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May 10, 2023

How Social Justice Consultants Can Help Funders Grow Out of Silos

When social justice consultants work to support funders, generally one key goal is to engage a diverse group of stakeholders in achieving consensus in decision making. Very often, staff and board members are working in silos and focusing on their specific programs or program areas. There are many strategies consultants can employ to break down silos, and foster greater collaboration within a funder’s network. We introduce a few key steps below.

First, consultants should begin by performing an overall assessment in order to identify areas of overlap, potential partnerships, and opportunities for collective action. Next, consultants can seek out opportunities for both internal and external cross-teaming in order to leverage their unique resources and expertise. Cross-teaming can often lead to innovative solutions and increased impact. All these strategies can be integrated by strong facilitation skills.

When facilitating a coalition of multiple grantmaking organizations, consultants must encourage the strengthening of networks within the philanthropic sector in a region or on a specific issue. These collaborative structures can facilitate knowledge sharing, collective learning, and coordinated action on shared goals. Below are a few fundamental consulting practices that can be used to support clients in these endeavors:

  • Encourage systems thinking. Promote a systems thinking approach among philanthropic organizations, emphasizing the interconnectedness of social, economic, and environmental issues. This can help identify opportunities for collaboration and inform more strategic, holistic interventions.
  • Share best practices and lessons learned: Encourage the sharing of best practices, lessons learned, and case studies among philanthropic organizations. This effort can help organizations learn from one another and adopt effective strategies for collaboration and impact.
  • Leverage technological resources: Utilize technology to facilitate communication, information sharing, and collaboration among philanthropic organizations. Digital platforms and tools can help break down silos by connecting organizations across geographic and thematic boundaries.
  • Promote a collective commitment to flexible funding: Offer flexible, unrestricted funding to support collaboration and innovation among grantees. This type of funding allows organizations to adapt their approaches, invest in capacity building, and explore new partnerships.
  • Recognize and reward collaboration: Celebrate and reward examples of effective collaboration within the philanthropic sector. Recognizing the value of collaboration can help shift organizational cultures and incentivize more collaborative approaches.
  • Establish learning communities for continuous evaluation and improvement: Learning communities are a space for grantmakers to continuously evaluate the impact of collaborative efforts and learn from both successes and failures. They may use these insights to inform future strategies and promote a culture of learning and improvement within the sector.

To sum up, in order for funders and nonprofits to better collaborate, network, and share information, social justice consultants play an important intermediary role in facilitating, holding the space, and providing technical assistance. The act of breaking down silos and promoting collaboration, the philanthropic sector can increase its impact by addressing complex social challenges more effectively.


Converge has rich experience supporting philanthropic partners adopting participatory grantmaking practices. We provide Learning Community Design and Facilitation for both funders and nonprofit leaders. Our Power in Place© curriculum helps nonprofits align community-wide planning to center long-term efforts in shifting and building power, both at the organizational and community levels.