Helping funders achieve more together

December 1, 2021


minute read
Jim Cooke
Head of the Funders Collaborative Hub

The Funders Collaborative Hub, hosted by the Association of Charitable Foundations (ACF), first launched as a pilot in November 2020. A year on, we’re using what we’ve learned to help funders all over the UK to share, connect and collaborate on a wide variety of issues.

Collaboration between funders includes everything from informal information-sharing to joint funding programmes. For many foundations and philanthropists, collaboration has always been an important part of the toolbox they use to maximise their impact. Yet Covid-19 undoubtedly saw funders collaborate in new ways and on an unprecedented scale. 

As funders reflect on how collaboration helped them navigate the challenges of the pandemic, many are now thinking about how to sustain the benefits of working in more joined-up ways, through the recovery from Covid-19 and beyond.

In our first year, the Hub developed and tested various product and service ideas – from events to online tools – that aimed to help funders answer questions such as:

  • What collaborations between funders are happening already?
  • Who else might be interested in collaborating on an issue we are working on?
  • Where are the emerging needs and gaps?

We partnered with service design experts Shift to help us maximise our learning from this work and use it to focus and improve the Hub’s offer. 

Why do funders collaborate - and what could make it easier?

Through a series of surveys, interviews and workshops with funders, we deepened our understanding of their needs, motivations and barriers relating to collaboration. We heard that when funders are more aware of each other’s activities, they feel able to make better decisions about how to use their resources. By sharing their past learning, current work and future plans, they can help each other to find and play their best role.

The benefits that funders see collaboration as bringing to their work include:

  • Avoiding duplication and identifying gaps they can fill
  • Joining forces to tackle big, complex issues
  • Finding ways to work more efficiently
  • Creating spaces to engage equitably and inclusively with charities and others working towards similar goals.

To help them achieve these benefits, funders expressed the need for better access to information about what other grant-makers are doing, and more connections to other people that want to drive funder collaboration.

Shift helped us to generate and test a range of ideas for how the Hub could contribute to meeting these needs, focusing on three components: shared information, inspiration and tools.

The top priority that emerged was to build an easily searchable source of up-to-date collaboration opportunities. This is now central to what the Hub offers.

Jim Cooke
Head of the Funders Collaborative Hub

Sharing collaboration opportunities

The top priority that emerged from our research and design work was to build an easily searchable source of up-to-date collaboration opportunities. This is now central to what the Hub offers - funders can explore more than 60 opportunities - and new ones will be added each week.

These opportunities include existing collaborations that are open to new funders joining or have learning and resources available to share. The Hub also features emerging opportunities from funders who want to share their ideas and intentions, and connect with others to explore questions and develop new approaches together. Much of this information is being shared publicly for the first time.

You can filter opportunities by geography, issue or type, so it’s quick and easy to see what’s happening in your areas of interest. And if you’re involved in a collaboration that isn’t featured yet - or if you’d like to start something new - use the ‘Share what you’re working on’ form to tell us about it.

Inspiration and tools

Although access to shared information is central to the Hub, we’re not really a ‘big data’ project. We know that collaboration depends more than anything on relationships. That’s why, whenever a funder shares a new collaboration opportunity with us, we’ll always follow up with an offer of a one-to-one conversation to make sure we really understand what you’re trying to achieve and can help you make best use of the Hub to find the collaborators you need.

The human side of funder collaboration also inspired the Hub’s new look. I hope you’ll agree that our new website is a much more vibrant showcase for all the great work funders are doing together.

A wide range of grant-makers have agreed to share their collaboration experiences with us.  From the Participatory Grantmaking Community developing their practice together, to the transformative role played by the Wales Funders’ Forum during Covid-19, read their stories in our case studies section. 

We’ve also updated our Funder Collaboration Toolkit, which brings together practical tips, templates and resources for each of the typical stages funders will go through when working together, from laying the foundations to stewarding the collaboration.

I'd like to say a huge 'thank you' to everyone who has contributed to creating the Funders Collaborative Hub: the Strategy Group who advised on its early development; the funders who took part in our user research and testing; the Hub team (including colleagues from ACF, Shift and Esmee Fairbairn Foundation); our Project Group and our supporters (you can see who these are here).  

Stay informed

Stay up-to-date with all the latest funder collaboration opportunities, by signing up to our newsletter and following @funderhub on Twitter. Whatever your mission, and whether you have some collaboration experience or are just getting started, we aim to provide inspiration, information and tools to help you. 

Explore the Hub

Explore the Hub today to connect with other funders who are already collaborating on the topics that matter to you. See what’s going on right now or learn from work that funders have done before. Get involved - or get inspired to start something new.

Explore the Hub