How Funding Incentives Prevent Meaningful Non-Profit Collaboration

Collective Action Initiatives are nearly impossible. They're also necessary.

We want young people to live healthy, happy, and fulfilling lives. And we know what works: access to quality education and nutrition, the presence of positive adult relationships, exposure to meaningful experiences, safe + healthy neighborhoods (etc). There are incredible people working to provide those things every day in every community. But in order to make sustainable change for children and families, organizations need to work together.

They usually don't.

Why not?


Funding incentives reduce collaboration.

Non-profits are constantly trying to secure and maintain scarce funding. To do that, each organization has to sell their services as more impactful than the next. To collaborate is to admit to funders that your impact is not absolute.

Mission Creep  

Duplicative services abound.

If 2 non-profits provide complementary services, they should partner to serve their stakeholders. Instead, non-profits create new programs and provide duplicative services. These new services require funding and the funding competition continues.


Impact Data is a tricky.

Collaboration requires transparency. But non-profits are reluctant to share the data because it is messy and might not tell exactly the story that is in the prospective funder pitch. Organizations know they are doing really good work but it is hard to capture that explicitly in the numbers. Secrecy around data, again, stems from funding incentives.

New Incentives

Incredible people doing are doing incredible work in every community. We need to design new incentives to enable meaningful collaboration.