Just about everybody in every sector is talking about collaboration these days — almost as much as they talk about innovation. In an age of limited resources, the increased chatter towards collaboration is a good thing. It’s an especially needed conversation in the nonprofit sector, where funding sources can be much more limited than they are in the private or public sector. Anyone who’s ever been involved in a nonprofit knows how stressful and frenetic it can be to maintain and improve the quality of programs and services while constantly having to chase after funding. So if a nonprofit can find a partner to commiserate collaborate, why not, right?
But collaboration is much easier said than done, especially when it comes to finding the right external teams who share your vision and theory of change. That’s why the Foundation Center’s Nonprofit Collaboration Database is such a great idea. It’s a simple but powerful tool where nonprofits can go in and submit information about collaborations they’ve had in the past. Sharing such information can help the nonprofit sector be more efficient and transparent as other groups also learn about how different organizations are working together. For instance, if you’re interested in trimming administrative costs, you can do a quick search about what some organizations are doing in staff sharing. You can read about how 14 organizations across 11 states consolidated and became the National Association for Latino Community Asset Builders, or how Catholic Charities and the Boys & Clubs of Adrian, Michigan created joint programming to mentor at-risk children.
Other things nonprofits can look at include: purchasing goods/services together; share or better utilize space; combine marketing efforts; co-fundraise; share staff training; form a federation and much more. The database won’t necessarily eliminate intermediaries who also support nonprofits with these efforts, but since the Collaboration Database first started, there have been over 650 submissions from different nonprofits. That’s a whole lot of case studies to pull from! It’s definitely a good place to begin.
We’d love to hear any success stories or lessons learned (#FailForward!) with the tool or nonprofit collaborations in general, so feel free to share below.