February 9, 2013; Source: Forbes.com
The idea that nonprofit organizations can benefit from collaboration is not new, but it is always worth repeating. Geri Stengel’s recent article on Forbes.com reiterates this point.
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Stengel argues that collaboration among nonprofits leads to at least five distinct benefits. These include cost savings through shared infrastructure, strengthened programs, improved efficiencies, enhanced leadership development, and enhanced value propositions for both organizations through taking advantage of complementary skills and abilities.
The article refers to a specific collaboration in Chicago between two youth-serving agencies, Chicago Youth Centers and Family Focus. By sharing administrative functions, CYC and Family Focus saved a significant amount of money, provided a greater continuum of care, and found themselves better able to reach clients.
The Forbes.com article can be contrasted with NPQ’s report from March of this year concerning a study from Fairfield, Connecticut. Stengel stresses cost savings as one of the benefits of administrative partnership. However, the Fairfield study suggests that for other types of collaboration, particularly mergers, the biggest rewards were seen in enhanced programs and services, rather than cost savings.
Stengel’s ideas about leadership development are noteworthy; she suggests that simply by going through the process of developing a collaboration, the staffs of both organizations learn leadership skills that have become very important in these increasingly challenging economic times for nonprofits. This benefit of collaboration might be worth more study.—Rob Meiksins