In a recent interview, Steve McCormick, president of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, outlined what he thought were the most important steps environmental groups could take to achieve their mission. What he wants is more collective impact — an idea that encourages further collaboration to optimize resources and reduce duplicative efforts. The Moore Foundation is willing to put money behind its ideas, and a quick look at the foundation's grant list shows numerous grants facilitating new partnerships and dialogues.
McCormick emphasizes the importance of collective impact and outlines a few ways that environmental groups can achieve it. His suggestions revolve around sharing staff resources and working with companies to create common goals. He points toward the mobilization of stakeholders around the Pebble Mine at Bristol Bay, Alaska, as a key example. In 2010, the Moore Foundation offered Earthworks more than $500,000 to engage with the private sector over the proposed development of the mine. The mine is currently on hold, a victory for environmentalists.
Within the philanthropy industry as a whole, the idea of collective impact emphasizes cross-sector coordination on large complex problems. The phrase was also named the No. 2 buzzword of 2011 by the Chronicle of Philanthropy. So is "collective impact" more than just collaborating? The idea seems to place more emphasis on continued, ongoing cooperation and consistent communication. Then again, perhaps it was just a good way to get collaboration back in focus. Either way, partnerships are a key focus for the Moore Foundation, and grantseekers should take heed.
Grants given out in 2013 favored projects that focused on partnerships. The Moore Foundation gave more than $300,000 to Forest Trends to "facilitate dialogue and cultivate novel partnerships" around deforestation, a similar amount to Ecotrust to partner with tribes in the Northwest on marine spatial planning, and $244,000 to Climate Focus to "develop new subnational partnerships" to reduce deforestation, to name just a few of the foundation's grants. Organizations looking for funding would do well to consider reaching out to fellow nonprofits to develop worthwhile partnerships that will also attract foundation money.