Practical tips for funder collaboration in new toolkit


Jim Cooke and Cassie Robinson


It doesn’t take long online to find content about collaboration – what makes a good collaboration, stories from the frontlines of collaboration, and so forth. It’s much harder to find content that practically guides you through a collaboration journey that shifts behaviours and practices as it’s being used. 

Creating the Funder Collaboration Toolkit was a way of going beyond the case study or the recommendations report, and much more towards granular practices of ‘the how’. 

Of course, scaling up co-operation or collaboration, working eco-systemically, requires more than just a toolkit. It requires commitment, openness and trust – and an ongoing tending to the relationships. However, the tangibility of the toolkit, making explicit what the work of collaboration is, will be useful – to guide, to orient, to dip into, to go back to. 

Last year saw a remarkable upsurge in funder collaboration as grant-makers navigated the Covid-19 crisis together. A recent survey of Association of Charitable Foundations members found that three quarters had collaborated with other funders in 2020. Most said that they intended to continue collaborating in 2021. As we walk the long road to recovery, the Funders’ Collaborative Hub aims to help funders sustain the benefits of collaborative approaches that were so valuable during the crisis. 

The toolkit is a set of 12 practical resources and templates that funders can use to practice and enable more effective collaboration. It’s not intended as a linear or one-size-fits-all approach. We’ve organised the toolkit around three key stages of a funder collaboration – laying the foundations, building the structure and stewarding the collaboration. Choose the stage that’s most relevant to you and jump in!

Each tool has been designed with a specific need in mind, informed by our discussions with existing funder collaborations and research into the ingredients that make them effective. For example, the Navigator tool can help with mapping what other funders are working on. The Articulator is designed for clarifying the case for collaboration. The Meeting Planner aims to help groups of funders make the best use of their time together. 

We set out to prioritise simplicity. You don’t need to be an expert to use the tools, although some do require a skilled facilitator. Each tool has been designed to be done in a short timeframe. Some will only take an hour, others up to a day or two. Some are useful to return to briefly on a regular basis.

The toolkit also brings together Top Tips from funders about managing collaborations and a Library of other resources for those who want to go into a topic in more depth. Whether you’re an experienced collaborator or a first-timer, we encourage funders to try out the toolkit – and let us know how you get on. We see the toolkit as a work in progress, which we will keep improving based on funders’ experiences of using it in their work. Each tool includes a feedback form so you can tell us what’s working well and what’s not. 

In the coming months, we’ll launch a series of peer learning sessions to help funders as they put the tools into practice. Sign up for our newsletter for updates on these events.

We also want to learn how else the Hub can help funders to collaborate as effectively as possible. If working more closely with other funders could help you achieve your philanthropic goals, get in touch at to tell us about your ideas and plans.

Cassie Robinson is the Deputy Director of Funding Strategy at The National Lottery Community Fund, and Jim Cooke is the Head of the Funders’ Collaborative Hub.

Thanks to all who contributed to developing the toolkit, in particular: Will Bibby, Caroline Mason, Anna de Pulford, Ab Brightman, Duncan Shrubsole, Richard Hebditch, Max Rutherford, Josh Cockcroft, Will Churchill, Joanna Pienkowska.

Tagged in: Funding practice

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