Impact Measurement

Breaking Down Silos: Three Ways to Collaborate at Your Foundation


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 Democratizing philanthropy

A new generation is redefining social sector leadership with a work style that maximizes efficiency through collaboration. And you don’t have to be a millennial to harness the power of information sharing.

Here are three ways to access your foundation's valuable internal resources by simply communicating with colleagues:

1. Encourage a Culture of Sharing at Your Foundation

Developing sharing is an important first step. That might seem daunting because it takes time to learn about projects. But the result is improved grantmaking.

At top foundations, program staff meet regularly to share stories and lessons learned. These foundations also make cross-disciplinary grants. These informal connections can lead to great ideas.

2. Allow Foundation Staff to Take On Different Roles

Technology can also promote a culture of sharing. As IT teams shrink, some social sector professionals become “accidental techies.” Staff find themselves answering colleagues’ tech queries—and this fosters collaboration. A bookkeeper may have developed an advanced social media strategy or a program officer may have built CRM (customer relationship management) databases. Beyond interdepartmental communication, a cultural shift takes root, inspiring fresh ideas, innovation, and creativity.

3. Share Data Outside Your Organization

In her Stanford Social Innovation Review piece “Building Networks and Movements for Social Change," Heather McLeod Grant, co-founder and managing director of Open Impact, urges foundations to support partnerships that reach "across sector, field, and constituency.”

Anil Patel, co-founder of GrantBook, says sharing data is like sharing good food. To make data "easy to share” it needs “the right proportions of information.” Bring team members from across programs together and throw out questions: Has one team used data to make a successful case for implementing different kinds of grantmaking, such as capacity building over programmatic grants?

Then bring in other staff members to "taste." Are they taking away the correct information; can they interpret your dashboards? Do they have suggestions? The exercise will get staff interacting.

Now that your foundation program staff are poised to collaborate internally, they should encourage grantees to do so too.

How Technology Fuels Collaboration

Fluxx’s Grantmaker platform facilitates sharing knowledge internally as well as externally so that everyone on the team is empowered to help everyone else. More efficient collaboration also means less time spent on administration. Simple software also allows foundations to maintain unique processes within multiple giving initiatives.

All this leads to better relationships, more integration, and more informed decisions. And technological expertise among grantees itself supports more advanced data sharing, increased transparency, and a better-informed social sector.

Download our white paper here to see the data on the effects of collaboration from more experts, and how you can make collaboration work for you.

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