The Power of Collaboration

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This motivation to collaborate stems from the belief that philanthropy is not just for the wealthy, and that it provides a way to feel connected to and learn from others whose life circumstances may be quite different than their own.

Some come together in peer learning networks around a particular cause; others combine their money and collectively decide where to give. They acknowledged that working with others to leverage time, money and resources helps to ensure greater impact and often inspires others to give as well.

Partnerships are critical to large scale impact. Philanthropists will need to work with other donors [including other philanthropists, corporate social investment representatives, development agencies, aid agencies, impact investors, venture philanthropists and others] along with stakeholders from the public and private sector and most importantly civil society if they want to be part of large scale impact.

Collaboration is not a natural state of being. These relationships need to be worked at, evaluated and re-envisaged from time to time and open to new partners. Communication between partners is key not just in shaping a shared vision and desired outcomes, but in terms of simple operations, administration and implementation.

Types of Donor Collaboration

Defining partnership in the philanthropic sector:

In the philanthropic sector, partnerships cannot be viewed simply as business arrangements out of which profit is gained. Rather, in my view, they should be viewed as collaborations of individuals and/or organisations with mutually held objectives where the outcome is social development, empowerment, enablement and upliftment rather than profit. These collaborations are deeply steeped in relationship building.

Partnership does also not necessarily imply creating a legally defined relationship. Networks and peer learning forums are also a form of partnership that can result in significant collaborations which are almost the unintended consequence of these forums.

The Power Myth:

Another notion to consider is that in business partnerships ordinarily there is equality of power. It has been my experience that in relationships developed in the philanthropic sector there are some real and perceived power imbalances related almost always to who gives the money and how much is given. Agendas are often driven and set against this. This unfortunately plays a significant role in the destruction of relationships and can compromise the outcomes originally envisaged by the partnership.

Collaboration is a powerful vehicle to amplify resources and thereby effectiveness and impact. However, whilst the motivation to collaborate is clear, successful teamwork amongst philanthropists in this regard is rare.

Why collaborate?

  • The myriad of challenges facing society and the development sector in general are so significant that even the largest philanthropists cannot achieve impact alone.
  • Despite philanthropic appetite for risk, scaling these innovations often carries a far greater risk than that implied in a pilot project. As a result, such collaborations should allow for the risk to be spread across the stakeholders.
  • Networks and collaborative structures illuminate commonly held values, practice and implementation. In so doing they enable a more optimal use of resources [financial and other], the avoidance of duplicate interventions or initiatives and the development of a community of practice.
  • Partnerships allow for increased voice and visibility of the challenges and initiatives as potential solutions. The bigger the voice behind the problem, the greater the public consideration  and responsiveness. This provides a platform for activism and can in and of itself lead to shifts in values and behaviour.

Obstacles to successful collaboration:

  • Findings partners
  • Different stakeholders have different motivation.
  • A driver or champion
  • Timing
  • Flexibility
  • Initiating collaboration

Key steps to initiating collaboration:

  • Start by inviting other funders to get together to discuss experiences and ideas.
  • Identify questions and issues you are jointly interested in exploring.
  • Be clear about your understanding of the benefits and goals of collaboration
  • Select the level of collaboration you feel is appropriate
  • Define expected outcomes.
  • Assess the commitment that will be required.
  • Make sure that the rules are clear and workable.

The Power of Commitment

Beyond providing financial support, a key motivation for philanthropists is a strong commitment expressed through their personal time, volunteerism and active participation in the causes they support.

They describe feeling more connected to a particular cause or group of people when they offered their time such as coaching young entrepreneurs or providing strategic advice to an organization­.

CASE STUDY: IPASA – Independent Philanthropy Association South Africa

CASE STUDY: GreenMatter


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