There are many ways to make a difference with your philanthropic dollars. However, as the world faces increasingly complex and challenging issues and with many different great organizations to potentially support, it may feel difficult to figure out how to substantially give back. Collaborating with other donors around a specific cause area can be one effective approach to support large systemic changes to move the needle on important issues.
In recent years, collaborative or collective giving has become a growing trend in philanthropy. There are a wide variety of structures for collaborative giving in both formal and informal ways. Generally, these donor and philanthropic collaboratives are designed to bring individual donors together, pooling their resources to support a common cause. These funds are then channeled to those best positioned to advance progress on the cause, with the goal of achieving greater impact than donors would be able to achieve individually.
One common collaborative structure is a giving circle—a group of individuals (from small groups of friends to a formalized organization of thousands of donors) with shared values collectively discussing and deciding where to make a pooled donation together. According to The Stanford Social Innovation Review, there are now over 2,000 giving circles globally and these circles have contributed $1.3 billion to different cause areas in the last 20 years. Other forms of collective giving could be in the form of crowdfunding, giving days (e.g., Giving Tuesday), or specific pooled funds to have a greater and more coordinated impact on a particular issue.
Philanthropic groups or organizations can also be more impactful when they collaborate by bringing together donors and partner organizations, both public and private. This collaboration allows them to work towards tackling similar challenges while leveraging each other’s strengths. Aggregating funds and building a network of partner organizations can also help to deliver funding at larger scales.
Increased Impact: By pooling their resources, donor collaboratives can fund larger, more complex projects or initiatives than they would be able to on their own. This can lead to greater impact and outcomes, particularly in areas where individual philanthropy may have limited reach. This can also help organizations gain more funding in the future by having a track record of receiving bigger grants.
Shared Learning and Expertise: Donor collaboratives often bring together individuals with diverse backgrounds and expertise, providing opportunities for shared learning and cross-pollination of ideas and networks. This can help donors become more informed and effective philanthropists and can also lead to the development of innovative solutions to complex problems. In addition, this allows donors who are interested in giving to cause areas that they may not have much knowledge of, to leverage the expertise of those in the collaborative.
Collective Decision-Making: In donor collaboratives, decisions about funding priorities and allocation are made collectively, often through a democratic process. This can help ensure that resources are used in the most effective and impactful ways and can also help build consensus and collaboration among donors. These collaborative organizations can help individuals feel more comfortable in trusting the organizations that are given to from the funds because of the work that is done by the collaborative. Often, the decision makers are usually based locally where they are granting the funds and have the experience doing the work in their cause area.
Democratizing philanthropy: In collaborative giving platforms such as giving circles, philanthropists of diverse identities, ages, backgrounds, and levels of wealth can come together and participate in the decision-making process, educating each other on issues and scaling their impact.
Although collaborative giving is not new, in the past it was often less convenient and efficient to do so. In addition, collaboration can sometimes be difficult to effectively bring many different stakeholders to the table and find alignment. However, there are a growing number of organizations that are successfully doing this in a myriad of ways on a global scale. A few examples include: The Audacious Project, a collaborative funding initiative to fund bold solutions to urgent global challenges; Dasra, a foundation that, since 1999, has helped to grow collaborative action and catalytic giving across India; The African Visionary Fund, driving unrestricted funding directly to high-impact African social changemakers; and the Climate Leaders in Movement Action (CLIMA) Fund, which connects donors to grassroots movements organizations focused on climate solutions in 168 countries around the world, with a focus on the Global South.
One notable insight from a 2021 Bridgespan survey on philanthropic collaborations was that racial justice was the top funding priority out of 22 cause areas, followed by economic mobility and climate change (out of the 97 collaboratives surveyed). Donors who may be looking for ways to support equity and justice organizations may find that equity-focused collaboratives to be a helpful platform to connect with community leaders dedicated to improving the lives of people of color.
These are just a few examples of successful models of organizations using the collaborative approach to pool funds toward specific issue or regional areas.
Interested in dedicating a portion of your philanthropic funds toward collaborative giving but not sure where to start? This March, in honor of Women’s History Month, start by looking into organizations that work to empower women and girls and increase gender equity at a local, national, or global level. Women and girls empowerment is also a targeted cause area of Fire Capital’s Impact Fund that our firm is proud to support.
While funding for gender equality has increased over the past ten years, according to the 2022 IU Lilly Family School of Philanthropy report on Measuring Giving to Women’s and Girls’ Causes, only 1.9% of charitable giving in the U.S. goes toward organizations dedicated to women and girls. The pandemic has led to a reversal on progress towards gender equity, making the need for additional resources, both financial and otherwise, even greater. Several collaborative giving platforms working to enhance progress towards gender equity include:
Overall, collaborative giving is an increasingly popular approach to philanthropy, and it is constantly evolving. It is important to consider that challenging social, economic and environmental issues require long-term solutions and innovative approaches that cannot be accomplished at an individual scale. By pooling resources, sharing expertise, and working collaboratively, participating in collaborative efforts can help to increase the impact and scale of individual giving.
FCM is not affiliated with any of the organizations listed and the inclusion of any organization in this material should not be considered an endorsement by FCM of such organization, or its services or products. The information contained in this post is for general informational purposes only and should not be considered as a substitute for conducting your own research and due diligence before making any donation decisions.