Maximizing the Value of Philanthropic Efforts through Planned Partnerships between the U.S. Government and Private Foundations. Communication

Foundations and USG sometimes communicate explicitly and take account of each others strategies in their decisions, while still making their decisions independently. This is a form of partnership that appears to be most appropriate when problems are not well defined or are very broad in scope. Though both partners may devote resources to communication, program activities do not involve joint funding or shared implementation, which, in some sectors and situations, could overburden philanthropic efforts or be unachievable due to disparities in the underlying values and/or specific goals of philanthropic actors.

This level of partnership can help to identify and fill gaps, such as in funding or territory, which might otherwise persist in the overall activity of the philanthropic entities. Exchanges of information can enhance relationships between stakeholders, and stimulate new ideas to solve problems, while keeping partnership costs, such as the need for contractual agreements or on-going strategic planning, low. This type of partnership does not require formal agreements. Structures such as task forces or affinity groups may be established, but participants are typically able to engage only to the extent that they perceive participation benefits them.

The value of communication as a form of interaction is illustrated by the Nurse Funders Collaborative, convened in 2003 by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) to bring together public and private funders interested in addressing the U.S. domestic nursing shortage. The Collaborative consists of more than 100 organizational members, including foundations, corporations, and 10 agencies within DHHS, including the Administration for Children and Families and the National Institutes of Health. The Collaboratives quarterly meetings facilitate information-sharing about members nursing initiatives. Although members do not pool resources, information gathered by the Collaborative helps members to identify areas of overlapping funding, as well as areas that receive little attention where more action may be needed.

Such broad membership arrangements are commonly made by foundations but less commonly by the federal government. Foundation-led collaboratives of this sort sometimes include researchers or other experts, advocates, service providers, and others who work in a common problem area. While USG operates similar internal groups, such as federal interagency work groups, these less often extend to private philanthropies or other stakeholders. 

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