NPF TIG Week: Some Suggested Principles to Guide Nonprofits and Foundations to Collaborate Collaborating for Equity and Justice By Susan Wolfe and Ann Price

Susan Wolfe

Susan Wolfe

We are Susan Wolfe, of Susan Wolfe and Associates and Ann Price of Community Evaluation Solutions. Even before the pandemic, nonprofits and foundations were increasingly exploring ways to more towards more collaborative relations. Since the pandemic, the call for foundations to examine what types of social change initiatives they fund and who they fund is getting louder. A recent article by The New York times highlighted the inequities in who gets funded. Hint: Nonprofits led by Black and Hispanic executive directors are less likely to receive funding. The article proposes this disparity is in large part to a lack of connections between nonprofits led by people of color with mostly white philanthropy, lack of rapport between disconnected funders and applicants, and lack of data and measurement systems.

Ann Price
Ann Price

There is some good news, in August of this year, Echoing Green, a global nonprofit organization that finds, supports, and connects emerging social entrepreneurs, announced it would raise $50 million for a new Racial Equity Philanthropic Fund. Other foundations are also committing more dollars to address social and health inequities.

We both do a lot of work with coalitions and collaboratives and our values require that we promote full collaboration among the nonprofit organizations and community members that make up the coalition. In this blog, we are going one step further and adding foundations to this mix.

So, what does collaboration between nonprofits and foundations look like? We believe that both nonprofits and foundations could learn from the knowledge base about what makes a successful coalition. Successful coalitions create positive changes for the communities they represent through many factors, among them effectively engaging all members of the community.

Rad Resource: We use the Tamarack Institute’s Collaboration Spectrum Tool to help coalition members depict the level of collaboration that is happening. This can also be adapted to assess collaboration between nonprofits and foundations.

Below are five principles we suggest to get this conversation started to achieve true collaboration.

  1. Members of the focal community participate with foundations and nonprofits in developing shared missions, goals, decision-making, allocation of resources and determining the outcomes.
  2. Employ a community development approach whereby residents and nonprofits have equal power in determining the funding agenda and resource allocation.
  3. Go big, and focus on equity, justice, and systems level change rather than simply funding more programs. Confront racism and oppression and be willing to shift power structures.
  4. Plan, fund, and implement initiatives with a long game in mind. A year or two of funding will not bring about real change. Plan for five to ten-year cycles.
  5. Incorporate Developmental, Principles Focused, and Utilization Focused methods into your evaluation design to allow for ongoing feedback and ensure the goal of evaluation is continuous learning.

Rad Resource: Read Collaborating for Equity and Justice to get more ideas of how Foundations and Nonprofits might collaborate with communities to break down barriers and work toward greater equity and justice.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Nonprofits and Foundations Topical Interest Group (NPFTIG) Week. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our NPFTIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

1 thought on “NPF TIG Week: Some Suggested Principles to Guide Nonprofits and Foundations to Collaborate Collaborating for Equity and Justice By Susan Wolfe and Ann Price”

  1. Hello Susan and Ann,
    Thank you for your thoughtful comments and best practices on how to have meaningful collaboration between nonprofits and foundations to increase equity and justice.
    The main question that came to mind as I was reading your article’s “five principal’s” was how best for the foundation, the non-profits and the members of the focal community to develop shared missions, goals etc. My concern is how all of these viewpoints can find common ground and how this can be spread over multiple groups. I have the understanding that foundations, especially one like you mention, Echoing Green with potentially $50 million, aren’t going to be giving this to just one non-profit or coalition.
    I interpret your first best practice as almost an individual undertaking for each project the foundation undertakes with a non-profit. This not only seems time consuming but could lead to inequality in choosing the non-profits who receive the funds.
    Would it not make more sense for the foundation to set it’s own mission and goals and then choose to work with non-profits that share these rather than creating shared visions? I can understand why the decision making could vary between non-profits and a foundation as I am sure there are some that are more established and others who require more guidance but the core values should not change from one coalition to another. Could you please explain to me what you meant if I’ve misread your meaning.
    I did really appreciate your focus on long-term planning. So many people right now seem to be looking for quick fix solutions and don’t understand why everything isn’t suddenly fixed once they have struck a committee or identified an area that needs to be addressed.
    I also liked the emphasis on continuous learning. It is so important to be constantly reviewing a program/partnership to ensure that things are going to plan.
    Again, thank you again for the thoughtful and timely article.

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