Key Points

· 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.

· A five-stage developmental model is introduced and illustrated through a case study of the Central Appalachian Network (CAN).

· Over CAN’s 20-year history, a succession of regional and national foundations have played crucial roles in building the network and facilitating the development of a collective-impact strategy.

Open Access