Grant Writing Collaboration

Grant Writing And Collaboration: What You Definitely Need To Know

More and more these days, funders are looking to invest in collaborative efforts ranging from the intensely structured “Collective Impact” approaches to a simple requirement that there be partners involved. While working independently can allow you to be more streamlined and reduce the headaches of obtaining multiple signatures, conducting endless meetings, and considering different approaches, there is a great deal that can be achieved by working as part of a collaborative.

So, if funders believe a collaborative approach is important to ensure maximum impact with your programs and projects, as a grant writer, you will need to understand both the potential pitfalls and benefits of working with other organizations.


Involving partners in your project isn’t always an easy thing to do. Here are six challenging elements you may encounter when pursuing and working within collaborative partnerships.

  1. Issues Of Power And Control – Working together requires a sharing of power and many people find it difficult to give away any control. Issues of power and control are frequently the underlying and often not discussed “elephant in the room.” To be truly successful, people need to be honest about this issue and look for ways to define responsibilities and decision-making processes before the collaboration even starts. A Memorandum of Agreement or Terms of Agreement are important documents to produce. At the end of this blog you will have the opportunity to download the Collaborative Agreement Template a FREE document that outlines some of the elements you will need to agree upon when collaborating.
  1. Lack Of Trust – When individuals and organizations work together, the first thing that needs to be achieved is to gain each other’s trust. As the oft-cited saying goes, “progress occurs at the speed of trust.” Often a lack of trust is based on misconceptions or on a lack of knowing the players in the project. There are many relatively easy ways to start to develop trust from shared group activities to social events to working on small, easily achievable projects.
  1. Perceived Loss Of Identity – Similar to the issue of power and control, there can be a perceived or real loss of identity as attempts are made to merge different organizational cultures. This loss of identity can be felt by the organizations, by their staff, by their volunteers, and, just as importantly, by the community they serve. Communication, evaluation, and regular check-ins will provide opportunities to address ongoing concerns.
  1. Differing Perspectives – Although differing perspectives can also be found on the benefits list, it has its potential pitfalls as well. To deal positively with this one, everyone needs to enter the process recognizing that they need to be open to different perspectives and that this may cause some angst and tension. Providing regular opportunities for each partner to openly share their perspective in a safe and receptive environment can help alleviate this pitfall.
  1. Different Visions And Expectations Of Outcomes – It is imperative that there be clarity and agreement on the vision and outcomes before embarking on a large collaborative process. If this work hasn’t been done, then it needs to be the next step taken to see if there is even a reason to continue.
  1. Different Working Styles – Culture and working styles are different from organization to organization and this can cause friction between partners and get in the way of moving forward. It is important to not gloss over this or ignore the impact different working styles can create within collaborative efforts. When a collaborative process encounters blockages, take time to evaluate whether the perspective of people’s working styles is resulting in assumptions that are then colouring all of the other actions and interactions.


Funders know the benefits of collaboration are many. Here are six benefits you should understand.

  1. Blended Solutions – When partnering with other organizations, each group brings thoughts and experiences that can be helpful for everyone. Often, the whole can be more than the sum of the parts.
  1. Broader Appeal – Your organization has its champions and supporters while your partners will (typically) have a different group of stakeholders who are proponents of their work. Coming together can bring all of those interested supporters together and significantly increase the base of support.
  1. Differing Perspectives – Complicated issues can benefit from being examined from multiple perspectives. Sometimes, another perspective identifies a piece of the puzzle that was just out of sight from your view.
  1. Innovation – Bringing together organizations that haven’t traditionally worked together can result in innovative ideas that never would have happened if they continued to work alone. This is particularly true when the organizations coming together have traditionally not worked with each other (i.e. two different sectors coming together).
  1. Reduction In Duplication – Funders are really looking for a reduction in the duplication of services and if two or more organizations can share one function, that is seen as a more efficient way to move forward. Often, this is in back-of-house functions, like shared administration or IT for a project.
  1. Success With Funders – There are no guarantees of success and this should never be the only reason to collaborate, but as mentioned earlier, in some cases, funders are only funding partnerships and collaboratives. Most funders are looking for greater impact with their investments and a collaborative is often more likely to be able to deliver that.

Develop Your Own “Up Front” Agreement

One of the most important elements of developing a successful collaboration with partner organizations is to establish an agreement “up front.” Although it sounds like a bit of extra paperwork, it is an extremely important part of successful collaboration. The agreement does not need to be lengthy or drawn up by a lawyer. There are a few key pieces of information that should be identified, including who the partners are, an understanding of responsibilities, a defined decision-making process, an identification of the conflict resolution process, a determination of the expected outcomes, and how the funds will be allocated and managed.

For FREE access to a more detailed outline of what to include in your Collaboration Agreement, enter your name and email address here to download the document.

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