Do funding models encourage collaboration?

kerrygrace-2014 Learn

Let’s face it… in an ever competitive funding landscape there is more pressure on individual not for profits to be louder, to stand out, to push for results and to provide cost effective solutions.

But is this an approach that will truly sustain social change?

Today I’m reading about collective impact in an article by Kania and Kramer (2011)

The words embed my frustration in current funding models designed to address social issues.

Consider this…

You’re writing a grant for your not for profit with two purposes in mind;

  1. Solving that issue that you are passionate about and
  2. Hopefully somehow sustaining your operation in the process

As you construct your funding pitch you have several choices. Do you (a) write about the broader issue and the great work that your organisation does to solve the issue? (b) write about the excellent work done by your neighbouring not for profit (who you may on some occasions call a competitor)? (c) write about how well you all work together equally?

It’s a 200 word no brainer right?  Of course you’re going to speak to the good YOUR entity does, rather than how well you do your think with anybody else, and certainly not how well somebody else does it.


Because it’s a competition. It’s structured that way. And even the question about ‘letters of support, demonstration of collaboration and/or partnerships’ STILL focuses on your organisation being the primary driver.

Kania and Kramer refer to this as isolated impact. I’ll leave you with this sobering quote from the article;

(isolated impact) “is an approach oriented toward finding and funding a solution embodied within a single organization, combined with the hope that the most effective organizations will grow or replicate to extend their impact more widely. Funders search for more effective interventions as if there were a cure for failing schools that only needs to be discovered, in the way that medical cures are discovered in laboratories. As a result of this process, nearly 1.4 million nonprofits try to invent independent solutions to major social problems, often working at odds with each other and exponentially increasing the perceived resources required to make meaningful progress. Recent trends have only reinforced this perspective.”