Top tips for funder collaboration

Jim Cooke

By Jim Cooke, Head of Funders’ Collaborative Hub

Last year saw an upsurge in collaboration between funders. A survey of ACF members found that three out of four had collaborated with others as they navigated the Covid-19 crisis together. It also found that the majority of them want to continue collaborating—whether by pooling funds, aligning strategies or sharing data and learning with their peers.

The Funders’ Collaborative Hub launched in November 2020 to help funders increase their collective impact through more and better collaboration. The Hub is hosted by ACF and delivered in partnership with the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, The National Lottery Community Fund, Lloyds Bank Foundation and Shift.

We’ve set out to learn from the funder collaborations that came together in response to Covid-19, as well as longer-established networks and partnerships. Our recently launched Funder Collaboration Toolkit translates this learning into a set of 12 practical resources for funders, structured around the main stages typically involved in planning, building and stewarding a collaboration.

Grant-makers and philanthropists are invited to join us for an event on 1st July to hear from some of the funders whose collaboration journeys fed into the development of the toolkit. Participants will also be able to share and discuss their own experiences, challenges and plans for future collaboration.

Developing a successful funder collaboration takes time, determination and creativity—each one will be structured and shaped differently, depending on the issues it sets out to address, the capacity of its participants, and so on. But learning from how others have overcome the most common hurdles—from mapping the landscape to developing a written collaboration agreement—can help things get off to the best possible start.

Below is a selection of the ‘Top Tips’ for collaboration that we heard from funders while developing the toolkit. Read more of them here or sign up for our event to explore them in more depth.

Have a dedicated collaboration steward

Most types of funder collaborations will need someone who is responsible for stewarding, cultivating, facilitating and organising the collaboration. Agree what kind of commitment is appropriate for your collaboration, but don’t underestimate the time this role will take.

Celebrate tangible examples of progress

Keeping up momentum for the duration of your collaboration can be difficult and there will naturally be periods where energy and motivation ebb. Sharing and highlighting small but tangible wins can help keep everyone galvanised.

Create a learning environment

Build in periodic opportunities to review your work and identify areas for improvement. Revisit your shared aims and goals together as often as possible to check if they are still relevant and appropriate. And don’t be afraid to challenge and surface potential points of disagreement.

Create a sense of shared ownership

Be conscious of power dynamics within the group, especially in situations where different financial contributions have been made. Be explicit early on about how you will address any power imbalances and create a space that enables all voices to be heard, allowing each partner in the collaboration to feel equally part of the endeavour.

Bring in new voices and perspectives

Always ask who is missing (e.g. potential partners, users, community groups), what additional experience and expertise could the group benefit from, and how can you bring in new voices and perspectives (e.g. co-design sessions, talks from subject matter experts, joint site visits).

What’s next for the Funders’ Collaborative Hub? We’ll continue to update the toolkit and develop other services and activities, as we learn more about what helps funder collaborations work most effectively.

We encourage all grant-makers and philanthropists to take part in our survey to tell us about your needs, motivations and barriers to funder collaboration. Whether you’re already an experienced collaborator or considering it for the first time, your input will help us design the most useful support to help you play your best role working with and alongside others.

Developing a successful funder collaboration takes time, determination and creativity—each one will be structured and shaped differently Click To Tweet
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