The power and potential of philanthropic collaboration – vital for sustainable, scalable impact. Louise Driver. IPASA Newsletter. September 2022.

The power and potential of philanthropic collaboration – vital for sustainable, scalable impact

 Louise Driver, IPASA Executive Director

 “The key to your success will not be your ability to stand alone and distinguish yourself, but will be your ability to work with others, your ability to co-create those strategies that will get you solutions. It requires you to think about ownership of something not as being simply yours but as a public good and that what you’re trying to do is bring more investors into this public good.”  Darren Walker, President Ford Foundation

At a time when our most critical social and environmental challenges are so immensely huge and complex—and the funding available to any single institution to deal with these problems is so limited—it is clear that no single role player can solve these issues alone. To truly address these problems and to achieve scaled up change and sustained impact, we need collaboration and strong partnerships both between funders, and between funders and the other key role players in the philanthropy ecosystem.

Collaboration seems like the obvious choice for funders at this moment in time in the world in that it increases the partners’ power to effect widespread change in complex areas. Collaboration offers funders the opportunity to tackle problems at a greater scale than they could alone – through not only creating larger pools of funding, but also allowing for combined expertise by learning from partners within a specialized field or by joining with others to develop collective expertise together. It also allows for efficient grant-making by offering cost efficiencies due to shared strategy development or due diligence on potential grantees as well as gives access to networks and specialized skills that another funder in the partnership may not have on.

But despite the many advantages to collaboration, the extent to which philanthropy is willing to collaborate towards targeted impact is not always apparent. Very few funders have advanced their collaboration beyond information sharing and grant co-ordination. Why is it so challenging to form funding partnerships when there is a common goal, a shared vision and passion for collective impact?

The reality is that funder collaboration is extremely difficult as it places results ahead of recognition for an organisation, and often collaboration also means a loss of unilateral decision-making control. It is thus imperative that funders, before embarking on a partnership, are open about power dynamics and address any agendas or power imbalances in the relationship, so that they can work towards building an equitable and trusting partnership.

A trust-based philanthropy approach needs to be adopted which allows for a more open and transparent relationship which relooks at the issues of power and control through brave and necessary introspection, deep listening, and intentional learning. These partnerships based on relationships of trust are essential for the type of sustained collaboration that is needed to achieve lasting impact.

One of IPASA’s key strategic objectives is to promote and facilitate collaboration in the philanthropy sector. Our work is focused on overcoming the obstacles to collaboration through offering support to funders in adopting and implementing funding practises which allow for strong impactful partnerships. Some of these practices are covered in the articles contained in this newsletter which give practical examples of how funders can effectively scale their work. The articles in this edition of our newsletter also shows how innovative funding and evidence-based approaches can leverage philanthropic funding for scaled-up impact and system-wide change.

Our 2022 Annual Philanthropy Symposium, which will be held on the 8th and 9th November in Cape Town, will focus more in-depth on collaboration and what is needed to collectively take action to solve the numerous intersecting crises facing our country. We believe that the sustained impact we need is a joint responsibility and when the philanthropy role players involved see each other as full partners, use innovative funding mechanisms and design evidence-based initiatives, the collective power of philanthropy will be maximised, and its full potential realised.


Related Posts