A Collaboration Incubator



Secure sufficient funding to ensure that a thoughtful and comprehensive collaborative process will be adequately resourced.

An adequate level of funding positions an initiative to succeed. Sometimes that means securing the entire financial commitment at the front end; other times it means staging the project and returning at a later time for a “next phase” of funding.

Funders are sometimes hesitant to support planning projects where the execution of the plan is not a part of the process. If one or more organizations that might serve as a permanent home for implementing the initiative can be identified at the concept stage, this can offer greater assurance to potential funders that the project is likely to be successful and have long-term impact.

An initial process design framework is also developed in this stage as part of the funding proposal.

Funders often look for projects that demonstrate solid partnerships and that have a likelihood of sustainability once the funded project ends.

  • Create a proposal and identify funders for the collaboration.
    • Fully conceptualize the project, including project goals, activities, timelines, and budget.
    • Identify funding sources whose interests align with and are a likely match for the collaboration concept, including individuals, foundations, and businesses or government agencies supporting related issues.
    • Develop a detailed proposal tailored to the funder’s requirements.
    • Seek feedback on the proposal from trusted colleagues: Is the problem clear? Is the need for action compelling? Will the process outlined achieve desired results? Is the budget realistic?
  • Develop support for the proposal.
    • Seek assistance from those with links to the funders — such as board members or community leaders — to advocate for the collaboration in person, by phone, or through testimonials that can be sent.
    • Secure letters of support from those impacted by the issue or those who might participate in the process, if appropriate.
  • Finalize funding.
    • Be prepared to respond if funders ask what you will do if only a portion of the funding request is approved: Scale back the process? Pursue other sources? 
    • It may be necessary to negotiate the terms of the contract with the funder during the contract development phase. 
    • If funding is secured for fewer than all phases of the project, alert the funder that requests for additional funding may be forthcoming based on the outcome of the initial phases. 
    • If only partial funding is secured, determine whether the project can be phased, with the funded phase as a stand-alone project; then pursue additional funding for subsequent phases. 

Funding Checklist

  • Can a strong case be made to demonstrate the need for the collaborative leadership project?
  • Has support from key leaders been secured?
  • Have public and private funding sources been researched?
  • Does the project meet the funder’s priorities and criteria?
  • Have testimonials, quotes, and/or letters of endorsement from key leaders been secured?
  • Has a phased approach been considered if the funder offers only partial support?
  • Is negotiation needed on other issues (i.e., timeline)?
  • Have the grant reporting requirements been clarified?
  • Once funding is secured, has the donor been thanked?
  • If the funder is willing to be recognized publicly, has publicity about the grant been distributed to media and other distribution outlets? In what other ways will the funder be recognized?
  • Is it appropriate to have the funder at the Group Launch?
  • Has the funder been informed when special milestones have been achieved?
  • Is it appropriate to have the funder at the concluding celebration?
  • Key stakeholder support for the project is lackluster.
    At this stage, it’s important to be clear about the original vision but also stay open-minded and flexible. If support isn’t forthcoming, explore whether the idea isn’t being communicated effectively, or if another approach would be better, or if the timing isn’t right. Be ready to walk away from the concept – or at least table it – if there is insufficient support. 
  • Finding the right funders for a collaborative process can be a challenge.
    Consider: What is their motivation to provide support? What do the funders need to get out of the collaboration? Can they allow the outcome to unfold without trying to influence it? Funders often look for projects that demonstrate solid partnerships and that have a likelihood of sustainability once the funded project ends.
  • Cost of proposed collaboration can’t be determined with certainty until the final design (Stage 3), so it’s difficult for the convener to determine if the budget accurately reflects the resources needed.
    From the start, let the funder(s) know that there may have to be some adjustments in the process once the project gets underway. Negotiate for a contingency fund in the event additional assistance or meetings are needed.
  • Expectations about time or other necessary resource commitments are unrealistic.
    The time needed to organize and mobilize is often underestimated. Building a base of support and recruiting participants takes time. It’s important to be realistic and to recognize that complex processes take time if they are to be transformative. Get advice from others who have developed budgets for collaborative processes.
  • Funding for the entire project cannot be secured.
    If complete funding cannot be secured, consider approaching the project in a phased way. For example, ask for funding for planning and then ask for funds to create the action plan. Use the completed action plan to help secure funding for the next phase. If multiple funders are involved, keep them updated on funding that’s been secured and on efforts being made to the raise the remainder. Alternatively, consider whether the project can be scaled back without jeopardizing the likelihood for a successful outcome.

Related Examples

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