A few weeks ago I shared an overview of what collaborative fundraising is and why an organization would do it. This is the exciting conclusion on how to initiate collaborative fundraising.

How to Initiate Collaborative Fundraising  

The best ways to initiate a collaborative fundraising partnership is to propose a pilot or respond to a complex funding opportunity. If doing the latter, it is probably going to be both. By complex I mean, multi-year, with a large geographic service area, epic expected outcomes, nitty gritty measurements for analysis and meaningful outcomes that may not even exist, and maybe being part of a national initiative where metrics need to line up there, too.

A complex funding proposal can be a rich opportunity for social equity intermediaries like the Council to initiate partnerships with specialized direct service providers and membership organizations who can lend their expertise to niche components of the dynamic challenges that are impacting our beloved community. By niche I mean, for example, nonprofits that specialize on the impact of trauma on a child’s health and education, or who assist families with mixed-status immigrant households that include a person returning from the justice system. These nonprofits fill distinct needs in holistically addressing equity.

Pilots enable experimentation with potential solutions. Three years seems to be the standard funding cycle for a pilot, with phases including design and development, implementation, and evaluation.

A real time example of a targeted collaborative pilot that engaged five strong regional nonprofits is the Bay Area Young Men of Color Employment Project (BAYEP). Lead collaborators for this pilot include the Council, PolicyLink, the Bay Area Council, LeadersUp, and the United Way of the Bay Area all of whom came together to address economic equity and employment opportunities for young men of color. Despite significant investments by philanthropy and school systems to improve health and life outcomes for young men of color in many East Bay communities, disparities remain between this population and young White men, especially around economic opportunity. The mechanics of this partnership deserve a case study.

Since arriving in Alameda County, I have been peripherally involved in the Whole Person Care application led by Alameda County Health Care Services Agency and the Career Pathways Trust I and II led by the Peralta Community College District and Alameda County Office of Education, respectively. Multi-million dollar initiatives like these attract a lot of interest and organically convene potential collaborative applicant partners. These examples were restricted to applicants like the State, the County, or a County Office of Education but for those that are not, the trick is getting there first to engage potential competitors on your application before they consider applying on their own and building their own collaborative. Just know when to play offence (get there first to initiate a collaborative), when to play defence (strategically select participants in the potential collaboration, or if you are convened by another partner, advocate for leading), and be open to being relegated to special teams (sometimes it’s appropriate to play second fiddle).

Build Your Collaborative

Got a complex issue? Got a good idea to address it? Draft a concept paper and pitch it to trusted partners who can share in the work and the funding. Get their take on whether it has any there there. This can be done strategically where, depending on the concept, there’s a representative from a national entity, the education system, and organizations in targeted demographic areas. Next, create a prospect list and learn who in your fledgling collaborative has relationships with potential funders. With a strong statement of need and quantifiable (if possible) outcomes in mind, you’re ready to pitch. This is and isn’t oversimplified so don’t make it harder than it is.

Now go find funding to solve some problems (and tell me how it goes).