Collaborating by Example

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October 9, 2015; Bucks County Courier Times

Over the past decade, the nonprofit sector has grown significantly, enhancing opportunities for increased service delivery and community improvement. However, with this increased growth comes challenges, as the smaller nonprofits are not always in the best position to manage administrative functions while providing essential service delivery. A solution previously addressed by NPQ is the concept of collaboration, which can yield benefits from shared services to leadership development. Jumping on this trend is the Nonprofit Repositioning Fund administered by Philanthropy Network Greater Philadelphia. The Fund is described as a “regional effort to encourage and support formal, long-term collaborations between and among nonprofit organizations.” These partnerships can range from technical assistance to programmatic partnerships and administrative consolidations.

While other shared service concepts were organized among agencies or around one specific type of shared service, the Nonprofit Repositioning Fund is managed by a local membership association with financial disbursements made through the Philadelphia Foundation. The Fund aims to eliminate duplication of effort, enhance sector leadership, and allocate resources more efficiently within the community. Eight funders united to create a pooled fund, theorizing that they could make a greater impact united than apart. Interestingly, the funders are leading by example in collaborating first, to promote overall sector collaboration. Funding is centered on three types of areas: seed awards, exploratory grants, and implementation grants.

As we are sure these funders know, collaboration works best not when it occurs because it is incentivized by money but when it organically emerges out of a combination of trust and mutual interest between organizations and their constituencies. These kinds of collaborations among funders, therefore, can be at once a problem and a gift. They can support a top down vision of the funders or the bottom up longings or organizations to do more and better and these two paradigms are somewhat different.—Shannon Anglero and Ruth McCambridge