Alliance building can be a powerful tool to advance the cause of social justice. But the challenge for many funders is that these alliances between non-profit partners don’t necessarily fall within traditional funding categories. To help guide funders Public Interest Projects has compiled a checklist for alliance building to explain what the process entails.
For Donors Who Can Fund Alliance Building:
1. Support a planning process to help groups determine mutual priorities and expectations.
Alliances aren’t built only around common causes. You have to establish an open and ongoing dialogue at the beginning of the process that lays out the objectives of the joint effort and helps define success. A planning grant can help the partners mutually agree to the terms and goal of its work.
2. Have realistic expectations.
Building a sustainable alliance takes time. Partners will very likely be at different stages in the process. Assess where they are on the alliance-building continuum and what can realistically be expected of them within a grant period.
3. Look for synergistic contributions in your partners.
While it’s not necessary for each alliance partner to bring equal resources to the table, their combined resources should ideally counterbalance their individual weaknesses. Remember that resources can be material (such as meeting space and staff) or non-material (previous alliance building experience and connections).
4. Invest in developing strong, sustainable alliances.
If possible, consider funding both partners in the alliance. This helps each group develop its internal capacities and be a more effective partner. Provide leadership training to sustain the alliance beyond the tenure of its original leader. Support training and workshops that help alliance-building partners develop skills and knowledge, learn about each other and build a deeper relationship.
5. Integrate alliance-building metrics.
Developing realistic alliance-building metrics can reinforce and validate the importance of the work. They give funders and partners in the alliance the tools to measure progress.
For Donors Who Cannot Provide Direct Funding for Alliance Building:
1. Provide funding or general support grants to current grantees that can help them maintain or expand their alliance building work in addition to fulfilling their program mission.
2. Pool resources across program areas within your foundations.
Work with colleagues to fund joint alliance building efforts. Recognize the opportunities created where disparate causes intersect. By pooling resources funders can begin to promote comprehensive strategies and achieve more holistic results for their own institutions.
3. Pool resources with other outside funders to leverage resources.
Create a space for joint learning and maximize your chances of success.