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What forms of support will I provide?

How much support and leadership a network will need is almost never crystal clear at the outset. Few network funders we spoke with had a structured approach to anticipating the financial and non-financial resources they expected to commit to a network. The typical approach was simply to secure what funding could be found, provide as much non-financial help as the network appeared to need at a given time, and continue to respond to the network’s needs as they arose. But even if you cannot make precise long-term plans, what you can do is anticipate the roles you expect the network will need you to play and what level of support you can afford to offer.

How can a company participate in a network? Read here to learn more: “Define how a company can participate” in PARTICIPATE: The power of involving business in social impact networks.

This table summarizes the same set of financial and backbone support roles shown on the previous page, with each dot showing when that role is typically important through the six stages of network development. Once you have had the chance to review the roles that you think might be important in the network you have in mind, it can be a useful exercise to work through the two right-hand columns and ask yourself:

  • Will I play this role?
  • Will others play this role?

To download or print out a high-resolution version of the table, click on the image.


Sound like too much to take on?

If it’s not feasible for you to spend the time or money you think a network would require, there are always alternative options. But in most cases, some creative re-evaluation of your assumptions can help you find a set of roles to play that matches what you can provide. Could some of the roles you picture yourself playing be played by participants in the network, or by other funders who you could recruit? If you don’t see other possibilities there, try going back to first principles: look for different ways that the network could be designed, and consider whether there are different things that it could do.