Collaboration: The Nonprofit Trend

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January 30, 2015; Delaware State News


Organizations of all kinds use networks to get things done. Whether those relationships are more formal, as in supply chains and subcontracted services, or less so, as in some other cases, the lack of network optimization is very “last century” and very wasteful.

In that vein, the CenDel Foundation held a meeting this week with the goal of initiating a conversation among nonprofits who provide services around homelessness, crisis funding, medical care, and food access to low-income residents in Kent County, Delaware. The hope of bringing organizations together is to “understand what services each nonprofit is providing, identify potential gaps in service, and consider potential areas of collaboration.”

“There are things that we’re doing really well in Central Delaware, but there are things that we can do better,” Kathleen Hawkins, head of the Potter Trust committee for the CenDel Foundation, stated. “There are some items that are easier to accomplish in the short term and there are some big issue items.”

With approximately 1.5 million nonprofits in the United States—a number that has been increasing slightly—smaller nonprofits are at greater risk of closure due to the competitive nature of the funding pool. In order to combat a growing need for services with fewer resources, nonprofits and foundations across the United States are moving in the same direction as the CenDel Foundation.

In a September 2014, NPQ covered a story about seven foundations that had come together to provide a collaborative grantmaking process. The purpose was to really gather information from the community in which services were being provided to ensure that the field of nonprofit work was continuing to get stronger and grow.

This is not a new concept, however. NPQ published an article in regards to the options for outsourcing financial management in nonprofits. One of the options presented was “shared services,” which was described as:

“Two or more organizations can consolidate their financial or other administrative functions to increase efficiency. One of the parties may provide these services directly or they may be contracted to an independent third party or handled as a joint venture, which may mean setting up a separately incorporated entity.”

In addition to securing stability as a nonprofit, collaborations and linkages of many different kinds also prevent duplicate services leaving less room for several organizations focusing on the same resources in the same community.—Erin Lamb