• Collaboration Type: Merger
  • Region: ATIF
  • Social Issue: Health and wellness
  • Size of Organizations: < $500K
  • BIPOC Leaders: No
  • Successful: A little

Beyond Foundation explored a wide range of collaborations to expand its footprint and impact. In the same year, it completed a merger and signed a fiscal sponsorship agreement with two different organizations. Through sustained collaboration, it revitalized its programs and expanded its reach to new stakeholders.

Best Practices for social impact organizations:

  1. Ensure that growth accounts for both program costs and increased administrative costs.
  2. Build solid relationships between organizational leaders

Outcomes:

  1. More contacts with participants through merging with social enterprise

Best Practices for Funders:

  1. Consider funding education sessions so that the board and staff understand the rewards and risks associated with different types of collaboration.
  2. Encourage grantees to consider the revenue streams that will make growth sustainable.

In 2020, Daniela Diamente became the new interim executive director of the Beyond Foundation. Beyond is “dedicated to improving the health and well-being” of Tucson, Arizona. It has four ways it promotes physical and mental health: “exploring nature, good nutrition, physical movement, and community connections.” When she did the initial assessment of the organization, she recognized that their programming was relatively limited. As summarized in their seed grant report to Arizona Together for Impact, “Beyond was struggling with its organizational identity, future, and vision.”

When a nonprofit finds itself in this position, they have a crucial decision: Will it build a new set of programs and strategies? Or will they acquire those programs through sustained collaboration? Beyond Foundation decided to explore sustained collaboration because of its size and small capacity.

The Seed Grant

In 2021, Beyond Foundation received a seed grant of $2500 from the Arizona Together, a member of the Sustained Collaboration Network. According to Nora Hannah of the Arizona Together Fund, the seed grant’s goal is to learn: “How do you find a partner? What is the partnership going to look like? It’s intended to inform the board about all that structure.”

Beyond Foundation hired Laura Alexander of Alexander-Carrillo Consulting. “Laura presented to the board the different kinds of partnerships and collaborations that exist,” according to Diamente. The seed grant turned out to be formative for the Beyond Foundation. They considered three potential partners as part of those early conversations. They rejected one merger and pursued an asset transfer and fiscal sponsorship. The seed grant helped them to consider those options along “the scale of different levels of collaboration.” Beyond Foundation applied and received a $7500 implementation grant from Arizona Together for Impact to pursue the asset transfer and fiscal sponsorship.

The Asset Transfer

Beyond Foundation decided to pursue an asset transfer with the El Rio Community Health Center who housed Meet Me at Maynard, a weekly walking/fitness meetup of 800 people a month. The Founder, Jannie Cox, was looking to retire from her role.

They again contracted with Alexander to perform the due diligence. She conducted interviews, reviewed documents, and facilitated the board’s deliberations. An asset transfer is simpler than a merger, because one party sells or transfers the assets to another party. Both entities remain in existence after the transfer, though the transferring organization can then dissolve itself. A key advantage is that all the assets and liabilities do not have to transfer, as with a merger. For Beyond Foundation and Meet Me at Maynard, the asset transfer was between the El Rio Community Health Center, where the Meet Me at Maynards programs were located, and Beyond Foundation. The entire process took less than a year and was accomplished in a one-page Memorandum of Understanding in March of 2021.

Diamente recognized that having a consultant was crucial. She reflected that “having a third party come in with experience in [sustained collaboration], and talk from a neutral place is a very, very healthy thing. As much as Jannie and I are friendly, we didn’t know the inner workings of the kinds of questions that needed to be asked to sort things through.”

Jannie Cox, the founder of Meet Me at Maynards, joined the board of Beyond Foundation. She’s been pleased with the transition. While this arrangement is uncommon, it has worked well for Beyond Foundation. Cox explained, “Daniela has hired someone to run\ Meet Me at Maynards, and they operate it separately. She’s totally in charge of it, but I advise about the event.” Because of that continuity, Meet Me at Maynards has continued operating much like before the asset transfer.

The benefits of the asset transfer have been small but tangible for Beyond Foundation. Before the transfer, the organization had a yearly budget of $133,000, and post-transfer its budget is $177,000. However, the appeal of the transfer was not the increased budget. Instead, it was the opportunity to expand Beyond Foundation’s offerings and marketing to a new group of participants.

Diamente reported that the asset transfer had given the entire organization a “lift of energy” through the weekly activity of Meet Me at Maynards. “We were able to listen and re-energize other programs because of that. For example, we had a bigger pool of people to market our hiking program.”

The Fiscal Sponsorship

Beyond Foundation pursued a fiscal sponsorship with another partner, Activate Tucson.

Activate Tucson is a small, volunteer-run group that advocates for policies that make the Greater Tucson area “a healthier place to live, work, and play.” The group had previously been fiscally sponsored by another organization but sought a new home because of a grant opportunity.

Annemarie Medina of Activate Tucson explained,

“We had this opportunity to partner with Tufts University and knew funding was coming in. The logical thing was to try and find a nonprofit that would be our fiscal agent … Daniela was very generous and said that Beyond was looking at expanding what they were doing and would love to partner with us to see how this works if they act as a fiscal agent for these collaborations that are not nonprofits.”

The decision to choose fiscal sponsorship versus asset transfer, according to Diamente, is about who wants to control what.

“Everyone was comfortable with the Meet Me at Maynard staff being run by me and Beyond Foundation as the right permanent home for it. I didn’t want to take over those activities for Activate Tucson. I didn’t want to take over those duties and those decisions. I’m a participant. I could take responsibility for signing checks when the group has agreed upon expenses, but that’s it. So, I think it comes down to who wants to have responsibility and decision-making power over different things.”

Overall, the fiscal sponsorship has gone well. Activate Tucson was able to partner with Tufts University for the three-year grant. The grant allowed them to both offer a stress reduction program in and create a marketing campaign to increase tax credit donations to underserved schools. With a small fiscal sponsorship fee, Beyond Foundation could cover its costs. But more than that, it allowed Beyond Foundation to further its mission and increase its reach.