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How to Use This Guide

This is a guide to strengthen the capacity of grant-makers to support and leverage networks in service of their social impact goals. The information in this guide is designed to help guide grantmaking action and offered in the service of decision-making. It is organized to guide you through a range of key questions to consider as you explore how engaging with a network might play a role in your work. (To learn about how it was produced, see About This Guide.)

What is this guide?

A tool to help you…

  • Think through the critical questions of whether and when  to use a network to accelerate impact;
  • Understand your role in supporting a network and how that may change over time;
  • Answer the “upstream” questions around a network’s conception, design, utility and resource requirements;
  • Learn from real world stories of networks (their funders and leaders) who are using networks to solve a range of tough problems

This guide is structured around a series of questions that will help you navigate the process of deciding whether to engage with a network and how to do so. The material is organized in a sequence starting with the types of problems social impact networks are suited to address, what networks can help you do, to the very practical roles funders can play in support of networks.

What questions will this guide answer?

There are many ways to think about networks from a funder’s perspective. This guide addresses the topic through answering the following questions, which you can find on any page by clicking the table of contents button in the upper-right-hand corner of the screen:

SECTION 1: What could a network help me achieve?

  • Why are networks relevant to my work?
  • Is my challenge a good fit for engaging with a network?
  • What are the alternatives to a network?
  • What network design would be the most useful?
  • What can a network do?

SECTION 2: What could I do for a network?

  • What type of network funder could I be?
  • What forms of financial and backbone support do networks need?
  • What support will I provide?
  • Am I ready to work with a network—and is my organization ready?
  • How do I exit a network?

SECTION 3: How do I get started?

  • How do I gauge the potential for starting or joining a network?
  • What technology and process tools can support a network?
  • To review: Am I clear on my intention for getting involved in a network?

What isn’t this guide?

  • A how-to guide for network weavers and others who need to run a network
  • The final word on funding networks for social impact, which remains a young and dynamic area of practice

How to find your way around

  • Each page has a left and right arrow at the top, to move forward or backwards in the order.
  • If you’d like to jump to a particular page, or search by keyword, click the Index icon in the far upper-right corner.
  • To print any page, just hit Control-P (or Command-P on a Mac). It will be automatically formatted for a printed page. If you’d prefer to read all of the material in printed form, or off-line, click the Download link at the bottom of the page.
  • Any time you find something that you want to come back to, click the bookmark icon in the upper-left, which will add that page or section to your Reading List. You can find what you’ve saved by clicking on the Index icon in the far upper-right corner and clicking Reading List. From the Reading List you can click back to any page you’ve saved, email yourself a list of links, or download any page as a PDF.
  • Whenever you click into a Story Sketch, the titles on the right are the sections that the story illustrates. Click on them to jump to that content.
  • If you’d like to read more about a topic click the Sources link at the bottom of each page, and if you’d like to see all of the sources at once you can find them in the Full Bibliography.

 We have seen first-hand the transformative outcomes that can be powered by a funder’s effective engagement with a social impact network. It is our earnest hope that this guide will help you find and pursue the opportunities to do that in your grantmaking.

–Anna Muoio and Noah Rimland Flower, Monitor Institute