For Funder Collaboratives, Relationships Lead to Further Collaboration

For Funder Collaboratives, Relationships Lead to Further Collaboration

Thank you to Debbie Anderson, programs director, Rancho Santa Fe Foundation; Dan Beintema, president, USS Midway Foundation; and Gordon Swanson, board of directors at The Parker Foundation and the Rancho Santa Fe Foundation for their leadership in this work and contributions to this article.

San Diego Grantmakers’ funder collaboratives support our members to learn, plan and act on shared priorities. By acting together, each individual philanthropist gains access to the knowledge and insight of their peers, and can leverage one another’s investments to achieve a greater impact. The impact of this work can be immediately seen in the grant that culminates; but often unseen are the deep and trusting relationships established between funders that can serve as fertile ground for further impact down the road.

We often guide funders within a collaborative through a collective grantmaking effort; but we are equally encouraged when the relationships and connections made in the collabortives lead members to put together collaborative efforts of their own. This was the case for our Military Funders Collaborative members the Rancho Santa Fe Foundation, the USS Midway Foundation, and the Parker Foundation.

The Parker Foundation has frequent grant cycles (nearly monthly) and will consider whatever needs are presented by the applicant nonprofit. They are interested in a number of issues affecting the quality of life in San Diego County; one of those is the experience of military members, broadly defined. In contrast, the USS Midway is laser-focused on their mission to fund “organizations and initiatives that support America’s core values of service and sacrifice in the name of freedom.” They join with the Rancho Santa Fe Foundation as members of the Military Funders collaborative at SDG, a group that was founded in 2011 and has since made grants together to support the Military Transition Support Project (which ultimately became zero8hundred) and most recently funds to expand the capacity of Interfaith Community Services and PATH San Diego to help end veteran homelessness.

The Rancho Santa Fe Foundation has been active in the military space for many years through the Patriots Connection and the San Diego Directory and invites an annual cycle of grant requests in this area. The three foundations realized that they shared a common commitment to this population; had confidence in the due diligence involved in the systematic use of the Patriots Connection directory; and greatly valued past experience combining funds to have a greater overall impact on issues like the transition from military to civilian life and veteran homelessness through the Military Funders.

As a way to continue that experience of exchanging knowledge and identifying opportunities to amplify one another’s impact, the three foundations agreed to jointly review the approved grant awards that the Rancho Santa Fe Foundation identified to see if there could be alignment. Through this joint review process, they settled on an organization called Wreaths Across America and committed to matching the Rancho Santa Fe Foundation grant, thus tripling the donation. While starting with a relatively modest amount, the experience gave each organization, and their boards, grant committees, and staffs, experience with the idea of sharing a process and growing their impact as a result.

Trusting relationships and a strong, transparent process have been identified as keys to successful collaborative grantmaking, echoed by Gordon Swanson who sits on the board of directors for both the Parker Foundation and the Rancho Santa Fe Foundation. “The key to making this work is two-fold, the initial vetting process of the Rancho Santa Fe Foundation and then the subsequent vetting by like-minded co-grantors,” Gordon noted.

Dan Beintema shared that this gave the USS Midway an opportunity to think a little differently about their grantmaking. “We don’t normally fund events,” he said, “but due to the emotional components of the Wreaths Across America honoring of our fallen, and the fantastic opportunity to vastly increase the impact of our single and modest donation, it was an enthusiastic and unanimous decision of the Midway Foundation board to support” this co-funding effort.

The three foundations have decided to team up again this year. We are pleased to offer the kind of collaborative environment to foster this type of experimentation and partnership and look forward to many more stories of impact! Do you have a story we should hear about? Please connect with our communications team by reaching out to Katie Janowiak at katie[at]