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Collaborative Funding: The Next Big Thing in Grantmaking

Go, team! Guest blogger Claire Sterling shares the results of an exciting strategy in grantmaking that helps all groups involved go farther than would have been possible alone.


Fundraising organizations are often urged by grantmakers to collaborate with other organizations in the same area (whether programmatic or geographic) in order to more effectively and efficiently address their beneficiaries’ needs. Grantmakers can also benefit from collaborating with each other and, in doing so, better serve their grantees.

The ASPCA is proud to partner with a variety of organizations, ranging from other nonprofits and government agencies to corporations and private foundations on many aspects of our work, including grantmaking, to more effectively serve homeless and mistreated animals across the United States. As a member of Animal Grantmakers—a coalition of foundations and organizations that work locally, regionally, nationally and internationally making grants to benefit animals of all kinds—the ASPCA pursues opportunities to join together with other funders who share our interests.

Recently, we’ve been working with the Lakewood, Colorado-based Animal Assistance Foundation (AAF), dedicated to supporting and enhancing the Five Freedoms for companion animals in the state of Colorado through impactful and innovative grantmaking, on a few efforts that reflect our shared priorities. Our specific approaches are somewhat different yet complementary. We bring the perspective of a national funder with a geographically diverse grant portfolio and wide-ranging staff that can help identify specific patterns that transcend regions, while AAF brings the perspective of a regional funder whose deep place-based expertise affords unique insight into the particular challenges and opportunities that literally come with the territory. The relationship is continually reinforced by our mutual appreciation for each other’s efforts in the field and our enjoyment of working together. Current collaborations include:

  • Pets Forever: This Colorado State University project, to which the ASPCA and AAF collectively contributed $30,000, provides direct pet care services through student hours and financial assistance to more than 150 low-income elderly and disabled pet owners in Larimer County with limited options to care for their pets. These safety net services are intended to reduce the likelihood that vulnerable individuals will relinquish their beloved companion animals to a shelter due to financial or care-related barriers. Grant funds are being applied toward veterinary service costs for pets in need.  
  • Metro Denver Cats Around Town: This 18-month pilot project, to which the ASPCA contributed $47,500, supports efforts of the Cats Around Town (C.A.T.) coalition of 16 Denver-area animal welfare organizations—including AAF, which is contributing resources of their own—to build comprehensive, compassionate, humane programs for all cats in its community. The project is designed to provide services and resources for cats in need, whether owned or unowned, within the target area in an attempt to increase cats’ welfare and perceived value. This will be the Denver metro area’s first coordinated community cat effort on this scale. Grant funds are being applied toward creating and disseminating outreach and marketing materials, leasing a community coordination center space, and transporting animals.  
  • Disaster Funding Collaborative: The ASPCA and AAF are both members of a fledgling group of grantmakers across the country who are committed to streamlining the grant application process for animal welfare organizations seeking disaster recovery support. For specific disasters in which this collaborative is active, participating funders will make use of a common application and single source for grantseeking information in order to relieve applicants of the burden of submitting multiple grant applications when their time and resources are most stretched.  
  • Whiskers ‘n’ Wags Jubilee: This annual fundraising event held by the Fort Collins Cat Rescue & Spay/Neuter Clinic (FCCRSNC), which the ASPCA and AAF are both sponsoring at $1,250 each, will help the organization to continue providing a wide array of services – including cat adoptions, subsidized vaccine and spay/neuter clinics, TNR services for community cats and a pet food pantry—that benefit pets and people throughout northern Colorado and southern Wyoming. Both the ASPCA and AAF have previously funded various FCCRSNC projects.

For any team effort, “sharing the load” with another organization or person is just one element of a far bigger and richer picture. The most rewarding aspect of strong collaborations are the opportunities they provide to grow and learn together, fill in gaps for each other and ultimately help each other do better and go farther than would have been possible alone. There is much to be gained for all involved; we’re excited for our grantmaking peers who decide to pursue this kind of strategy, as well as for the grantees who benefit.



Guest blogger Claire Sterling is Director, Grant Strategies at the ASPCA. Having previously done foundation fundraising for six years at the Foundation Center, her personal blog, The Lion’s Share, provides philanthropy-related resources for organizations that better the lives of animals.



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