Common Collaboration Problems + Tactics

1. Personality Problems

  • Promote open, honest communication.
  • Identify people who might have trouble collaborating upfront. 

One funder related that two funders with whom he’d been working suggested someone they believed would be a good partner for a potential collaborative effort “because that person cared about the issue and had a lot of money.” But, he said, “it was clear that this partner wouldn’t be a great person to work with because they would come to the table with a lot of politics. 

2. My foundation doesn’t get "it"

  • Provide more options for involvement. Belonging to a funder collaborative, one grantmaker pointed out, means “leaving the culture of your organization and sitting in another one. You can’t assume that people inside your own foundation will ‘see’ what you see,” or even what you tell them about it. “You need to think of ways to involve key decision makers inside your organization with this new way of working,” she said, “so they can experience it.”
  • Make sure key members of your foundation experience the work of the collaborative for themselves, whether by joining a site visit to a grantee, participating in a strategy meeting, or some other activity... seek their support in communicating internally about the ben- efits of being part of the collaborative.

3. Disagreement and disorder

  • Develop clear guidelines from the start — and go back to those agreements, if necessary. “If we say, ‘Here are our ten criteria for the types of things we’re going to fund,’” a grantmaker noted, “when the proposals come in eight months later people might still try to eliminate things because they don’t like them. You have to remind them that ‘we all made an agreement that these were our criteria.’”
  • Have a plan for getting beyond impasses and moving forward. A grantmaker from a family foundation described a collaborative in which members’ disagreements are “usually mitigated by the fact that we’ve developed a consensus process that’s clear” — including recourse to majority rule if a vote is needed.

Takeaways are critical, bite-sized resources either excerpted from our guides or written by Candid Learning for Funders using the guide's research data or themes post-publication. Attribution is given if the takeaway is a quotation.

This takeaway was derived from Funder Collaboratives.