There are many ways in which donors collaborate to advance their work in a particular field or issue. For example, they might learn together as a group, align their funding, or even pool their financial resources to increase their impact. Civitates is such a pooled fund.
What exactly is a pooled fund?
A pooled fund is a giving vehicle that allows multiple donors to make grants to an intermediary to have a greater and more coordinated impact on an issue. The intermediary is an entity that serves as a neutral and efficient platform to receive and deploy the funds.
In the case of Civitates the Network of European Foundations (NEF) is the host organization that fulfils the role of intermediary. NEF helps Civitates with finances, compliance, due diligence, and human resources.
How do pooled funds work?
Generally speaking, money from the various donors goes into a communal pot which is used to pay for activities such as grant making, salaries for the people working at the secretariat, and other programmatic and operational expenses. Pooled funds are guided by a governing body, usually comprised of its donors. The donors are often also involved in the selection of the grants.
This is also the case for Civitates. The secretariat oversees the day-to-day activities and serves as the liaison between the intermediary (NEF) and contributing and potential donors. Civitates’ governing body, the Steering Committee, is composed of Civitates’ partner foundations. The participating donors are also encouraged to participate in the Working Groups that guide the selection of the grants.
What are the benefits of a pooled fund?
Pooled funds provide many benefits, including:
- Maximising impact: pooled funds allow donors to strategically maximize the limited funding available in an area, and catalyze results towards a stronger, healthier, and more sustainable field;
- Flexibility: pooled funds provide the possibility to make grants of various sizes and types that may be challenging for some foundations to execute directly, including international and small grants;
- Maximise learning: pooled funds facilitate the sharing of information and learning as a group about an issue of particular interest;
- Easy entry point into a new issue or area: pooled funds can alleviate the administrative burden that might be discouraging to starting up a new grant-making program in-house and provide the opportunity to learn from other donors with more experience in a specific area;
- Mitigating risks: pooled funds mitigate potential reputational risks for donors as well as for grantees and avoid that a grantee is perceived as an instrument of a specific funders’ agenda.
- Make a statement: pooled funds help donors show the philanthropic sector’s solidarity with a struggling sector or region.
How involved are the donors at Civitates?
It depends. It is up to each donor to decide how involved they want to be. If they like, they can be involved in the drafting of the strategy, the design of a new funding round, the selection of the grants, and even participate in grantee convenings and field visits.
Are all donors involved in each of Civitates’ lines of work?
No. While some of Civitates’ donors are involved in all lines of work others are only involved in one or two of the three lines of work.