Ways to Work with Government: Teaming Up

In this type of relationship, a foundation and government partner work directly together to develop and implement a project.

In one example, grantmakers at a family foundation learned that a major federal early-childhood program was being revamped. The foundation had a long-standing interest in children with disabilities and approached government officials to find out how the redesigned program would better integrate children with special needs. The policymakers said that they shared the foundation’s concern, noting that the program was required by law to enroll children with disabilities and acknowledging that they weren’t sure how to do that well. The foundation and the federal agency joined forces to explore new solutions to serve children with disabilities and to figure out how to make the best approaches work well within the larger program, using a combination of pilot projects, training programs, and evaluation.

Cofunding with government is not necessarily part of the relationship, but it often is — and, in fact, some foundations insist on it. A grantmaker at a national foundation that supports state-based innovation noted that government’s willingness to contribute “new or reallocated money, not just in-kind resources” is something he and his colleagues see as a crucial sign of commitment to ensuring that the project succeeds: “There are two things that determine whether we will work in states. One is a commitment to the effort by the governor, which can come in a variety of forms, and the other is an assurance of government money.” The amount of funding is less important than the commitment to provide it. Another grantmaker who cofunds with government explained the advantages of this arrangement: “Sometimes they’re putting in $10 for every $1 we’re putting it,” she said. “It’s just that our $1 is flexible and their $10 is not. They’ll really go after that 11th dollar because it can be used for things they can’t fund.” Recognizing the potential for leverage, the foundation “almost always asks to see significant government investment before we put our money in, or as a condition for putting our money in.”

Takeaways are critical, bite-sized resources either excerpted from our guides or written by GrantCraft using the guide's research data or themes post-publication. Attribution is given if the takeaway is a quotation.

This takeaway was derived from Working with Government.