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Collaborative Campaigning – Can We Be Friends Through Collective Impact?

Resource Center - Foundation

By Andrea McManus, CFRE

andrea mcmanusWith so many campaigns on the go, and with both individually and cumulatively larger goal amounts—to say nothing of the demand for volunteer leadership—we are increasingly hearing  from our donors "Why aren’t you working together?”  It’s a fair question, and one that should make us pause and ask ourselves “Right, why aren’t we?”


Calgary is a city with a ten-year plan to end homelessness and, it is one of the few such plans in North America that is actually working. All three levels of government have made significant contributions, and for the first time over 150 agencies that work on various homeless-related issues (from poverty to addictions to domestic abuse) are cooperating on everything from intake procedures to affordable housing. 

That is where RESOLVE, a $120 million capital campaign for affordable housing, is underway.  With nine partners, each of which works in a different facet of the affordable housing landscape (seniors, families, mental health, etc), this campaign responds to the question of working together.  The plan provides a solution to homelessness, and RESOLVE provides a long-term and sustainable solution to one crucial part of homelessness, providing 3,000 affordable housing units to close the gap between availability and need before people become chronically homeless. 

Donor driven and more than the money

RESOLVE was at its heart donor-driven.  A feasibility study uncovered confusion and frustration with the number of agencies who appeared to be working on the same issue albeit through multiple and competing campaigns.  The perceived benefits, beyond raising the money and which have all been validated through donor action, included:

  • Eliminating competition
  • Drive down the overall costs of the campaign(s)
  • Create  a high profile partnership that will stand out in the crowd
  • Great ability to attract high quality leadership
  • Potential to identify other investment vehicles and revenue generation opportunities
  • Build the internal capacity of the individual partners to sustain the solution
  • Identify other opportunities for the agencies to collaborate on the homelessness issue

Key success factors

So what do you need to be successful?  There are a couple of key things:

  1.  You must have visionary leadership that will lead by example and demonstrate a willingness to work for the greater good.  Leadership starts with the campaign itself but must be visibly present in each partner agency.
  2. You should have a related vision that can result in a clear case linked through collective impact.  What you can do collectively far outweighs what any one agency can do on its own.
  3. You will be successful if you celebrate similarities while respecting and accommodating differences.  Compromise will be necessary.
  4. And finally, you need to decide in advance the ideal number of partners and have solid rational for the goal so that it is clearly linked to your case messages. 

While there are many unknowns when you start on a collaborative effort we do know one thing – our donors will love it!         

Andrea is president of The Development Group, a full-service, Calgary-based philanthropic consulting firm which has worked with clients and organizations throughout Canada, the Caribbean, and the Middle East to build their internal capacity and philanthropic culture.  She was the first fundraiser outside of the United States to serve as Chair of the AFP International board (2011-12) and is a passionate believer in and speaker on the role fundraising plays in growing philanthropy worldwide.  Contact her at

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