Foundations Supporting Cross-sector Collaboration

To help users find relevant, quality resources from our Resource Library, we create curated lists on a variety of topics, bringing important practitioner- and academic-oriented work to the forefront.


Here we present resources for foundations supporting cross-sector collaboration — tools, reports, popular and scholarly articles, and multimedia on topics such as integrating collaborative governance into grantmaking strategy and building internal capacity for collaboration as a first step to supporting cross-sector collaborations among grantees.


View all our curated lists here.


How Do We Determine the Right Role to Play in Collaboration?, Grantmakers for Effective Organizations, 2015

This tool, part of the Smarter Grantmaking Playbook “outlines a variety of roles grantmakers can play in collaboratives” — including catalyst, weaver, expert, and more — and “offers tips for identifying the right role(s) for each organization.” Other relevant components of the Playbook are also available through this portal, including What Roles Can Grantmakers Play in Supporting Networks?, How Can Grantmakers Facilitate Connections and Collaboration?, and How Do We Know if Our Network is Effective?.


Collaborative Governance: A Guide for Grantmakers, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Doug Henton et al., 2005

This guide from The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation “focuses on collaborative governance, an emerging set of concepts and practices that offer prescriptions for inclusive, deliberative, and often consensus-oriented approaches to planning, problem solving, and policymaking.” The guide provides examples of collaborative governance, articulates priority areas for further study to advance knowledge on collaborative governance, and offers guidance for funders seeking to integrate collaborative governance into their grantmaking.


Webinar: Philanthropy’s Role in Cross Sector Leadership, Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement, 2016

This video recording captures a 2016 webinar co-hosted by Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement (PACE) and the Presidio Institute on “philanthropy’s role in cultivating and participating in cross sector leadership. … This discussion aimed to help philanthropy assess and understand its unique role in cross sector collaboration, and encourage foundations to be thoughtful about how such leadership can be integrated in both internal strategy and external partnerships and practices. Three foundation program officers shared their real-life learning and engagement in cross sector leadership, and invited participants to share their own experience on this journey.”

Scholarly Article

Getting to Collective Impact: How Funders Can Contribute Over the Life Course of the Work, The Foundation Review, Doug Easterling, 2013

“Foundations have a long tradition of convening and funding collaborative groups with the hope that this will lead to large-scale impact. Although funder-driven collaboration sometimes leads to breakthrough solutions, foundations have also pushed the participating organizations into artificial, awkward, and unsustainable efforts. This article argues that funders should support naturally emerging networks and should tailor their support to match the network’s stage of development.”

Scholarly Article

Foundations as Network Strategists, Weavers, and Managers: Learning From One Foundation’s Journey and Results, The Foundation Review, Clare Nolan et al., 2017

“This article shares insights from a five-year evaluation of the Oral Health 2020 network, an effort by the DentaQuest Foundation to align and strengthen efforts in service of a national movement to improve oral health. … The foundation’s approach was informed by several ideas that have gained momentum in the social sector, including collective impact, networks, systems change, and equity — all of which challenged the foundation to take a nontraditional approach that combined the roles of network hub, weaver, and backbone organization. Six years in, the network has achieved notable successes, but along the way the foundation and its partners learned numerous lessons about what it takes to build and sustain a national network. This article shares those lessons, and also considers changes in federal policy and their implications.”


Collaboration: A Handbook from the Fund for Our Economic Future, Fund for Our Economic Future, Chris Thompson, 2016

This handbook from the Fund for Our Economic Future examines behaviors that foster effective collaboration and provides lessons that aim to influence the thinking, beliefs, and behaviors of funders, individuals, partners, and leaders.


The Role of Grantmakers in Collective Impact, Stanford Social Innovation Review, Lori Bartczak, 2014

“Grantmakers rightly see themselves as critical partners — more than just funders — of programs to bring fields and communities together to tackle complex issues and bring about lasting change. … But because of their position and the power dynamics inherent in the relationship between grantmakers and grantees, they also perform a delicate balancing act,” writes Lori Bartczak in this contribution to Stanford Social Innovation Review. Based on learning from the experiences of grantmakers such as the Babcock Foundation and the Kalamazoo Community Foundation, she discusses three important principles for grantmakers involved in collective impact: “to understand and balance partners’ varied needs; to catalyze connections with care; and to fund the costs of collaboration.”


The Community Partnerships Issue Briefs Series, Equal Measure, 2014

“Philanthropies and social investors are recognizing that ‘place matters,’ and see the potential of place-based strategies for catalyzing system changes. Local communities offer a scale at which cross-sector, systemic challenges can be addressed, and provide opportunities to affect significant numbers of students.” This series of issue briefs presents lessons from OMG Center for Collaborative Learning’s “three-year evaluation of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Community Partnerships portfolio and illustrates how communities can implement multi-sector strategies to shift local systems and improve student postsecondary completion.”


Building Collaboration From the Inside Out, Grantmakers for Effective Organizations, Lori Bartczak, 2015

✴ Available with free registration

“The call for greater collaboration has been a persistent drumbeat in the non-profit and philanthropic sectors in recent years. … Grantmakers and non-profits that want to be more collaborative need to ensure that their organizations offer an enabling environment for doing so — in other words, they need to take steps to ensure that their organizations are ‘collaboration ready.’ … This publication is focused on building an organization’s collaboration muscles. It offers guidance on steps grantmakers and non-profits can take to adopt a ‘collaborative mindset’ and align values and practice so they can be better partners in collaboration.”


Research to Practice: What Role Should Foundations Play in Cross-sector Partnerships for Community Health?, The Intersector Project, 2016

This feature from The Intersector Project’s “Research to Practice” series looks closely at research into the collaborative practices of health conversion foundations, examining the role that foundations can play in enabling cross-sector collaboration within a community as a locally-embedded connector and convener. The piece highlights key facts, actionable takeaways, and additional resources practitioners can turn to for related guidance.