Key Points

To be responsive to the many facets of communities’ challenges and solutions, the Kresge Foundation works intentionally at the intersections of its seven grantmaking areas. One way it fulfills this intention is by awarding cross-team grants, which involve financial and intellectual contributions from multiple Kresge programs in order to enable cross-sector, multidisciplinary work among grantees.

As Kresge’s cross-team practice has grown and the field has increasingly expressed interest in cross-sector approaches to addressing long-standing challenges, Kresge partnered with the strategic learning firm Informing Change to explore how this approach to grantmaking and greater degree of internal collaboration is working from the point of view of Kresge staff and what enables or inhibits it, as well as whether and in what ways grantees uniquely benefit from cross-team grants.

This article highlights key findings from this exploration, including grantees’ appreciation for Kresge’s cross-team approach. Nevertheless, the resource-intensive level of the foundation’s internal collaboration compelled many Kresge staff to seek evidence of impact in the short term, despite the challenges inherent in measuring complex, emergent, and unpredictable cross-sector work.

Kresge’s experience with cross-team grantmaking surfaces a deeply embedded challenge across philanthropy: the historical practice of structuring grantmaking work by program content area is often misaligned with the urgent need to work across sectors to drive complex systems change. As philanthropy seeks to support collaboration among grantees and launches new multifunder collaboratives to affect systems change, structures within foundations may need to change to actualize this ideal.

Open Access