Beyond Agendas: How Grantmakers Collaborate to Do Good

“If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange these apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas.” - George Bernard Shaw

Collaboration lays the foundation for multiple stakeholders to effect change. Whether it’s a societal issue or a policy change in question, the sharing of ideas, practices and funding between foundations and nonprofits can be the most effective approach for results. Collaboration in grantmaking comes in many forms, but let’s take a look at a few common formats and what you need to know to see if they’ll work for your purpose.

Collaboration in grantmaking comes in many forms, so how do you know which is right for your cause?Tweet This

Collaboration: Networks

Use: For long-term success

Networks can be a form of collaboration that’s either formal or informal. They are used when the joining members share interest in a common cause but not necessarily a specific objective or outcome. For example, multiple organizations may share interest in the betterment of a specific cause so they would form a network to have each other on hand if and when needed.

Is a Network What You Need?

Think of this form of collaboration as a relationship and knowledge-sharing source. Networks don’t necessarily mean immediate change, it really just comes down to a group of organizations who care about the same cause and making those resources readily available for when the time is right to form a more formal collaborative initiative. shares,

“The key is patience: Networks may lie dormant for a while, but activate quickly when necessary.” – Roberto Cremonini (@rcremonini), GivingData

Because of their nature, many foundations struggle to see the benefit of investing in networks. The process takes a great deal of patience to see near-term measurable returns and can often result in unexpected results that call for acceptance of new ideas. This type of innovation and investment might be viewed as a challenge, but the contributions from both contribute to ongoing learning, knowledge sharing and relationship building - all of which are important to foundations.

Many foundations struggle to see the benefit of investing in networks. See how to change this!Tweet This

Collaboration: Coalitions

Use: For policy change

Coalitions are formed when stakeholders are working to influence a targeted audience or institution. Members of the coalition share a common objective, whereas a network just shares the same interest in a common cause. For example, the D5 Coalition(@D5Coalition) formed by 27 organizations works to effect positive change on diversity, equity and inclusion in philanthropy.

Is a Coalition What You Need?

When network members agree upon a shared objective, coalitions are formed. Typically, when civic organizations come together to form coalitions, it may be in their interest to influence legislation or the outcome of an election or vote.

The National Coalition for the Homeless is a national network of people who are currently experiencing or who have experienced homelessness, activists and advocates, community-based and faith-based service providers, and others committed to a single mission: To prevent and end homelessness while ensuring the immediate needs of those experiencing homelessness are met and their civil rights protected.”

A quick glance at the The National Coalition for the Homeless’ (@Ntl_Homeless) website and you can see the various campaigns they run to effect change politically. Most notably is their objective to preserve homeless citizens civil rights and enacting federal policies to create affordable housing for all.

Looking to make a formal collaboration?

Strategic alliances, strategic co-funding partnerships and more are considered to be more formal approaches to grantmaking collaboration, and you can get all of the information you need on them in this handy chart from


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