11 Ways Funders Can Avoid Competition

This week’s Stop Sign on the Road to Changing the World was about Funding without Competition. Here are some easy ways funders can provide support without forcing their grantees to compete.

1- Fund Everyone:
Focus on an end result for the community, and invite all organizations who want to help create that end result to work together to develop an implementable plan to create that result. Fund that collaborative planning effort. Add support such as meeting space and facilitation of that planning work. (Find examples of how to do that Here)

2- Fund Everyone 2:
Once the group from #1 has created the plan, collaborate with other funders to fund the implementation of that plan. Focus that implementation on non-competitive / collaborative approaches for program development (see #4 for more). Add support such as meeting space and facilitation of the implementation.

3- Fund Everyone 3:
Focus on an issue. Invite all organizations interested in that issue to a meeting. Instruct them to act together, as a single team, to come up with a project they all want to work on together, regarding that issue. Fund what the group comes up with. Add support such as meeting space and facilitation of that planning work.

4- Teach How to Build Collaborative Programs:
To ensure success of those cooperatively built programs, provide educational opportunities for doing that. We have been taught for years how to build stand-alone programs. To counter that lone wolf tendency, bring experts to town who can teach how to build programs cooperatively, upon a base of shared resources and collective responsibility for every function of the program. (Find more on such approaches here.)

5- Fund Collaborative Capacity Building ONLY:
Commit to funding only capacity building efforts for groups of organizations, rather than individual organizations. Use the approach in #3 to have groups determine what they want to learn together. Or develop a comprehensive capacity building program, addressing the broad spectrum of infrastructure issues, and choose 5 or 10 (or however many) groups to all work together over a course of 2-3 years, to learn and grow together. Fund the consultant(s) to provide that work for the whole group. Add support such as meeting space. (Find a great example of collaborative capacity building HERE)

6- Stop Teaching How to Compete:
If you want the organizations in your community to stop competing, stop teaching them how to do it. Teach collaborative approaches, or stop teaching. Don’t teach folks to do what you do not want them to do! (And if you continue to teach how to compete, stop complaining about how competitive the organizations in your community are!)

7- Teach NonCompetitive Resource Development:
Asset-Based Approaches to Resource Development and Community Engagement teach how to build on the resources and assets an organization already has – including community resources such as other organizations.

8- Research Innovations in Inclusive / Non-competitive Funding:
Set aside funds to experiment with new ways of funding that are not competitive but inclusive. Brainstorm approaches at your next funder roundtable meeting, and encourage other funders to experiment as well.

9- Shared Data:
Look for opportunities to fund the development of shared data. Could hospitals benefit from shared access to patient information? Could poverty organizations benefit from shared access to case management information? See what systems could streamline data collection and retrieval for ALL organizations, and fund that.

10- Stop Fooling Yourself that Requiring Collaboration is Helping to Limit Competition:
If you have a competitive grant process, and you require / encourage / give preference to collaborative efforts, you still have a competitive grant process. You are just encouraging larger groups to compete against each other. Stop thinking this is doing anything but upping the competition ante! Instead, consider suggesting, “Preference will be given to projects that include every organization you currently consider your competition.” Now those would be grant requests I would love to read!

11- Make It Bigger:
When Lincoln, Nebraska’s Community Health Endowment was approached to fund solutions to one hospital’s Emergency Department issues, they turned that request into a multi-year, multi-hospital effort to address that need, once and for all, for all the city’s hospitals. (CLICK to learn more about that effort) Look for those same opportunities in your own grant applications. Is a single grant just a drop in the bucket, where a larger one might do the trick? Make that question part of the grant review for every application, and see how your funding priorities change!

Just because we have made competitive funding the norm, doesn’t mean it is the only way to provide those funds. If you want to see an end to all the competition in this sector, stop complaining and start doing whatever you can to ensure you are not contributing to that competitive environment!

3 Responses to 11 Ways Funders Can Avoid Competition

  1. I absolutely LOVE this post! I think that these ideas are EXACTLY what will create the kind of community that I want to live in.

    How can we best promote this kind of thinking? Sign me up!