Building Strong Grant Collaborations


Photo: Gift of Jack Leishman, OR

The world is holy. We are holy. All life is holy. Daily prayers are delivered on the lips of breaking waves, the whisperings of grasses, the shimmering of leaves.
– Terry Tempest Williams

And on lips when we speak with collaborative partners…..

Most big funders prefer to fund collaborations knowing that often produce better results and give them more bang for their buck.

But building and sustaining collaborations is an art form. I interviewed Dory Rand for my book and she has helped foster many successful coalitions so I asked her about what it takes to do it well.

She made a point of saying that the focus must be on the long term relationship in addition to short-term objectives and hinge on a willingness to share,

I think it comes down to trust and a willingness to spread the wealth or share the pie.  If you have three groups working on something and only one is getting funding, I don’t think it is going to last very long.

So, I think whoever has the funding has to be willing to spread some of it around to the other groups who are doing the work and are helping to make it a success.

What undergirds this willingness is trust that the other parties will be fair and honor their word. Even people who are deeply committed to a common cause won’t be able to function properly if there isn’t clear communication.

During the book interviews, I asked people to share their worst grant experience and what they learned from it. Some of them weren’t pretty and I truly appreciated people’s willingness to show their fallibility in the interest of having others learn from their mistakes. Dory told me,

A long time ago a funder came to me and said “There’s something I would like you to advise me on or help create a program about” and I came up with a program that would require the participation of another nonprofit.

And instead of immediately going to that nonprofit and approaching it in a collaborate manner, I kind of pushed it along further and the other nonprofit got wind of it and was very upset that I had kind of gone around them and became a turf war issue of ‘You can’t do that program, I should do the program.’

Because of that, the program didn’t get done which was a shame. So, I learned not to be worried about who gets the credit or who is in control. Even if you are not sure what’s going to happen, I think people appreciate being brought into the process early on and have an opportunity to shape the process and have input and not be handed a done deal that affects them directly.

The root of communication is respect. Respect is from the Latin re-spectere meaning to see again. To see them again as someone with honorable intentions from their perspective if we take the time to understand them, and as someone who can handle whatever we have to say to them.

What I heard in this quote was that Dory may have just assumed that the other non-profit would go along with her ideas without respecting that they might have a differing opinion. Like most of us, she probably just did it out of expediency – to save time.

And like the rest of us, learned the hard way that not keeping people in the loop and making assumptions adds rather detracts to planning time.

Next week, I’ll share another post about building strong collaborations.

In the meantime, if you’re in the Rochester, NY area I’ll be teaching a workshop on How to Develop Collaborative Grants on June 12th at the Town of Brighton Town Hall. Hope to see you there.

Upcoming Classes

In the meantime, if you’re in the Rochester, NY area I’ll be teaching a workshop on How to Develop Collaborative Grants on June 12th at the Town of Brighton Town Hall. Hope to see you there.

Quote from a past participant in my workshops

“Jana Jane Hexter is an excellent teacher. She has terrific teaching skills, including the ability to adapt her approach to the domain experience of her class attendees. She is able to clearly explain very complicated subject material, making her training a true learning experience for everyone. I highly recommend her course.

Amy Dawson

I’ll soon be teaching this workshop online but in the meantime f you are further afield, check out Element 13 in Grant Writing Revealed: 25 Experts Share Their Art, Science and Secrets.

Leave a Comment

CommentLuv badge