Collaboration Funding

Wilson Foundation strategic focus area #2: Collaboration will provide opportunities for outcome-driven collaborations and resource connections, and provide the necessary support for housing and trauma-related issues to be at the right tables to guarantee those issues are heard.

Everyone is being asked to collaborate on everything these days.  But what does that mean?  The Foundation is seeking outcome-driven collaborations rather than mere cooperation.  We are all busy—let’s spend time meeting to make change instead of meeting to update each other on our individual achievements.

We believe collaboration is essential to break down the structural barriers our community face.  Let’s work together to achieve a common purpose.  This means having a clear reason to meet, deciding on a goal(s) to achieve together, and a way to know if you’ve achieved the goal(s).  This is very much intentional—a way to work together to help serve the community in stronger ways.  Collaboration is more than linking resources—it’s about finding long-lasting ways to break down communication and service barriers to strengthen the client.

Our funding strategy will focus on outcome-driven collaboration and resource connections.  For instance:

  • Formal participation in system-wide collaborations, like RMAPI and Roc the Future. This can mean staff time to devote to the participation, technological assistance to be linked to data sharing tools, etc.
  • New collaborations that have a set purpose, goal and way to measure progress. These can be long-term for sustainable change, or short-term about a relevant need.
  • Learning collaboratives that help diverse stakeholders learn and grow together about a certain topic. The collaborative should have a goal, as well as each agency, for how the collaborative will enhance service to clients.
  • Convenings of diverse stakeholders that contribute to breaking down structural barriers to serving clients.

Examples of collaboration goals:

  • Co-locating services to better serve clients
  • Better communication system about shared clients
  • Cleaner handoffs/sharing between systems
  • Sharing resources to reduce redundancies
  • Clearer understanding of the client needs and hurdles in a system, and solutions to fix them

What we don’t intend to fund with our collaboration strategy:

  • Communication—simply keeping partners abreast of your work isn’t enough.
  • Working with another agency to triage one client’s need. This is not intended for one-off solutions but structural changes that benefit a wide-breadth of clients.
  • Networking—linking with other agencies is important, but take it a step further to find ways to solve issues together rather than apart.

Through these investments we hope to increase the amount of child-serving and/or housing support organizations working together toward a common goal.  That those agencies actively participate in community-level initiatives, and that those initiatives are supported to help youth and families thrive.  By doing this work, our partners will be stronger and more efficient.

The most important element of collaboration is mindset with which you partner.  Spend some time understanding what makes for successful collaboration.  The Council of NonProfits is a good place to start.  Here are some of their practical ideas:

  • Spend time defining and articulating joint goals
  • Spend time meeting with collaborative partners. Develop a rubric or process for evaluating the collaboration’s progress.
  • Get to know each partner’s culture and build trust.
  • Ensure that your nonprofit has the capacity (technology needs) to communicate effectively and regularly with collaborative partners.
  • Build your nonprofit’s ability to negotiate effectively.
  • Adjust and adapt if things aren’t going according to plan.
  • Evaluate and report/share lessons learned about the end results.

They have additional resources to help guide you on this journey:

We don’t have all the answers for your next steps, but we are here as a resource and will do our best to guide you.  True collaboration means checking your ego at the door because you are collaborating not just for your own organization’s success, but for a community that needs you.

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