September 22, 2010; Source: Boston Globe | Conventional wisdom says there is strength in numbers, but when it comes to charities, too many is rarely a good thing. To encourage nonprofits that offer similar programs and services, but that compete with each for increasingly scarce dollars, a group of funders, led by the Boston Foundation, is creating a $1.7 million fund that will be used to help groups in New England work together, either as partners or by merging operations.

Other partners in the effort are the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, the Hyams Foundation, and the United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley. In addition to financial support, nonprofits will get help from consultants so they can do feasibility studies on best ways of combining operations. “What we’re looking to do is preserve or expand the impact these organizations have in their communities,’’ said William Pinakiewicz, New England director for the Nonprofit Finance Fund, which will manage the new Catalyst Fund for Nonprofits.

Elizabeth Smith, executive director of the Hyams Foundation, said that in past years nonprofits haven’t had a central source to go to, to help them with the various ways of collaborating. Instead, she said, interested groups “had to kind of go to each of us as individual funders and see if we’d be willing to support that. We figured it was just a much more effective way of helping organizations that are trying to figure out how to work together.’’

The new fund will initially support arts and culture, community development, human services, and youth development organizations. “I think there’s going to be a line at the door,’’ said Bill Walczak, chief executive of Codman Square Health Center and president of the Massachusetts Nonprofit Network. “I know there are nonprofits that have been looking at this idea for a while and thinking about how to approach it, but they don’t have the money.’’—Bruce Trachtenberg