Nonprofit Collaboration: The Foundation of Community Building 


Nonprofit collaboration is a tried-and-true method of strengthening your organization’s position in your community. By reaching out and solidifying partnerships, you open up your organization to unlimited potential. 

While it may seem intimidating to let someone play such a significant role in your initiative, it is an important step on the path to leading successful fundraising events or offering targeted programming for your service population.  

Nonprofit collaboration is foundational to increasing your potential donor pool, forging strong bonds with community pillars, and serving your own target population in unique and creative ways.  

What Nonprofit Collaboration Really Means 

Nonprofit collaboration is bringing together individuals or companies with highly targeted skillsets to work on the advancement of a project. The entities pool their resources, personnel, property, or skills to allow for a more comprehensive experience for the fundraising initiative or program facilitation.  

As nonprofits begin to increase the scope of their projects, partnerships become essential. By allowing team members to focus on what they do best, you end up with higher-quality results. Some of the best fundraising initiatives in history have seen success after the players branched out and embraced the concept of partnership.  

Nonprofit collaboration can help your organization excel in ways that it could not when you were just dividing work up among members of an already overworked team. By collaborating with specialists or other organizations that bring different resources to the table, you can expand your reach, maintain interest in the project, and form greater interpersonal connections. 

Joint efforts are an excellent way to help your team members grow. By allowing them to work side by side with other experts in the field, they can learn new things and enhance their perspectives. Mentorship is difficult to find, and a partnership like this gives your team opportunities to sharpen their skills.  

How Nonprofit Collaboration Leads to Great Ideas  

Bringing organizations together towards a shared mission is beneficial for both parties. The process strengthens the bond between the nonprofits and helps them present a united front to the public. When two nonprofits collaborate, they pool donors from both sides and get the attention of a larger audience.  

When you combine the experiences, backgrounds, and creative power of two or more organizations, you open your organization and team to learning opportunities, mentorship, and the development of leadership skills.  

Sometimes, when your own team is feeling uninspired or defeated, a little collaboration is all it takes to get the ideas rolling and projects planned.  

A partnership can help an organization cultivate donations. Major gift officers can use the opportunity to seek further donations by explaining how a specific project will be influenced by their contributions.  

Why Nonprofit Collaboration Matters 

A nonprofit collaboration often leads to new ideas that can help strengthen services for the community. Providing new programming in a new space is a great way to establish prominence within the community. Drawing on the skills, services, and resources of collaborating partners is a surefire way to refresh how the public sees your organization.  

When several organizations in a community come together for a project or specific fundraising effort, it lends legitimacy to the call to action. The community is also more likely to take greater notice if there are several organizations calling for the same thing.  

When nonprofit collaboration supports charity initiatives, it amplifies the voice of advocacy. Especially when partnering with a well-known entity, a well-planned campaign can go viral or attract the attention of high-profile influencers. Part of what makes nonprofit collaboration so effective is that the partners get to lean into each other’s already-established reputations.  

When for-profit businesses are involved, they can use any donations or resources as charitable donations at tax time. This benefits both the nonprofit and the business.   

Avoiding the Pitfalls of Nonprofit Collaboration 

Nonprofit collaboration is not always sunshine and roses. There are times when the partnership doesn’t turn out to be as positive as planned.  

When working with other organizations, there must always be a mutual benefit for each party. Since board oversight is likely, it is essential that the players identify shared goals and values from the onset. Any partnerships or projects must support the underlying mission of each board of directors and must provide benefits to their target populations.  

There is always a risk of stepping on each other’s toes, or of some members of the partnership not holding up their end of the deal. That’s why it is vital that there are clear rules and expectations for the partnership and an agreement about what defines success and failure.  

By digging down to the gritty details of the project and enlisting a project manager, you can increase the likelihood of success. Communication is key in any interpersonal interaction, and nonprofit collaborations are no different. 

If you see that communication is breaking down over certain aspects of the project, your project manager should take the reins and help open the lines of communication.  

A clear plan, a timeline, and assigned roles are fundamental to the success of any nonprofit collaboration, so taking the time to start off on the right foot is time well spent. Setting expectations from the get-go allows you to circle back if things go wrong and re-address the issues based on your prior agreement.  

Ways to Collaborate 

A survey conducted by the Bridgespan Group in 2014 confirmed that partnerships are extremely popular in the nonprofit world. They defined four approaches that 91% of nonprofits are utilizing when working with other organizations: associations, joint programs, shared support functions, and mergers.  

Of these, joint programs were the most popular, with nearly 80% of survey participants selecting this as their favorite type of nonprofit collaboration. Participants also ranked “identifying potential partners” as one of the greatest challenges when looking to collaborate with other nonprofits. 

Case Study: No Hungry Kid and Uber 

Of course, partnerships do not have to be with other nonprofit organizations. There are many successful non-profit/for-profit partnerships, and the benefits of this type of relationship are endless. Partnering with a for-profit company can increase visibility, help grow your volunteer pool, and allow access to funds and skills that may help with a successful social media campaign.  

One example of a successful partnership was that of Uber and No Kid Hungry. They partnered on a fundraising campaign in which Uber users were prompted to donate $5 after their ride, providing an innovative way to collect donations. 

This initiative significantly increased public awareness of No Kid Hungry, it helped run a successful social media campaign, and it raised enough money for 5 million meals in just four days 

Nonprofit Collaboration for Charitable Sustainability 

Since most organizations believe in the power of nonprofit collaboration, the question must be, “Why isn’t it happening more?” Identifying barriers to partnerships in the sector can help increase the number of successful projects developed through this kind of collaboration.  

While it may be daunting to take on a project with many moving parts and people, pooling the skills that are available from various organizations whose missions align with yours makes the most sense.  

Partnerships are wise financially as well. Cutting down on administrative costs, having more space for programming, and getting a social-media boost from other partners are all quality benefits for any organization.  

Jumping into your first nonprofit collaboration may seem like a big undertaking, but your organization is sure to reap the benefits of joining with the skillsets and resources of others and working with them toward shared goals.  

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