Maximizing the Value of Philanthropic Efforts through Planned Partnerships between the U.S. Government and Private Foundations. Purposeful Partnerships: Opportunities For Different Types Of Interaction

between the U.S. government and foundation program activities are virtually inevitable, given their shared funding priorities. Yet shared priorities do not necessarily imply that the two sectors approaches or specific program goals will be aligned, or indicate a need or opportunity for full and formal partnerships.


Key Findings from This Chapter

Five types of USG-foundation interactions occur, characterized by different degrees of alignment between donors in targets, goals, strategies, resources, and implementation. Three typescommunication, coordination, and collaborationconstitute partnerships.

Incidental Overlap. General targets for philanthropy are aligned, but the overlap is not intentional or planned.

Supplementary Action. Goals are aligned and strategies may or may not be similar.

Communication. Goals and strategies are aligned. Foundation and USG actors take account of one anothers activities in a shared arena and communicate with one another about goals, strategies, and progress. This form of partnership appears to be most appropriate when problems are not well defined or are very broad in scope.

Coordination. Goals and strategies are aligned; implementation is aligned but carried out separately; resources are aligned but typically not pooled. Participating entities are able to plan around and respond to each others activities, but retain their autonomy. Coordination appears fruitful where problems are defined clearly and donors already implement interventions on their own.

Collaboration. Full, formal partnership; goals, strategies, resources, and implementation are aligned, and participants from both sectors participate in joint decision making. May be preferred when a problem is well defined and interventions are fairly well-understood, stakeholders view each other as equals in addressing the problem or program area, and resources are adequate for supporting the partnership.

In evaluating opportunities for partnerships, policymakers and practitioners should consider whether overlap or interactions already exist, whether more formal partnerships could better advance philanthropic goals, what type of partnership might be most productive and achievable, and its costs and benefits. No one model of partnership is best.


The federal and foundation-sponsored health and development initiatives reviewed for this study reveal a broad range of interactions, with opportunities and constraints associated with each. At one end of the spectrum, government and foundations work together in formalized partnershipscharacterized to varying extent by similar goals, joint decision-making, coordination or pooling of funding or other resources, and/or sharing of responsibility for implementation. At the other end of the spectrum are less formalized or purposeful interactions, sometimes even characterized by diametrically opposed strategies, that may nonetheless provide opportunities for improving philanthropic effectiveness outside of full, formal partnerships.

Our analyses suggest that the federal government could benefit from considering a variety of contextual factors in deciding whether and how to partner if it hopes to make the most of working with foundations. These factors are discussed at length in Chapters III and IV, but first we describe the five types of USG-foundation interaction that occur and provide an example of each to illustrate the interplay of factors that can shape interactions.

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