Last week I attended the 2016 Philanthropy Australia conference in Sydney, alongside over 600 Australian and international philanthropists and leaders in the not-for-profit sector. As a relative newcomer to philanthropy, the conference was a veritable smorgasbord of ideas and inspiration, and an opportunity to learn from some of the stars and trailblazers of the sector.
One of the themes that strongly underpinned the conference was the power and importance of collaboration. This theme ran strong throughout the two-day conference and was covered in many of the topics, including partnering for change, building a shared agenda for social change, the democratisation of giving, co-designed systems of change, citizen-centric philanthropy and what destination experts can teach grant makers, to name a few. It was clear that collaboration was the lynchpin for all these topics, and with the theme of the conference being, ‘Is philanthropy future ready?’ it seems this trend is not only here to stay but also will lead the sector into the future.
For the Bennelong Foundation, collaboration is a strategy we began to explore in 2014 and with our current major project being a five-year collaboration between government, the private sector, and philanthropy, we have been fortunate enough to see the multiplier effect and impact first hand.
To be an effective collaborator – and once multiple stakeholders are involved – establishing a solid framework is key, whether it be a giving circle, co-funding, or a long term partnership between the end beneficiary and funder.
My four key elements to establishing an effective collaborative partnership in philanthropy, as highlighted throughout the conference, are as follows:
Trust and transparency
Establish the framework and governance from the very start. Ensure all stakeholders know what they are accountable for, what the decision making process is, and most importantly, that all stakeholders are comfortable with their contribution to the partnership.
Openness and clarity of communication
Adopting an open and non-judgemental culture within the partnership will encourage inclusiveness and build strength between the parties involved. Define how you will communicate and encourage the sharing of knowledge.
Establishing a clear mission and definition of success
The definition of success may differ between the stakeholders, it is important to ensure that the outcomes and goals are aligned for all parties. Work with the community or group that best knows the needs and how this need can be addressed.
Ability to be open and adaptable to change
It is important to be flexible and adaptable to change, and opinions. That way collaborators will be able to quickly move through challenges that arise and move forward. All parties should demonstrate a willingness to learn and most importantly acknowledge and recognise failure, so that you have the opportunity to reboot or adapt before any issues compound.
Sandra Jacobs is CEO of the Bennelong Foundation.