What if Funders Were Forced to Partner?

I was recently asked if it would be a good idea to have a foundation force two organizations to work together. Essentially, the proposition was to request two nonprofits to work together, with the promise that a large sum of money would be available for each of them after one year, regardless of whether or not they were successful in truly accomplishing anything together.

I admit: I laughed out loud.

Why would a foundation do that? Why would it dangle money in front of nonprofits (who almost always need money) and encourage them to try to work together for a year? It seemed, quite frankly, callous. And a waste of energy.

What might be a better idea (or approach) would be to have the foundation convene a number of like-minded nonprofits and facilitate a one-day convening in which those organizations could explore if they could/should work together. What would make it even more powerful would be if the foundation wasn’t even present for those conversations. There would be no pressure. No promise of money. But if organizations decided to partner, or collaborate, they would have the opportunity to make a pitch.

I am a big believer in working together. By partnering with one another, we can do more and make a bigger impact (even if it takes longer). But rather than force it to happen, perhaps a better approach would be to start taking a really hard look at which organizations are performing well and ensure that, collectively, funders are supporting those organizations. And that would mean that funders need to start partnering and working together. Isn’t that a novel idea?

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