ABSTRACT: 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. Five distinct stages are identified:

1. Organizations with common interests are disconnected from one another.

2. Organizations with common interests are informally networked.

3. Networked organizations begin to envision collective action.

4. Networked organizations develop a strategic framework for collective action.

5. Networked organizations carry out coordinated strategies that produce collective impact.

This developmental model is 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.


Citation: Easterling, Douglas (2013) "Getting to Collective Impact: How Funders Can Contribute Over the Life Course of the Work," The Foundation Review: Vol. 5: Iss. 2, Article 7.
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.9707/1944-5660.1157