Funder Collaboratives

Why and How Funders Work Together


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When it comes to funder collaboratives, is the whole truly greater than the sum of its parts? Can foundations make a bigger impact with grant dollars by working together than by going it alone? Yes, grantmakers say, as long as members define their goals, set clear operational guidelines, and work from the start to make the collaborative function well for grantees. In this guide, contributors share strategies for structuring a collaborative to fit its purpose, building strong relationships and resolving conflicts, and figuring out if the collaborative you're in is working. Contributors also offer ample proof that collaboratives are leading the field in bringing the voices of nonfunders - grantees, intended beneficiaries, experts, and others - into the process of making grants.

  • Designing a collaborative to fit the purpose
  • Questions to answer at the start
  • Benefits and challenges of funder collaboratives
  • Three case studies

"Funders are asking nonprofits to do so much more in hard times — like merge or even go out of business. But how many foundations are doing the same? It's the credibility issue; you know, we need to walk our talk."

— A foundation president on philanthropy's
response to current challenges

"Tell people [in your foundation] what you’re doing in the collaborative and how it's helping to meet the institution’s goals. Give credit to the effort when good things happen. And don’t be afraid to keep talking about it!"

— A grantmaker on keeping your organization
invested in a funder collaborative

"We were definitely not equal partners in terms of resources, but 'one organization, one vote' underscored our appreciation of the benefits of shared learning. It also recognized that, even though particular funders may not be able to put in a large amount of money, they have deep experience in the field and bring a lot of knowledge and insight to the table in reviewing the grant applications."

— A grantmaker describes why democratic voting
can be effective in a funder collaborative