.

Identify and understand community knowledge

Don’t assume you have a clear understanding of the everyday reality in a community because you talked to a few people there. You have to dig deep and listen for different kinds of knowledge and experience on issues. Rarely is a problem or a solution so new that no one else has been looking at it. Someone is working on this issue somewhere, maybe in a part of your community you’re less familiar with. Often, as you dig in to first learn about the problem, you will discover different angles, and may well find ways to add value instead of overtaking existing efforts.

Seek out data for learning

Be careful as you acquire and consider data—we have seen it both over and undervalued. Easy accessibility to data doesn’t mean it’s presented in a way that illuminates the dimensions of community issues.

Avoid “picking winners”

When you work to support making collaboration happen, you have to pay close attention to competitive dynamics tied to receiving support. Take your time to find out who is really moving the issue on the ground, not just those who can quickly sound articulate about your challenge. This is a key place to watch your biases on who you know because it’s easy to tap people already in your network. To get collaboration right, you may need to support new partners who can create forward movement.

It’s about relationships built on trust

To move the needle on community issues, we have to build trusting relationships that will sustain change over time. It’s easy to focus on action and results while not tending to the trust building needed to make things last. Take time to create intentional efforts to build trust.

Read the full article about how funders can see communities by David Moore and Jeffrey M. Glebocki at Exponent Philanthropy.