A cohort is a group of people banded together for a specific purpose. For many funders, taking a cohort-based approach to grant-making provides an opportunity to offer added value to their grantees by fostering relationships and shared learning amongst the group.

Rather than having relationships with each individual grantee in isolation, funders can leverage what grantees have in common to strengthen social capital, drive the adoption of best practices, and learn more from their grantees' experiences.

For example, a cohort can also make it easier for funders to invest in professional development for their grantees; celebrate individual and group successes; and calibrate funder-grantee power dynamics on more equal footing.

Often the most meaningful takeaway of all is for cohort members to feel a sense of belonging. Community impact work can be lonely and stressful -- especially when facing challenges. It is not always easy to find other people who are doing similar work to connect with.

Sharing experiences with peers from other organizations can be a powerful reminder for grantees that they are not alone in this work. In this way, funders can model a more collective form of leadership that makes more space for people engaged in direct service work to be vulnerable, feel supported, and grow.

Achieving the numerous benefits of a cohort requires dedicated time and effort from each cohort member on a continuous basis. It is therefore crucial for funders to take proactive steps to help their grantees have the capacity and commitment to engage in a cohort community.

  1. Define what success looks like collaboratively
  2. Invite and bring everyone together consistently
  3. Invest in folks so they can join the cohort
  4. Facilitate the experience
  5. Be responsive to the cohort’s interests and needs

At their best, cohorts provide both grantees and funders with a more effective way to accomplish their existing learning and impact goals while also sparking new ideas and inspiration for what's possible. There's no better time than now to get together and get started.

Discover UpMetrics' Cohort Program, which provides nonprofit grantees and funders with access to the UpMetrics platform, as well as capacity-building training sessions and professional services to get up and running quickly. 

Post by Greg Woodburn
August 11, 2023