Last Word: The Opportunities of Collaboration

The Last Word from Betsy Weber, NESC President

As the economic downturn continues, nonprofits have come to realize that the comfortable levels of financing enjoyed previously are not returning. Their boards and management are starting to evaluate other options to diversify or bolster their revenues, cut costs or both.  Some are evaluating their programs to see which are essential to their clients, which may be redundant to services from other providers, or which may not be core to their missions.

All these are worthy of evaluation at periodic intervals anyway, but perhaps none more so than now. And NESC is busy assisting our clients with these necessary assessments.But we have been evaluating another area of activity to help our clients, and that is in the area of partnerships, collaborations and, yes, in some cases, mergers. For years big business has reviewed ways to reduce costs to make their operations more efficient and more profitable through outsourcing, streamlining, or merging some back office or manufacturing operations.

In many states, municipalities have been under pressure not to raise taxes, forcing many to evaluate how shared services or shared purchasing might help reduce overheads or costs. And now nonprofits are beginning to evaluate areas in which they might become more economically viable if they were to join efforts in some way with other nonprofits.

Funders to nonprofits are increasingly interested in encouraging collaborations on many levels and some like Sea Change Partners in New York are providing funding to nonprofits interested in evaluating specific opportunities (see accompanying article).  The Lodestar Foundation, in its efforts to encourage nonprofits to become more efficient, reduce the duplication of efforts and to maximize their impact, annually awards since 2008 The Collaboration Prize to identify and showcase exceptional nonprofit collaborations. The Foundation Center in New York maintains a database of almost 650 nonprofits that have been nominated for this national collaboration prize. And, finally, United Way NYC also offers grants to encourage collaboration among nonprofits.

To help our nonprofit clients understand more about the opportunities for collaboration and to introduce the evaluation process, NESC and CitiCorp are co-hosting a workshop on Strategic Collaborations on November 14th. That program will include an overview on collaborations and present some legal requirements and funding options. A panel of nonprofit leaders who have been through the experience will present some “lessons learned” from the process.  For additional details, please click here.

Our winter Newsletter will feature information and material on the importance of marketing and branding to nonprofits both to raise their profiles and to build awareness of their services and the good work that they do.

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About National Executive Service Corps

National Executive Service Corps is a nonprofit dedicated to empowering nonprofits since 1977.
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