This the second in a series of articles on building collaborations in the nonprofit community. See Article 1 here.
Managing your nonprofit in an era where there seems to be increased competition for charitable giving can be challenging, to say the least. For some nonprofits, working in a nonprofit collaboration model with other organizations may provide much-needed inspiration and support to unite their common business purposes and advance them to the next level. Whether the idea of working with another nonprofit starts with the board, staff members, stakeholders or donors, the options listed below provide some nonprofit collaboration models to possibly make that happen.
Some research studies have shown eight different models of nonprofit collaboration. This article describes the four of those methods. As you read through the pros and cons of each model, you may recognize a scenario that will fit your nonprofit strategy — the advantage being that nonprofit collaboration is not a one-size-fits-all concept, but can be uniquely tailored to the specific characteristics of organizations that want to work together.
Fully Integrated Merger
Emerging as the most widely-used option, this nonprofit collaboration model fully integrates the operations and missions of two or more organizations. One organization typically merges with another, allowing the corporate status and charitable exemption of one of the partners to remain intact. Or the partner nonprofits can agree to create a newly formed single organization as well.
This model works when there’s a true overlap in the missions of both organizations as well as similarities in programs and services. It’s an effective model to limit the duplication of services in the community. The benefits include increased efficiency in program delivery and greater access to resources. Challenges can include problems with bringing together two or more organizations with different histories and cultures along with the task of creating a new leadership and board structure.
Partially Integrated Merger
This model allows for a merger of two organizations while allowing each to retain their individual brand. The defining characteristics of each nonprofit are maintained, allowing the strategic advantages of both organizations to stay in place.
This nonprofit collaboration model works when a stronger or larger organization provides support to a less developed or smaller organization with the same or similar customer base and services. The smaller partner will see increased resources, stability and capacity, and in exchange they can help augment the amount and range of services that the larger partner currently offers. The biggest advantage of this model is that the community will see less competition and overlapping of services, but there’s a risk that the larger partner could overshadow the identity of the smaller organization and the merger could appear to be a takeover rather than a partnership.
Joint Program Office
A merger may not fit the needs of two organizations that have similar missions. However, if there’s an overlap in some programs or services, creating a joint program office model could combine one or more similar programs offered by each nonprofit. The goal would be to strengthen the efforts of that particular program for both organizations.
This model works when the organizations have programs and services that are similar but not exactly the same. It can result in a more efficient use of resources while allowing the collaborators to retain their independence. A challenge could be figuring out how to share program staff from each nonprofit and developing clear rules about program fundraising, strategic direction, and operating expenses.
Joint Partnership with Affiliated Programing
In this model, nonprofit collaboration results when multiple nonprofits establish a partnership to share programs or delivery of services, allowing them to maximize their complementary strengths.
This model works when two or more organizations have a shared mission but don’t provide the same services. This can result in a more efficient use of community resources, less fragmentation of services, and the ability to provide more services to a broader group of clients. However, it can be quite a challenge to determine the degree of credit each partner can claim for the outcomes when reporting to their separate and shared stakeholders.
Did you find some new ideas in these four nonprofit collaboration models? What about a combination of models? Next time we’ll explore four additional models of collaboration for nonprofit organizations.
Information in this article was taken from Models of Collaboration: Nonprofit Organizations Working Together. The Collaboration Prize.