Collaboration works when the whole is more than the parts (#34 of 100 Things We’ve Learned)

In the national rush to accelerate nonprofit collaboration and consolidation, we shouldn’t lose sight of the goal.

At the end of the day, nonprofit collaborations, joint ventures, mergers, or whatever should produce a better result for their community than what any individual organization might achieve working alone.

A few benefits:

  • Fiscal sponsorship enables a group to focus on the challenges or needs in its community — the reason it was started —  without having to staff finance or payroll departments. In turn, the fiscal sponsor enables valuable mission-related programs to flourish while it puts its excess administrative capacity to better use and gains the additional revenue from the small fee it charges to provide these services.
  • Each member of an advocacy coalition realizes the political power of a larger group, or benefits from working with more knowledgeable partners, or  doesn’t need to repeat the mistakes their colleagues have made. And often the coalition itself becomes attractive to funders who might have been out of reach, leveraging new resources for its members to advance their missions.
  • In the Chattanooga museums collaboration I wrote about in an earlier blog  post, the smaller museums gained from the administrative support and the staff expertise of the largest among them. The staff of the largest museum which was providing shared services found their jobs more interesting. And all the museums and the community gained by creating a lively waterfront populated with thriving, well-managed cultural resources.

When collaboration achieves its goal, the whole adds up to much more than just a simple sum of the parts.

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