News & Views


October 2, 2023

Insights: The Power of Well-Funded Collaborative Funds

We live in a world where issues are increasingly complex and interconnected, and approaches to philanthropy are evolving in response. When MacKenzie Scott announced in 2019 that she had joined the Giving Pledge, a promise by the world's wealthiest individuals and families to dedicate the majority of their wealth to charitable causes, she wrote the following in her pledge letter.

“In addition to whatever assets life has nurtured in me, I have a disproportionate amount of money to share. My approach to philanthropy will continue to be thoughtful. It will take time, effort and care. But I won’t wait. And I will keep at it until the safe is empty.”

Over the past year, Panorama Global has produced insights from our Collaborative Learning for Impact Philanthropy (CLIP) initiative inspired by Scott’s approach to philanthropy. CLIP aims to shift norms and practices in the philanthropic and nonprofit sectors for making and managing large, unrestricted gifts.

As part of Scott’s $14 billion in grants from 2020-22 to more than 1,600 organizations, over $1 billion went to a subset of organizations we defined as “collaborative funds.” Specifically, these funds serve as mechanisms to pool donor resources and collaboratively fund smaller, innovative organizations across a shared issue area or geography to drive impactful change towards a common goal. In our latest Insights publication designed for funders and philanthropists, Panorama Global showcases learnings and takeaways from our work with a select group of collaborative funds that received Scott’s funding.

For the majority of cohort members, the Scott gift was their first time receiving a grant of this magnitude. Their models varied; while some mobilized and re-invested individual gifts, others worked with large institutional partners to support programmatic funding. Serving the United States, Canada, Africa, Latin America, South and East Asia, the organizations’ most common focus areas included gender-based violence, climate, racial justice, social justice, civic engagement, LGBTQ+, arts & culture, and youth development.

Gleaned from our direct engagement with the Collaborative Funds Peer Learning Community, we identified five key insights that may resonate with funders and philanthropists interested and/or currently participating in this model.

1. Collaborative funds increase efficiency and effectiveness of donor impact

Collaborative funds are uniquely positioned to provide funders with a greater return on investment than traditional philanthropy methods.

By virtue of their model, collaborative funds provide a more effective and efficient means of mobilizing donor impact. Collaborative funds assess need and have more in-depth knowledge of the field or issue area, including which organizations on the ground are best positioned to serve the community. Through the power of a collective, these funds allow a donor to access a one-stop shop model by:

  • providing expertise, reach, and a long-term lens to advance a single cause
  • moving the needle on intersectional causes that fail to get single-issue funding
  • or improving a local community or region

Instead of one large gift from one funder to one nonprofit organization, collaborative funds allow a funder to make a sizeable difference in the work across organizations deploying multiple and diverse solutions in their quest for impact.

Funders can leverage the infrastructure and insights of a collaborative fund instead of using its own resources to source, vet, and perform due diligence on potential grantee organizations. This allows a more efficient use of time and administration. In addition, when funders work with a collaborative fund, they have visibility into impact much more clearly and broadly across an entire portfolio, without needing to put resources into tracking individual organizations. Typically, a collaborative fund is also better suited to understand local context and stakeholders, having built trust and a strong network of relationships proximate to a cause.

“By pooling funds, donors are able to have greater impact, accelerate change, test ideas while sharing risk, and reach groups that as national donors or those who don’t have staff it would be hard to find and resource.”

— Margaret Hempel, Executive Director, Collaborative for Gender + Reproductive Equity

2. Investing in historically excluded communities

Investing in collaborative funds allows funders to expand their reach into communities that are often overlooked.

A stark revelation from the 2021 Bank of America study on charitable giving found that 1 in 10 affluent donors gave to Black/African American causes and/or organizations, while a mere 1 in 16 gave to LGBTQ+ causes and/or organizations. In addition, the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy in early 2023 provided a follow-up to its research brief on the growing philanthropic resources for Black communities, indicating that funding for Black communities represented 12% of all charitable giving and 5.4% of independent foundation giving in 2020, despite the impact of COVID-19 on societies and economies globally. These statistics underscore the urgency to drive meaningful change in marginalized communities through collaborative funds.

Several members of our Peer Learning Community shared that collaborative funds are a powerful vehicle to invest in communities that have been historically excluded from traditional philanthropy and can drive impactful change. Cohort members were able to leverage the Scott gift to broaden engagement with stakeholders within and across an issue to enhance their depth of outreach and impact. Funders can expand not only their community reach, but also the issues they support, with the ability to fund intersectional or complex social, racial, gender or environmental justice issues better through this giving model.

Alternate ROOTS reaches Southern BIPOC artists and marginalized communities that traditional philanthropy often overlooks or cannot reach,” explained Alternate ROOTS Development Director Suzanne Raether. “Our relationships with BIPOC, Queer, Disabled, and other marginalized artists and organizations allow us to resource artists who have been historically unsupported by traditional philanthropy.”

Spotlight: Constellations Culture Change Fund & Initiative

Housed at The Center for Cultural Power, The Constellations Culture Change Fund & Initiative is a network approach that was designed by BIPOC grassroots cultural practitioners. Its mission is to build collective power among BIPOC Artist Disruptors, traditional and tradition-based Culture Bearers, and cultural strategy organizations working at the intersections of art, culture and social justice across the U.S. to accelerate a shift in worldview from domination to liberation, collaboration, care and interdependence.

Since 2022, Constellations has released $6.8M to the field through a salaried fellowship program; participatory and narrative design lab awards to 50 individual artists disruptors and culture bearers; and multi-year general operating support regrants to grassroots, cultural strategy organizations. Constellations’ regranting model is rooted in fostering relationships with communities that have historically been excluded from philanthropy to build collective power. It is committed to removing funding barriers by reducing the burden on partners, increasing transparency, and simplifying and streamlining application and reporting processes through JustFund and other internal mechanisms.

“As part of our equity indicators, we prioritize unregistered organizations and those with smaller budgets for our two-year general operating support regrants, because we know that groups like these have less accessibility to that type of funding.”

— Cinthia Carvajal, Constellations Culture Change Fund & Initiative Grants Manager, The Center for Cultural Power

3. Supporting grantees beyond checkbook philanthropy

Capacity building for grantees is a priority for collaborative funds.

Peer Learning Community members described their efforts in three categories: support through the grant lifecycle, leader capacity building, and organizational development support. The aim is to enrich the sector and the capacity for systems-level impact by uplifting the leadership and operational excellence of individual organizations. Collaborative funds aim to create a holistic ecosystem of support that enables grantee organizations to thrive and achieve their missions beyond just financial contributions.

Cohort members listed a variety of capacity building activities and strategy offerings in which they support grantees including:

Connecting with staff through the application process
Calls with staff to talk about grant and program milestones
Communities of practice
Networking opportunities
Healing justice workshops
Awards to recognize leadership
Strategic planning support
Management and team development
Monitoring and evaluation
Board training

Spotlight: Maliasili

Maliasili, exists to support high-potential local organizations to increase the benefits they bring to people, ecosystems, and climate change. Its mission is to accelerate community-based conservation through local organizations, and its programming is ultimately designed to address the damage and degradation of natural ecosystems—and their value for biodiversity, wildlife, and climate.

Since its founding in 2011, Maliasili has supported the growth and impact of over 50 leading African conservation organizations; trained over 180 African conservation leaders through its cohort-based leadership program; helped secure over $15 million in funding for its partners; and watched many of those organizations grow, mature, and achieve greater impact as African leaders in the field.

"The best support for these local communities is through talented, motivated, and committed local organizations. That’s why Maliasili pours our efforts into helping them realize their full potential. When local organizations are strong, the communities driving conservation are too."

— Maliasili website

4. Raising awareness and bolstering financial resources

Collaborative funds allow for an enhanced opportunity to craft and communicate a focused message to a wider and targeted audience, compared to the efforts of a lone organization. With more resources, collaborative funds are better positioned to produce high-quality content and galvanize multiple stakeholders to amplify messages, educate, and raise awareness for an issue. Our cohort members also framed communications, and the greater level of awareness generated by the collective, as a vehicle for investing in organizational sustainability, allowing the organizations to expand their profiles and fundraising pipeline to benefit the entire field. A healthier fundraising profile leads to increased revenue, which helps to drive greater progress on critical issues.

When asked how they might utilize another large unrestricted grant, members of the Peer Learning Community indicated that communications were among their top three priorities for investment.

“At the Ms. Foundation for Women, increasingly we view fundraising and communications together as part of how we do philanthropic advocacy and move the field,” shared Bri Barnett, Director of Institutional Partnerships. “It’s directly programmatic, instead of complementary to the program.”

5. Driving innovation to community impact and systems-level change

In a 2023 Stanford Social Innovation Review article on donor collaboratives, Susan Thomas, president of the Melville Charitable Trust explained, “Philanthropy tends to defer to old mental models, thinking that if we can’t name a finite project with a beginning and end then we can’t support it,” she said. “The beauty of funding through a collaborative allows funders to share the risk of taking the big bets we may not be able to fund on our own.”

When surveyed, the majority of members from the Collaborative Funds Peer Learning Community reported the Scott funding allowed their organizations to take more risks and be more innovative in their grantmaking practices. One cohort member shared that the Scott gift increased their organization’s ability to identify and invest in early-stage nonprofits as part of its grantmaking portfolio.

A philanthropic portfolio that includes investments in collaborative funds allows funders to take a chance on innovative approaches to addressing complex social issues, while mitigating risks.


The number of collaborative funds has increased exponentially in the past 10 years, and for good reason. The model provides funders with a unique ability to make gifts with a ripple effect that can stretch across a myriad of organizations aligned to one common goal (across multiple issues or causes), alongside the benefits of investing in an established infrastructure that allows for risk mitigation, streamlined reporting, and reach into often overlooked communities. While collaborative funds may be a sensible giving vehicle, they are also positioned for greater impact.


Glossary of Terms

The following glossary of terms provides framing around how we approached our assessment of MacKenzie Scott’s giving, as well as types of collaborative funds represented in our research.

  • Impact Philanthropy: An approach that focuses on achieving social impact, scaling up effective solutions, and fostering sustainability. MacKenzie Scott’s incredible $14 billion in donations since July 2020 are at the forefront of what's been called "impact philanthropy." These gifts are enabling what was already impactful work in the social sector to turbocharge over two dozen issue areas. The volume, speed, and breadth of Scott’s gifts demonstrates the power of philanthropy to transform.  
  • Collaborative Funds: Mechanisms to pool donor resources and fund smaller, innovative organizations across a shared issue area or geography to drive impactful change towards a common goal. Organizations that serve in this capacity may or may not refer to themselves as a collaborative fund. We list three types of collaborative funds below:  
  • Intermediary: A type of collaborative fund where dollars are raised for re-granting purposes; often a public charity with additional programs, aggregating money to distribute more equitably and through staff with expertise/lived experience.
  • Giving Circle: A giving circle brings a group of people with shared values together to collectively discuss and decide where to make a pooled gift. There are more than 2,500 active giving circles around the world.
  • Pooled Fund: A type of collaborative fund that aggregates funders (and their contributions) and has them share decision-making power [the institutional equivalent of a giving circle].
  • Public Foundation: Grantmaking public charities that gain their funds from a variety of sources, which may include foundations, individuals, corporations, or public entities. Public foundations may engage in fundraising and may seek broad public financial support. Such foundations may operate as collaborative funds.


Panorama Global would like to acknowledge and express our gratitude to the members of our Collaborative Funds Peer Learning Community and the staff representatives who gave their time and thought partnership to inform this report.

This publication is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

About Collaborative Learning for Impact Philanthropy

Launched in 2022, Collaborative Learning for Impact Philanthropy (CLIP) engages nonprofit leaders and amplifies their collective insights through actionable tools, resources, and communications to shift norms and practices in the philanthropic and nonprofit sectors for making and managing large, unrestricted gifts.

Insights is a report series capturing knowledge and reflections from Panorama Global’s CLIP peer learning communities. Additional reports in the series include:  

Additional Resources

About Panorama Global

Panorama Global is a social impact nonprofit that empowers changemakers through radical collaboration.

Our goal is to achieve maximum impact by partnering with visionary leaders to co-develop solutions to hard problems. We use our voice when it counts, and initiate projects when we see gaps that need to be filled.

Panorama Global has distributed nearly $24 million in grants across six collaborative funds since our founding in 2017. We believe in harnessing the collective power of established and early-stage organizations that are focused on advancing social change and paving the way for others. We work with partners under the shared vision that pressing social issues can be addressed more effectively, equitably, timely, and sustainably through the sweeping lens of collaboration than the narrow mindset of competition.

For more insights and information gathered as part of our work, visit our Collaborative Learning for Impact Philanthropy section.

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