Non-profit organizations in Los Angeles County, CA have a unique opportunity to make a lasting impact on their communities. With the second largest public education system in the country, and a population of 13% living at or below the poverty level, there is a great need for collaboration between non-profit organizations and other groups or individuals. In order to understand why and how non-profit organizations collaborate, thirty people from the U. S.
were interviewed to provide insight into the strategic intent and different approaches to collaboration in the non-profit sector. Collaboration is a way for non-profit organizations to leverage their own efforts to achieve a broader change in systems. This approach allows collaborating organizations to experiment with different solutions to a problem in search of social and systemic change, and to position their activities and efforts in relation to and in conjunction with other actors. Collective impact and network-based approaches are often used to guide these efforts. Collaboration usually involves a longer lasting and more generalized relationship between two (or more) organizations that results in a new structure and a shared mission. Partners pool or obtain resources together and share the results and rewards of their joint efforts.
Compared to cooperation and coordination, collaboration is less transactional and more transformational. The Industrial Employment Initiative (IEI) is an example of this type of collaboration, which was born out of the mutual desire of four organizations to do something about long-term unemployment in Australia. Social Ventures Australia provides expertise in fundraising, project management, relationship management and partnership brokering, while partners with service providers who have experience working with disadvantaged populations on the ground. The Providence Children and Youth Cabinet (PCYC) is another example of successful collaboration, bringing together more than seventy organizations to support comprehensive development pathways from crib to career for Rhode Island youth. The OpenGov Hub co-working space in the District of Columbia also allows the creation of economies of scale and shared resources for thirty open government organizations. When thinking about collaboration, non-profit organizations should always start with the why and then consider the different options of how in the spectrum of action.
Cooperation, coordination and collaboration are different approaches that serve different purposes, and each approach is appropriate for a given context. Ultimately, when nonprofit organizations combine their strengths, they can achieve great things. The best partnerships between businesses and nonprofit organizations require time and ongoing communication, engaging the organization in a way that makes it feel valued beyond a checkbook. Moving the needle requires concerted and collaborative action. To that end, nonprofit organizations must focus on how best to work together to create real and significant social impact.