The Art of Collaboration for the Non-Profit

Adrianne Geiger Dumond

Adrianne Geiger Dumond

The State of the Non-Profit ‘Business’ in the U.S.

Even though more businesses closed than opened in 2013, non-profits continued to number. According to The Foundation Center,  U.S. Foundations’ giving reached an estimated $50.9 Billion in 2012, despite a slowing economy, and anticipated a moderate increase in 2013. What are the growing trends to ensure that these donated dollars are well spent?

Collaboration for Collective Impact.

As quoted previously from the Stanford Social Innovation Review, “large scale social change comes from better cross-sector coordination rather than from the isolated intervention of individual organizations.” Three collaborative efforts with which I am familiar highlight the shift from funding individual non-profits to the consideration for community impact.

The United Way of Orange County has a mission statement ‘Channeling Change: A Common Agenda for Collective Impact’. The strategic plans they will pursue up to 2024 include:

  • Fund Innovative and effective program
  • Advocate for program and policy improvemen
  • Collaborate to create Collective Impact
  •  Educate the broader Orange County community

Another successful effort is the Community Health Needs Assessment for North Orange County that was done by St. Jude’s Medical Center and other county health agencies. Findings of the assessment focused on access to medical care for the underserved, prevention and treatment of childhood obesity, and services to the homeless. North Orange County is a community of great wealth and poverty, with 50 plus large non-profits plus many more smaller agencies, that can be tapped for collaboration.

One of the most successful projects has been the Richman Project which was a neighborhood park used by drug dealers, homeless people and gangs. The neighborhood was fearful. Collaboration between the City of Fullerton, Fullerton School District, Orange County Human Relations, St. Jude’s Medical Center, and the Fullerton Collaborative brought stability to the community and much better use of the park. The Fullerton Collaborative consists of executive directors, school officials, church leaders, activists, and volunteers. Further information about this project may be found by contacting Mr. Barry Ross, Vice President of Healthy Communities, a Ministry of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange.

Another successful collaboration I am familiar with was by a smaller non-profit ($250,000 revenue/year) which survived a funding crisis by partnering with the local school district to run after school programs. They offered youth family programs, summer camps, tutoring. At one time they laid off staff, included in their short -term objectives a ‘plan for disaster; but survived by partnering with the school district.

Collaboration may be perceived as an ‘art’, requiring skilled, administrative leadership and great negotiation skills to blend the talents of various agencies. But it is a trend that will continue if we want to spend the $50 Billion effectively.

Author:  Adrianne Geiger DuMond, Executive Coaches of Orange County,