Dozens of foundations across Northeast Ohio have worked together for more than a decade through the Fund for Our Economic Future because they realize that achieving change within our region’s job creation, job preparation and job access systems requires collaboration.

Collaboration has to occur on every level. The organizations working on the change must collaborate. And so must the funders that provide support to those organizations. Our Fund provides an organized and effective way for funders to collaborate.

All collaborations are difficult because they require individual organizations to cross boundaries and establish common goals with others. Funder collaboratives are no different. But pursuing such collaboratives can offer significant value, as national organizations like Grantmakers for Effective Organizations have highlighted.

Recently, I attended a workshop with several other funders from across the country who are part of funder collaboratives. Together, we explored how to sustain successful collaborations among funders. In one exercise, a group of foundation leaders described funder collaboratives as a layer cake. Since nearly everyone likes desserts, it turned out to be a very popular analogy.

The first layer of the cake is made up of shared understanding. While making this layer, grantmakers agree on what they want to achieve together – a common goal.

The second layer of the cake is made up of shared learning. To make this layer, grantmakers learn together what matters, what is possible and what actions they need to support to achieve the common goal.

The third layer is made up of collective actions the participants support.

On top of the cake are the sparkling candles that represent the outcomes and the change that results from those actions.

As our Fund enters its second decade, we have much to celebrate for our members have built and sustained a mighty layer cake. More accurately, they’ve made multiple cakes using a constantly evolving recipe within each layer as their understanding, learning and successes have evolved. I look forward to our members making many more beautiful cakes together into the future.