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


There are many opportunities for synergistic use of USG and foundation resources, but recognizing and capitalizing on such opportunities requires consideration of the strings that might be attached to funders contributions. These strings may consist of funders expectations and requirements about disbursement, reporting, and the uses of funds they find most desirableor unacceptable. USG brings to philanthropic work vast resources and personnel with high levels of expertise, but federal resources typically come with more requirements than those of private sector funding and usually are dependent on annual appropriations that are, to a great extent, outside of the agencies control. In contrast, foundation funds may be characterized by greater flexibility and/or fewer requirements, but contributions may be smaller or available for a more limited period of time.

Resources from stakeholder partners may be pooled and then allocated by a central authority or allocated directly by the partners. Within the federal government, both PMI and PEPFAR were designed so that the funding authority would be centralized in the Coordinators offices, a structure that seems to promote coherence among the different federal agencies and helps to avoid redundancy or contradictions among aid efforts around malaria and HIV/AIDS. Such centralization in USG efforts may be useful to foundations, since it provides a central funding mechanism for partnering with USG in addressing malaria or HIV/AIDS. Other collaborations, however, have eschewed pooled funding. RWJF has engaged in multiple collaborative efforts with USGthe Nurse Funders Collaborative, Cash & Counseling, and the National Health Plan Collaborative, among othersbut does not appear to pool resources with partners. Instead, these projects include clearly delineated pieces funded separately by the various partners in the collaboration.

In some instances, there may be benefits to partial poolingcentral allocation of federal funds, while private funding is allocated by the private partners. For example, government officials would not have the freedom to approve federal funds for programs not in line with the administrations priorities. In some cases, however, private funding may be aligned via communication with these offices to supplement USG funding, for activities other than those that federal program funds can support.

Whether resources should be pooled appears to hinge on the limitations donors place on their contributions, and on donors roles in the initiative and their attitudes toward one another. Pooling of resources may be more acceptable to donors when one organization takes a clear leadership role in implementation and has administrative structures in place to handle the funds, or when a separate governing structure has been created for the collaborative effort. The Gates Foundation has created several such entities within which funds have been pooled (such as PATH and GAVI). Such a structure may help to build trust among donors, provided an initiatives governance is transparent and the various donors have a voice in the leadership that they perceive to be commensurate with their contributions to the collaboration.

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