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WHAT

Understanding Sustained Collaboration

We are a network of nonprofit funders and intermediaries committed to advancing nonprofit impact through sustained collaboration. Think of “Sustained Collaboration” as the umbrella that covers a variety of long-lasting strategic partnerships that change the business model of two or more nonprofit organizations. It goes beyond short-term collaborations – it’s about sharing resources, expertise and goals to better achieve missions and improve community outcomes for the long term. Whether it’s executive transition, loss of funding, policy changes, scaling up quickly, jointly advocating with a peer organization or expanding to meet growing community needs, sustained collaboration is an option to consider.

What can we do together?

Great things happen when we make strengths-based, strategic, collaborative decisions. The nonprofits we have partnered with have been creative and powerful drivers of change. Here are just a few of the strategies we’ve helped nonprofit leaders to explore and implement:

  • Co-locations
  • Shared staffing
  • Back-office consolidation
  • Coalitions
  • Joint-venue partnerships
  • Parent-subsidiary relationships
  • Asset transfers
  • Mergers
Sustained Collaboration Network

Collaborations Can Take Many Forms

Alliances and Networks

Coalitions

A coalition is a temporary alliance of distinct parties, organizations, or states for joint action to achieve a common goal. Coalitions often form to address specific issues and may dissolve once the objective is met.

Example: Multiple environmental organizations forming a coalition to lobby for climate change legislation.

Collaborative

In a collaborative partnership, two or more organizations work together on a project or initiative, sharing resources, knowledge, and expertise. Unlike a coalition, a collaborative partnership is usually more integrated and may involve shared responsibilities and decision-making.

Example: A tech company and a healthcare provider collaborating to develop a telehealth platform.

Collective Impact Effort

Collective impact is a structured form of collaboration where multiple organizations come together to solve a specific social issue. This approach usually involves a “backbone” organization that coordinates the efforts and measures the impact.

Example: Schools, local government, and non-profits coming together to improve literacy rates in a community, coordinated by a backbone organization.

Movements

Movements are large, often informal, groupings of individuals or organizations that aim to facilitate societal change. Unlike other forms of partnerships, movements are often less structured and can be driven by grassroots efforts.

Example: The Black Lives Matter movement, which involves various organizations and individuals advocating for racial justice.

Shared Service Arrangements

Co-location

Co-location involves two or more organizations sharing the same physical space to reduce costs and improve service delivery. This arrangement allows for easy sharing of resources but usually doesn’t involve any deeper level of integration.

Example: A community center that houses a food bank, a health clinic, and an employment agency all under one roof.

Shared Staffing

In a shared staffing model, an organization can share its competencies with an affiliate organization through employee leasing or loan agreements whereby employees work for multiple organizations, dividing their time and expertise between them. This can help reduce costs and increase efficiency for all involved parties and share talents across organizations.

Example: An organization lacking experience in grant compliance requirements contracts with a partner organization that has this in-house expertise in order to borrow staff time and benefit from their expertise.

Back Office Consolidation

Back office consolidation involves organizations sharing administrative functions like HR, accounting, or IT services to reduce overhead and improve efficiency. Each organization remains independent but benefits from shared services.

Example: Several small organizations sharing the same accounting function (both staffing and software systems) to meet their financial administrative needs with greater economies of scale.

Fiscal Sponsorship

In a fiscal sponsorship, a nonprofit organization offers its legal and tax-exempt status to groups—often smaller, less-established entities—engaged in activities related to the sponsor’s mission. This allows the smaller group to focus on its programmatic activities.

Example: A well-established animal welfare organization acting as a fiscal sponsor for a smaller group focused on local pet adoption.

Integrated Organizations

Joint Venture Partnership

A joint venture is a business arrangement where two or more organizations create a new entity to pursue a specific project or business activity. Each partner contributes assets and shares risks and rewards.

Example: A group of health clinics creates a joint venture to launch a care transformation program and decrease hospitalization rates.

Parent-Subsidiary Relationship

In this arrangement, one organization (the parent) owns a majority stake in another organization (the subsidiary). The parent company has control over the subsidiary but each remains a separate legal entity.

Example: A larger child welfare agency absorbs a smaller, community-based agency to achieve greater administrative efficiencies and expand their program offerings and cultural competency, while maintaining the independent brand and identity of the smaller agency.

Asset Transfer

Asset transfer involves the transfer of assets—like property, equipment, or intellectual property—from one organization to another. This can be part of a merger, acquisition, or other restructuring.

Example: A housing developer lacking the financial reserves to maintain and subsidize its properties, transfers properties and their accompanying contracts to other housing providers.

Merger

A merger occurs when two or more organizations combine to form a single new entity. This is often done to expand reach, reduce competition, or achieve greater efficiency.

Example: Two peer youth development organizations merge during an executive transition, as a means of achieving a smooth succession plan, strengthen fundraising capacity, and achieve administrative efficiency.

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WHY

Case for Collaboration

Nonprofit leaders have a tremendous responsibility to keep their organization strong while also being entrusted with ensuring that the organization puts its core purpose and those who depend on it first. We have seen how strategic networks, partnerships, and integrated models can be a powerful lever for impact within the nonprofit sector.

We know that community impact can be magnified by well-planned and sustained collaborative agreements. When nonprofit leaders are given the funding and space to explore alignment and envision creative solutions, organizations can move past the boundaries of their current capacity and build new possibilities.