What is Collaborative Philanthropy?

Collaborative philanthropy in action: 3 portraits of #Chicago donors + funders making greater impact by giving, and strategizing, together Tweet This

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All of us know that when we recommend a grant from our donor advised fund, write a check or give appreciated assets to a nonprofit organization, we are not acting alone. Others are also providing funds to help the organization advance its mission.

To be intentionally collaborative in our giving, however, is a bit nuanced. Collaborative philanthropy begins when a person or entity identifies a solution for a need. Additional individuals or funders come together—with focus—to advance the identified solution.

Here are a few examples of collaborative philanthropy in action:

• One of our donors, Bob Crawford, identified a need for small businesses within economically challenging communities to access capital—both human and financial. The Trust and Bob collaborated to create the Neighborhood Entrepreneurship Lab Fund as a donor advised fund at the Trust, whereby individual donors are contributing both their financial resources and their own business expertise as mentors.

In collaboration with the nonprofit organization Accion, the donors have the benefit of knowing that their monetary contributions will provide access to needed capital. Their personal expertise of running a business fosters mentoring relationships to aid the success of the entrepreneurs.

Collaborative philanthropy begins when a person or entity identifies a solution. Additional individuals or funders come together—with focus—to advance the solution.

• Kinship Foundation, a private operating foundation that advances the institutional philanthropy of the Searle Family through the Searle Funds at the Trust, has three of areas of focus: biomedical research, education and environmental conservation. In collaboration with The Chicago Community Trust, Kinship Foundation created an initiative called Food:Land:Opportunity (FLO).The mission of FLO is to create a resilient local food economy that protects and conserves land and other natural resources while promoting market innovation and building wealth and assets in the Chicago region’s communities.

After just four years, FLO’s impact includes 28 new local food businesses in operation; 1,200 acres of land in sustainable production; 830 farmers and food business operators receiving training; and $15M leveraged through investments, loans and purchase commitments. FLO is investing in next-generation entrepreneurs, innovative land management techniques such as regenerative agriculture and food hubs that bring efficiency to the local food supply chain. FLO follows a catalytic philanthropy model, including other funders who have contributed to the efforts of FLO.

• In 2012, five founding workforce funders—the Trust, The Joyce Foundation, the Lloyd A. Fry Foundation, Robert R. McCormick Foundation, and Polk Bros. Foundation—identified a need to increase employment, earnings and racial equity for underprepared workers in the Chicago region. Together, they created the Chicagoland Workforce Funder Alliance, housed at the Trust. The Alliance is built on the notion that a skilled workforce creates more successful businesses, more stable families and a stronger economy. Since its founding, over 20 additional funders have joined the funder collaborative.

What role can you play? Reach out to anyone on the Development and Donor Services team or a program officer at the Trust. Identify a solution for a pressing need and find out if a collaboration already exists. If not, perhaps it’s time to gather a group of people to determine next steps. We are here to help you fulfill your collaborative philanthropy goals!