This article is the third in our series on nonprofit collaboration models. The first (click here) was on getting your nonprofit ready for collaboration and the second (click here) introduced collaborative models 1 through 4 to consider. Today we look at models 5 through 8 that offer some unique ideas for bringing projects or ideas together without having to merge entire organizations. If you have a reaction, comments or additional information to share on any of the eight models of collaboration or mergers for nonprofits, we’d love to hear from you in the comments area.
5. Joint Partnership for Issue Advocacy
This collaboration allows two or more nonprofits with similar missions to speak with one voice on a particular issue without having to form a new organization. With both nonprofits working together, they can combine their resources to deliver a stronger, more far-reaching message—especially if the issue faces any type of opposition. Since the nonprofits are advocating together to address only a short-term or sporadic issue, forming a new, permanent organization is not necessary.
This model works best when nonprofits have a shared long-term mission but want to concentrate on achieving short-term goals around one particular issue and want to expand efforts to deal with that issue. Partnerships can mobilize a larger audience for more impact. Challenges can include coming to terms with how each organization feels about the issue, and then determining the content and delivery method for their message so a united front can be presented. There will need to be clear guidelines on which nonprofit will be responsible for costs, workload distribution, and other obligations of the campaign.
6. Joint Partnership with the Birth of a New Formal Organization
Sometimes several nonprofits confronted with a mutual concern can benefit by developing a new, independent organization whose goal is to address this issue on a long-term, more in-depth basis. This is an ideal scenario when two or more organizations identify a common issue that isn’t exactly in their present wheelhouse to manage, but needs to be resolved to advance the overall mission of each nonprofit.
Significant benefits of creating a new formal organization by combining one or more nonprofits can include: (1) eliminating competition for funding, (2) strengthening avenues of communication, and (3) allowing the nonprofits to consolidate their efforts in working with the new organization to support it. Challenges can include continuing to generate sustained funding for the new organization, and the willingness of the original nonprofits to give up ownership of the issue to the newly formed nonprofit.
7. Joint Administrative Office and Back Office Operations
This form of collaboration allows multiple nonprofits to streamline aspects of their programs by sharing a joint administrative office, i.e., sharing professional services such as human resources, information technology, financial assistance, legal advice, and so on. Another option would be to create a separate organization whose sole purpose would be to provide this type of support for nonprofit organizations on a contract basis.
The model would allow nonprofits to share administrative expenses and operational tasks. Small nonprofits, in particular, would be able to function more efficiently without having to carry the entire expense of hiring staff and outside contractors for these services. Spending less time on administrative duties also means the nonprofit Executive Director/CEO can concentrate more fully on program and service delivery. One of the toughest challenges can be finding a way to keep service delivery balanced fairly for all nonprofit partners. Additionally, it might be difficult for a nonprofit partner to transition to independent services when it becomes too large to comfortably utilize the joint office services.
8. Confederation Model
The best example of the nonprofit confederation model collaborative is the United States of America. Individual states operate separately but are an integral part of a federal whole. The umbrella organization exists to provide services, coordination, and other support to each member.
A large group of nonprofits often exist as a confederation of nonprofits that come together under an umbrella organization that exists to provide services, coordination, and other support to each member nonprofit. Each member nonprofit operates independently to provide programs and services in its own location. Examples of this model are the United Way, The National Association of Free & Charitable Clinics, Boys and Girls Clubs, and the YMCA. While some of these are huge national or international organizations, groups of smaller nonprofits can also form a confederate model of collaboration.
This model brings similar organizations together to form a network of service delivery in different communities while drawing support from a centralized umbrella organization. Having the umbrella organization provides more branding and exposure to issues. It also helps the individual nonprofits to increase its programs and services through the sharing of resources. A few challenges of the model are making sure that the interests of the individual nonprofits are sufficiently represented in the top-level organization and balancing the autonomy of individual nonprofits while being under the authority of the umbrella organization.
Working collaboratively can be one of the most important concepts for nonprofit leaders to consider as competition for nonprofit funding, visibility and resources intensifies. This series of articles on collaboration models for nonprofits are meant to get you thinking about how you might expand the services of your nonprofit by working with others to meet your goals. Feel free to comment below if you have any thoughts or questions about nonprofit collaborations.
Information in this article was taken from Models of Collaboration: Nonprofit Organizations Working Together. The Collaboration Prize, ASU Lodestar Center, 2009. h
George N. Root, III. Advantages and Disadvantages of Collaboration Between Businesses.
Joan Garry Consulting Blog (Podcast) Ep 89: Nonprofit Partnerships, Mergers, and Acquisitions (with Wendy Foster).