April 27, 2011; Source: Boston Globe | To merge or not to merge isn't always the question for nonprofits doing similar work and trying to stretch their limited resources. Another option is to form partnerships that allow groups to jointly serve the same clients while maintaining their separate organizational identities.

That's an approach being pursued in Boston through the $1.7 million Catalyst Fund for Nonprofits, a project of the Nonprofit Finance Fund. Established last September by the Boston Foundation, Boston LISC, the Hyams Foundation, and United Way of Massachusetts, the fund enables local nonprofits to explore how they can team up "and really improve the quality of life here in Boston," said Peter Kramer, the fund's manager.

For example a $20,000 grant from the Catalyst Fund is underwriting the creation of the Family Economic Center. The center will enable the Chelsea Neighborhood Developers, Centro Latino, Bunker Hill Community College, and Metro Credit Union to offer financial and career services in a single location. This will be a boon for clients that need to access different kinds of help but now won't have to criss-cross Boston going from one agency to another.

Another Catalyst Fund project is a feasibility study to determine if the Big Sister Association of Greater Boston and Girls’ LEAP Self-Defense can "create something that is even more valuable than what we can do as individual organizations," said Deborah Re, chief executive of the Big Sister Association. The Globe also reports that the Allston Brighton Community Development Corporation and Urban Edge, which is based in Roxbury, is set to draft a business plan to combine their asset management operations.—Bruce Trachtenberg