The social sector is facing a perfect storm. Demand for community services keeps rising, government funding is declining, more philanthropy is concentrated in fewer hands, and smaller donors are giving less. And this was before the C-19 pandemic and economic recession hit. An already dire situation has accelerated, featuring skyrocketing demand for social services coupled with falling revenue—leaving many nonprofits facing an uncertain future. As a result, demand for “sustained collaboration” has taken off, as nonprofits seek to combine resources and put mission impact ahead of organizational identities.
Over the past decade, more than 100 local foundations in seven communities have committed $20 million in capital and created pooled-funding initiatives to help local nonprofits pursue “a continuum of organizational strategies for structured collaboration that represent a long-term and permanent change to their business or operating models.” These strategies can take the form of mergers, joint ventures, partnerships, and other arrangements. Six local initiatives are now launching the national Sustained Collaboration Network (SCN) to develop best practices and share frameworks and tools that will benefit members and other communities or issue-based funders considering similar efforts.
The launch of this network couldn’t be more timely. In our new report, Building Capacity for Sustained Collaboration, readers will find stories from communities that have experimented with pooled funding models for supporting sustained collaboration, two case studies of local initiatives in Los Angeles and New York, and a list of emerging practices for other communities and funders seeking to emulate this approach. The time is ripe for funders and nonprofits to begin thinking beyond the immediate crisis and contemplate the structural reform needed to create a more sustainable, resilient sector that can maximize impact.