Giving Compass' Take:

• More foundations are starting to create pooled-funding initiatives to build capacity for nonprofit organizations so that collaboration can increase resiliency and nonprofit effectiveness. 

• How can individual donors get involved in pooled funding to help nonprofits? 

• Learn more about innovating the sector with nonprofit collaboration. 

In the social sector, it has become almost a cliché to say that no organization can go it alone. The scale of the issues that nonprofits are tackling—climate change, homelessness, racial justice, income inequality—feels too big for any one nonprofit or funder. And the scale of the impact these organizations hope to achieve—to change systems, not just symptoms—can be just as overwhelming.

This is why nonprofit collaboration has become an increasingly important social change tool—one that is needed now more than ever to address the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic and recession. But working with other organizations—whether in a loose affiliate network or movement, or in a more structured partnership or merger—requires a commensurate growth in collaboration capacity. To execute a sustained collaboration like a partnership, merger, or shared service arrangement, nonprofits need help. In the for-profit world, companies wouldn’t think twice about hiring outside legal, financial, and logistical specialists to work with them. But in the nonprofit world, fewer financial incentives for collaboration exist, hiring experts is less common, and funders rarely invest in this kind of capacity building.

“A sustained collaboration is not business as usual, so why wouldn’t funders provide support to nonprofits to hire outside help?” asks Nadya Shmavonian, a partner with SeaChange Capital Partners and director of the Nonprofit Repositioning Fund, a regional effort to fund long-term collaborations among nonprofits in the Philadelphia area. “The work of collaboration can be utterly transformative in terms of impact.”

Fortunately, more foundations have begun following in the footsteps of the Lodestar Foundation, which has funded this sort of capacity building since 1999. More than 100 local foundations have created pooled-funding initiatives in seven communities and are now launching the Sustained Collaboration Network (SCN) to share their insights and build this field.

Read the full article about capacity for sustained collaboration by Heather McLeod Grant, Kate Wilkinson & Mickey Butts at Stanford Social Innovation Review.