Skip to main content

This blog shares insights from TPI’s Senior Advisor, Jenny Ekelund about the changing scope and increasing importance of the Partnering for Philanthropic Impact programme, as the pandemic reveals new possibilities for foundations and partner grantees.

When TPI set out early in 2020 to explore the landscape of foundations and partnering working with Pioneer Members Z Zurich Foundation and Johnson & Johnson Foundation, the global pandemic was still a looming, indistinct threat on the horizon. As preliminary findings emerge, the swift manner in which foundations have, and continue to pivot funding to work with existing partners responding to urgent coronavirus concerns has provided some fascinating case studies and a window into how flexible, speedy and impactful partnerships between funders and partner grantees may evolve in the future.

Our early research, has been enriched by conversations with Z Zurich, J&J and a further ten ‘Friends of the Programme’ in the US and Europe – including Botnar, IKEA Foundation and John Lewis Foundation – and iis clear from these conversations, and from TPI’s other partnering experience with government donors, companies, NGOs and UN agencies, that foundations are pursuing an interesting array of different modes of partnering with grantees. These vary from developing a trusted relationship with one organisation in which flexibility and honesty is paramount and non-financial support is explored, to harnessing the full strength of their networks and philanthropic convening power to spark a collaborative effort among multiple actors to solve a complex issue. It is clear that foundations are employing a diverse approach across their portfolios- adopting light-touch collaborative models with some organisations, and exploring new, deeper partnerships where opportunities arise. It is also evident that where trust-based relationships already existed between foundation and grantee partners- adaptation to pandemic challenges proved markedly easier.

Our research has highlighted how rapid-response partnerships formed to address the coronavirus pandemic have opened up new possibilities for partnering in the future, and delineated new challenges. These include:

  • The relaxation of timescales for delivery of programmes by grantees 
  • The removal of any form of up-front reporting requirements to highly trusted grantee partners  
  • A corporate foundation making in-kind resources available to its grantees, from its corporate parent, for the first time 
  • Accelerated disbursement of funding to grantees to meet urgent needs 

Given these examples (and more), this year’s collaboration ‘baseline’ for Foundations, and future ambition, will look very different to the picture in 2019. Most universal of all, perhaps, is the dilemma of how to balance a foundation’s urgent pandemic partnership response with longer-term strategic partnership priorities, while retaining some of the trust-based, efficient, flexible collaborative techniques that have emerged out of necessity in recent months.

There are an increasing number of foundations exploring the potential of a deeper partnering approach with grantees, and in some cases a more targeted strategy to support grantee partners in their own collaborative efforts with others. To support this, there is an emerging need for guidance, and a set of tools and templates for foundations to effectively foster and support partnerships across their lifecycle, and to support NGOs and Foundations to work effectively as partners. Developing these practical tools, for eventual wider sharing will form the focus of TPI’s work in the latter half of 2020. There will be ample opportunities for interested foundations to contribute, whether through sharing learning with peers at virtual workshops or joining J&J and Z Zurich Foundations as active members of the programme and undertaking a ‘Fit for Partnering’ exercise to set an institutional baseline for their own organisational capacity to partner.

Click here to learn more about the Partnering for Philanthropic Programme and participate in the 2020 workshop and related activities.

author avatar
Julia Gilbert Senior Programme Manager and Knowledge Lead

Leave a Reply

Close Menu