Moving Forward Together

by David Tandet

One of the concepts Jonathan O’Brien stresses in his groundbreaking book Right Before You Write is the desirability — make that necessity — of collaboration among potential grantees.

It’s an idea whose time has come with the intensity of a gazillion dollar project.

The idea of nonprofits working together to effectively address the funding agency’s vision is not new, just vastly underused.


Mostly laziness and shortsightedness on the part of applicants. Nonprofits think getting all the money themselves will move them that much closer to their goal that much faster — without the hassle of dealing with other nonprofits.

One of the things they’re overlooking is that first they have to get the funds.

The funder that decides who receives what has many reasons to look favorably upon a coalition that is eager to creatively and efficiently make the funder’s vision a reality in a particular area.

There’s also something else on the funder’s side that makes the foundation react as if its eyes are being opened by a cool splash of water when it sees the opportunity to try something totally new and responsible.

Effective collaboration can mean a creative leap not simply among potential grantees in the direction the funder wants to travel. It means a creative leap for the funding agency. After all, a grant by its very nature means that a collaborative is also forming between the funder and the nonprofits receiving funds.

This means that the funding agency that supports new and effective ideas will be viewed as travelling down a variety of visionary and structurally sound paths to achieve useful objectives. Such imaginative solutions are not ideas to simply be admired. The challenges of the twenty-first century make them standard operating requirements.

Always — but especially in a period of leaner funds — these are the resourceful funders who receive attention from their fellow funders who want to make good things happen. Take, for example, the first line from a February 17, 2010 article in Philanthropy News Digest:

The Partnership for a Healthier America, an organization formed by several leading health-related nonprofits and foundations, including the California Endowment, Kaiser Permanente, Nemours, the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, and the Robert Wood Johnson and W.W. Kellogg foundations, has announced that it will work to reverse the epidemic of childhood obesity in the United States.

Synergy — read that “effective collaboration” — rules.

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Post filed under Grant Writing.