4. Collaborate to pool support services
Pooling capital is an obvious benefit of funder collaborations. But funders can also collaborate to pool support services, particularly capacity-building support services. In many ways, the ecosystem has become a conveyor belt for impact-led organisations, with leading funders, accelerators and platforms all funding, supporting and profiling the same elite handful of organisations. And too often ecosystem players are reinventing the wheel, providing the same kinds of support but using different language, tools and methods.
Pooling support services involves bringing service providers together to refine their relative value propositions, adopt a shared language and build on each other’s offerings to fill capacity gaps. A good example of this is Blue Meridian Partners, a collaborative philanthropic community in the US seeking to tackle the problems that trap young people and families in poverty and limit economic and social mobility. Through some of their accelerators and portfolio support programs, Blue Meridian Partners bring together a range of service providers to provide cohesive, complementary and holistic support to their portfolio organisations.
When funders collaborate to pool support services, it helps organisations to better navigate the ecosystem and find the support they need. It can also result in better, longer-term support being provided to organisations, if funders can push the focus away from short-term technical assistance projects - targeted at closing specific gaps in an organisation’s planning, operational or governance capacity - towards longer-term organisational development. This will ultimately help build more resilient, effective and scalable organisations.
5. Collaborate with implementers, not in a closed shop
Many funders we have spoken with say that the most impactful funder collaborations they have been involved with are those that include a broader range of actors - particularly implementers, ie those delivering solutions. Creating these wider collaborative spaces requires a great deal of trust-building and can take time to yield results, but is necessary for systems change.
Funders have an essential role to play in these spaces by supporting implementers to shift their mindsets from competition to collective action. They can do this by holding space for collaboration, helping implementers to understand where they can best contribute to solving a problem, brokering connections between implementers, and funding implementers for the time they invest in building ecosystem initiatives.
An example of this kind of collaboration is the Life Skills Collaborative (LSC), founded by a group of five funders focused on promoting life skills education in India, which includes 12 implementing organisations. The LSC aims to leverage its collective power to embed life skills in government education systems, and has partnered with four state governments to date.
Collaboration with implementers is also important to address the unequal power dynamics inherent in funding. It creates space for dialogue and accountability between funders and other stakeholders, and gives those with most expertise and lived experience a seat at the table.
For funders looking to achieve impact at scale, a scaling mindset is essential. By working with other funders to share data, smoothen the capital continuum and pool support services, and by centring problems and involving implementers in collaborative efforts, funders can make better decisions, reduce duplication of effort and increase the scaling prospects of the initiatives and organisations that they support.
To find out more, please get in touch with us.
Alice Metcalf (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a Senior Consultant for Spring Impact, leading and supporting on the delivery of projects, both national and international, across a range of sectors. Alice also leads Spring Impact’s influencing work, working with funders to rethink what good funder practices look like to achieve impact at scale.
Emma Colenbrander (email@example.com), as Director at Spring Impact, works with a range of mission-driven organisations to support their scaling journeys. Before joining Spring Impact, Emma founded and led the Global Distributors Collective, an alliance of over 200 organisations that work to drive distribution of beneficial products to low-income households.
Share your experience
Do you have a viewpoint on the benefits or challenges of funder collaboration? Whether it comes from experience as a grant-maker, grant-seeking charity or another perspective, get in touch to share your thoughts - and help us improve funder practices together.