Our Purpose & Operating Models 

In fast changing times, with Europe facing increasingly complex social challenges, strategic collaboration through pooled funding is even more relevant for foundations.

Pooling funds- pooling strengths

Rationally designed, pooled funding maximizes funding for an issue. It also yields additional benefits. By joining a pooled fund, foundations can explore new issues. They minimize the risks (or investment required) to venture into unchartered territories.

By pooling their strengths and social capital, foundations also improve their knowledge on the issue and accelerate the transfer of good practices and innovation. Finally, they build the voice of the philanthropic community on the issue, increasing its influence.

On the other hand, pooled funding can create opportunities for grantees. When processes are streamlined and efficient, they contribute to raise the salience of an issue area and develop field infrastructure.

NEF collaborative projects are open to foundations interested in partnering on issues of interest to increase their impact.

Our operating models

When entering a project into its portfolio, NEF can undertake two different roles:

  • Collaboration and Learning Hub’: under the hub model, a collaborative project receives NEF’s support in legal, financial and administrative matters. The NEF operations team and the team of the project take responsibility for those matters.

NEF also provides operational and programmatic support to its projects, as well as access to a community of practices and projects. This happens intentionally, with the support of the teams interested in fostering joint learning and collaborating on cross-cutting areas.

As a hub NEF:

– Facilitates the exchange of information among its projects to enhance strategies/approaches/networks.
– Promotes the adoption of standards and good practices as a grant maker.

  • Hosting platform’: on ad-hoc basis, and for specific projects, NEF plays the role of hosting platform for collaborative philanthropic projects.

Under this operational model, NEF focuses on:

– Complying with all the legal requirements of an NGO organization.
– Managing funds, by retaining control and discretion over them, and fulfilling oversight responsibilities.
– Operational support to enable activities, such as dispensing contracts globally and making payments.


NEF offers a flexible canvas within the parameters of NEF’s operational framework. Most of the current NEF portfolio is constituted by projects that participate into the collaboration and learning hub.

NEF collaborative projects are about:

Supporting partnership building

NEF functions as a neutral platform - partners on equal footing

NEF identifies and provides structure to project staff

Foundation partners agree on governance

NEF brings its programme management and regranting expertise

Aiming at strengthening a field

NEF funding targets small or under-funded organisations in the civil society sector

NEF strengthens the capacity of organisations by offering tailored support and fostering exchanges

NEF believes in the ‘learning by doing’ approach, and the value of experimentation

NEF fosters synergies and intersections across its projects

Testimonials from our partners