Action Research

Funders as Partners provides a framework for individual funders and also alliances or consortia of funders to engage with partnership brokers as a means of increasing the performance and impact of their collaborations.

“A partnering mind-set brings a genuine curiosity together with the ability and willingness to explore diverse perspectives and experiences. It establishes equity and respect where little may have existed before. It builds openness and enthusiasm for all voices (even those without perceived power) to be heard. It explores and validates both individual and mutual interests and seeds courage to make a difference on issues that are important to those involved.”
Marcia Dwonczyk, Accredited Partnership Broker & PBA Associate, quoted in Shifting the Power – How can Working in Partnership Help

Sharing and undertaking research on how funders can adopt partnering mindsets, procedures and processes is an important contribution of the project. Here we present and point to relevant research on how funders have tried to increase the impact of their funding and address non-financial impact where they have sought intentionally to partner.
Experience suggests that funders can use partnerships to build better interventions and investments by sharing –not just shifting – power among those involved or seeking to get involved in partnerships. See:
Rafal Serafin and Ros Tennyson (2018): POWER SHIFTS WHEN POWER IS SHARED Re-framing the role of donors in development

Funders can

  • Demonstrate the added value from sharing power
  • Evolve innovative ways of valuing non-cash contributions
  • Broker new thinking on the meaning of ‘return on investment’, including social and environmental return
  • Model high standards in collaboration good practice
  • Monitor the added value of new resourcing models
  • Build more context-appropriate investments that are fit-for-purpose (from philanthropy to impact investing)
  • Promote equity between funders, recipients & beneficiaries
  • Build greater partnering capabilities in other funding organisations
  • Challenge other funders to operate as partners
  • Confront those locked into an outdated paradigm
  • Disseminate learning about new approaches
  • Share responsibility for sustaining outcomes

(The list was initially developed as part of PBA’s work with the Global Alliance on Community Philanthropy. Collaborating funders and PBA Associates have added to this list)

Research is needed to understand better the barriers and opportunities faced by funders operating as

  • providers of money – i.e. strategies, good practices for designing & delivering finance, including grants and loans
  • partners in multi-stakeholder partnerships;
  • collaborating with other funders;
  • collaborating with beneficiaries and stakeholders in partnering situations.
  • strategic convening to spark partnership approaches and allow introductions of diverse potential partners?

Here we present and refer to relevant research, to which PBA has contributed directly or indirectly, that offers insights and guidance on how funders can partner more effectively and tap the transformative potential of multi-stakeholder partnerships.

On the importance of trust and issues of risk (real or perceived)
The term partnership is often used to describe donor-recipient relationships in the humanitarian and development sector. However, few of these relationships actually represent a partnership with equal relations between donors and recipients. To promote empowerment of local organisations and locally driven social change, equality is an important key. Susanna Mnatsakanova from the French Red Cross explores the importance of establishing and managing trust in partnerships to raise equality, and how partnership brokers can re-shape donor-recipient partnerships to enable organisations and individuals to maximise the impact of their partnering work.
Susanna Mnatsakanova: Why managing trust is critical in a donor-recipient partnership

Experiences with pooled-funds
After 1990, US and European foundations and government agencies invested in a series of Partnerships and Trusts to support civil society in Central and Eastern Europe, the Baltics, the Balkans and the Black Sea regions. Analyzing the long-term impact of these investments is crucial, especially as many politicians across these regions increase their anti-civil society rhetoric. Three long-time US foundation staff look back at the legacy and impact of this funding and derive a series of lessons for practitioners seeking to understand how best to sustain civil societies for the long term.
Barry Gaberman, Merrill Sovner and William Moody: Sustaining Civil Society: Lessons from Five Pooled Funds in Eastern Europe

On interorganizational collaboration
The misuse of the term partnerships and using terms like coalition, affiliations, and strategic alliances interchangeably, indicates that many funders do not have clarity on what a partnership entails or are grasping for a word that would most clearly define what they were doing. Funders partnering effectively need to build clarity and understanding as to terminology and the underpinning collaborative concepts. It is important to articulate the differences and the value being brought to the collaboration by those involved as working out ways of embracing those differences leads to transformative solution. Dana Silver, an accredited partnership broker and Vice-President at the Calgary Chamber of Voluntary Organisations shares her experiences, insights and a tool for managing interorganizational relationships with funders as collaborations.
Dana Silver: An Experience and Guide to Defining Interorganizational Relationships.

Different forms of collaborations are possible and appropriate, depending on context, need and circumstances of those involved. Partnerships designed to share risks, cost and benefits are not always the most appropriate. Experience with different types of collaborations, many of which include donors or funders, suggests that a systematic, intentional and self-aware approach to moving forward collaborations can be useful. Ros Tennyson, one of the PBA founders, shares her insights and experiences.
Ros Tennyson: ANIMATING ALLIANCES: What does it take to make these forms of multi-stakeholder collaboration efficient, effective and transformational?