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Collaboration? Grantmakers Love It, But Most Don't Fund It

Photo by Venessa Miemis, used under Creative Commons licensing. Photo by Venessa Miemis, used under Creative Commons licensing.

Reposted with permission from the Connecting to Change the World blog. Most grantmakers believe it’s important for funders to coordinate funding and actions with each other, but when it comes to supporting collaborations by their grantees a majority of funders acknowledge that they never or rarely do. That’s the conclusion from a new study of funders by Grantmakers for Effective Organizations (GEO). For several years GEO has promoted the idea that funders can use collaborations of nonprofit organizations–networks, in particular–to achieve greater impact. In chapter 2 of Connecting to Change the World: Harnessing the Power of Networks for Social Impact, we describe some of the reasons that funders are wary of investing in networks even if they are intrigued by the idea. For instance, they may wonder precisely how a network will get anything done, who in a network can be held accountable for results, and how to evaluate a network’s performance. As some grant makers have grown comfortable with investing in networks, they have supported the development of tools for other funders, such as a framework for evaluating networks produced by the Center for Evaluation Innovation and Network Impact. But it’s also up to network builders to help potential funders understand more about the case for investing in networks and how to overcome reasonable concerns. In chapter 2, we offer several tips for doing this in addition to providing a brief scan of revenue sources for networks:
  • Pitch the potential impacts of your network, not just its network-building processes.
  • Anticipate funders’ many questions about networks–and be ready to answer them.
  • Show funders the value of the network members’ voluntary effort.