Funder Collaborations: What Makes Them Tick?

Foundations and other funders play a critical role in advancing social change. And when funders decide to work together on an issue, they can have a major impact. But that kind of collaboration can be pretty complicated, since it involves stitching together a mix of perspectives, goals, resources, and needs.

Harder+Company’s Jennifer James recently teamed up with Nancy Jamison of San Diego Grantmakers (SDG) to describe six things to keep in mind when bringing together a funder collaborative. Jen has helped SDG facilitate working groups on Prisoner Re-Entry, Social Equity, Transition Age Youth, and Military Family Transition to Civilian Life. Based on that work, Jen and Nancy wrote in the Philanthropy News Digest about the “Ps and Ts of Funder Collaboration.” Some of their advice includes watching out for the following:

  • Personalities of participants can influence how the work gets done, and require strong “emotional intelligence” from a facilitator to balance differences in the group.
  • Time is a precious resource, and participants must be committed to spending the necessary time to get the work done.
  • Politics is inevitable, so sensitivity is required to navigate any complicated relationships.
  • Turf is a fact of life, since funders have specific areas of focus, and participants should be encouraged to think about the group’s goals too.
  • Power can be wielded in a range of ways to sway group decisions, and efforts must be made to value all perspectives.
  • Trust can take time to build, but is vital to achieving effective group dynamics and collaborative funding goals.

While these insights come from our work with SDG, we have learned similar lessons through engagements with other funder collaborations like the New Americans Campaign, the Northern California Census Funders Collaborative, and the Los Angeles Workforce Funders Collaborative. This shared approach to funding is exciting and complex – with the potential for far-reaching benefits. For more of Jen and Nancy’s thoughts on navigating funder collaboratives, check out the full article on the PND Blog!