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Collaborative Impact for New Philanthropy's Demands

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Global Philanthropy Forum's president and co-founder Jane Wales said in Forbes that new philanthropists want to affect positive social change by whatever means is most effective, most ethical and most enduring. They take on large problems and seek system-wide change.

The Global Philanthropy Forum is an invite-only event that brings together donors and social investors to enhance their work by connecting them to issues, effective strategies, potential partners and global agents of change. In a time when donors increasingly want to be efficient with their investments, the Forum presents a unique opportunity for learning and leverage.

So, why does NetHope attend something like Global Philanthropy Forum? The answer is easy: we've been asked by one of our partners to share the value of collaborative impact as a useful approach for meeting the demands of new philanthropy.

New philanthropy has not completely moved from the traditional idea to 'do good.' Since starting GPF in 2002, Wales says she has not seen philanthropy's commitment to making a difference waver, even in the hard economic times. But while donors' dedication has not changed, their demands and expectations have. Outgoing William and Flora Hewlett Foundation President Paul Brest wrote in Stanford Social Innovation Review that donors seek to fund programs that have an evidence-based strategy and clear goals in place. He calls this 'outcome-oriented philanthropy'; just 'doing good' is not enough anymore.

To meet these changing donor expectations, organizations must rethink their operational models and seek collaborators to help them reach their goals. Brest says that in a mature field, organizations tend to be disconnected or even competitive at the expense of transparency and collaboration.

NetHope brings 34 of the world's leading humanitarian organizations together to collaborate, create and implement innovative IT solutions in remote parts of the developing world. Within our membership, barriers are stripped down and connections are made so trust and collaboration can flourish. Successful common projects can be merged and scaled with shared resources and the extensive knowledge base of best practices and emerging trends.

The value created is as much for our member organizations as it is for our other stakeholders. NetHope provides a unique opportunity for donor investment to be directed internally in the most effective and impactful ways possible.

Some new philanthropists take it upon themselves to play a coordinating role; connecting organizations with each other to tackle a shared goal. In this type of problem solving philanthropy, the philanthropist orchestrates from a high-level perspective to assess and match players that, together, can make the largest impact.

However, this level of coordination does not have to fall upon the philanthropist. In our unique public-private partnership model, NetHope acts as the catalyst for interagency collaboration that draws upon the expertise that resides within our membership. Since our member organizations span the full spectrum of the non-profit sector focus -- from disaster relief and preparedness -- agriculture to healthcare, education and beyond -- we are able to inspire practical 'grass roots' solutions led by field specialists and policy experts. Paired with member resources, NetHope helps to develop programs from a high-level vantage point similar to the problem-solving philanthropist's position.

Philanthropists can continue to coordinate collaboration between organizations or hope that non-profits will recognize the new demand for substantive outcomes. A workable 'one step' solution is to look to proven models like NetHope that, by design, catalyze collaboration and leverage investor dollars, allowing them to go farther than they would with a similarly sized single donation to one humanitarian group.

This shift in philanthropy is not just a fad. Read Strategist Jason Saul's reflection from Skoll World Forum and you will see that 'moving the needle' is a hot topic that seems positioned to be a primary driver for philanthropy going forward. So as long as foundations need to see strategy and numbers from organizations that guarantee outcomes -- non-profits should strongly consider putting competition aside and start connecting, collaborating and innovating with each other to enhance their chances of successful outcomes.