Key Points

Funders regularly collaborate to leverage their influence, channel their funding, and mobilize grantees in the same direction. Our sector’s default assumption is that more collaboration is better — even as too many collaborations end with a whimper instead of a bang. Why do some funder collaborations flourish, and others flounder?

The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and Education First participated in a half-dozen joint funding efforts to support the success of the Common Core State Standards in the nation’s K–12 public education system. Looking critically at these efforts, we learned lessons about why some collaborations are more effective.

Funder collaborations work best when participants recognize key milestones in a partnership and make decisions at each of these stages to set up success: defining the problem and agreeing on clear goals and strategies that leverage the unique value of collaboration; taking action aligned to shared objectives through nimble decision-making, defined lines of authority, and strong support and expertise; and setting criteria for success that allow participants to know what they are accomplishing, honestly assess their progress along the way, and determine the right next steps.

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Support for this open access article is provided by The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

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