The Collaborative Fund Model: Effective Strategies for Grantmaking

by Julie Peterson

Oct 4, 2002

The Ms. Foundation has identified four key factors for the success of a collaborative fund. Time to build trust and comfort. The four-stage process -- internal planning, collaborative education and planning, grantee selection and research, monitoring and capacity building -- builds a high and rare level of trust and comfort among donor partners, among grantees, and between donors and grantees. A web of connections. Collaborative relationships are nurtured by building a web of connections. Donor partners meet among themselves several times to review proposals, track grantee progress and learn from experts in the field. They also participate in initial and mid-grant site visits. Periodic retreats bring donors and grantees together to share information and build technical skills, and grantees share information through peer exchanges, listservs and conference calls. In these ways, collaborations facilitate the building of bridges within a field in addition to the building of a field overall. Skilled staff. Collaboration must be staffed. More over, staffing a collaborative requires someone with excellent skills at facilitation. Each Ms. Foundation collaborative employs a full-time program officer who manages the fund, with the support of a program assistant and the supervision of a program director who each dedicate a considerable portion of their time to the fund. Value-added partnership. A value-added consensus-based collaborative approach yields outcomes far greater than any donor could achieve alone. It focuses on what a collective of donors can do better than a single donor going it alone. A collaborative is all about partnership. From a fund's invention and design through its realization and reflections, all of its elements have been the product of teamwork by grantee program staff and participants, donors, researchers and collaborative staff. The power of working together, of networking, of sharing information and ideas about a field is the driving force of a collaborative. There is no question this high degree of collaboration adds an extra challenge to the work; there is also no question it yields immeasurable richness, relevance, and meaning for those involved, and for its outcomes and implications.

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