You can’t hurry love… or collaborative fundraising
Collaborative fundraising takes time and trust. That’s what we heard over and again in our interviews with seven nonprofit executives in Rhode Island, Boston, Cleveland and Spokane, each of them successful collaborative fundraisers.
We looked into the topic at the prompting of our friends at New Roots Providence and presented our early findings at a New Roots workshop on January 19.
The short version of what we learned from our informants:
- Successful collaborations flow from a deep process of trust-building among the partners. The right partners may take years to self-select, discover their shared goals and commit to combined action.
- Detailed legal agreements help establish trust and smooth functioning by exploring and resolving the partners’ deepest worries in advance. (These also take time)
- At the same time, good partners must be ready to make commonsense adjustments to agreements when they create unfair or unproductive results for some partners.
- Long-term and permanent collaborations need to form an independent organization to fundraise and distribute revenues. (Another time-consuming process.)
- The collaborative case must promise more than the sum of its partners: new funders respond to a transformative vision.
- Truly successful collaborations can reach more and larger funders and generate more income at lower cost than the two partners could achieve separately.
Our cases covered five forms of joint fundraising: grants, workplace campaigns, events, capital campaigns, and, finally, our elusive ideal of truly integrated annual fundraising. We’ll tell you more about three very interesting cases in future posts:
- The YWCA and YMCA in Spokane, Washington created a fully integrated capital campaign to build new shared buildings in two locations.
- The Gordon Square Arts District in Cleveland, Ohio brought two theater companies together with a community development organization to build not just theaters, but a whole theater-oriented arts district with major economic benefits for the city.
- The Central Square Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts began by building new shared performance space for the the Nora Theater Company and the Underground Railway Theater. The partnership then went on to take on all fundraising, business and back office operations, leaving both groups free to focus on their artistic missions alone.
If you have had a good – or bad – experience with collaborative fundraising that you think could help others, please send me an email. We’d love to hear from you.