Tech tools seen boosting funder collaboration

Funders that want to work together but find it tough to do can turn to technology to make it easier to collaborate, a new report says.

New tech tools “can make collaborations easier by reducing inefficiencies and enabling new methods of working together,” says Harnessing Collaborative Technologies, a report from the Monitor Institute and the Foundation Center.

Foundations increasingly are collaborating to make a greater impact in addressing big, complex problems, the report says, yet many of those funders are struggling to work together.

Challenges they face, including time to manage the collaboration and develop “protocols” to share information and act jointly, can stymie the partnerships, it says.

But new technologies can make it easier for funders to find and connect with other funders, work and make decisions together, and measure, track and share their progress and results, the report says.

“Data visualization” tools, for example, let foundations find patterns of giving and funding relationships, and better understand complex social and economic trends, the report says, while social networking sites can be a resource for funder collaboratives, and other online tools can help foundations find, share and discuss news and information.

Funders also can use new tech tools to better coordinate their work, streamline group processes and use online workspaces that integrate tools for collaboration such as  document sharing, calendar sharing, blogging and group discussion boards.

And funders can use the emerging concept of “open data” to aggregate information and share it broadly through social media tools such as blogging.

While they are independent by nature and “never have to collaborate,” the report says, “working together can help funders aggregate resources to match the scale of the problems they are seeking to address.”

New technologies can “significantly decrease the barriers to collaboration” if funders choose tools that are easy to use, can be integrated into existing systems and customized for specific needs, and allow information to be shared.

Todd Cohen

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