Since its inception almost 17 years ago, The Lodestar Foundation has supported nonprofits in their efforts to both explore the feasibility of creating long-term collaborations and to create such collaborations. Over the years, I have learned several important lessons from our work.
First, it doesn’t take a lot of money to support a collaboration, and the leverage factor is exponential—a small grant usually has outsized impact.
Second, when thoughtful, collaboration is a strategic way to build organizational capacity and to maximize impact. Teaming up with the right partner can lead to enhanced programming, expanded geographic scope, and stronger administrative stability.
Third, collaboration is a time-consuming and difficult process, requiring at least one champion (most often an executive director or a board member) who understands that focusing on mission is more important than sustaining a specific entity and that maximizing impact may necessitate changing organizational structures.
Finally, I have learned that funders can greatly enhance the collaboration process by convening nonprofits to help them develop trusting relationships; funding collaboration expenses (either individually or through community-based funder collaborative established for that purpose); maintaining (or increasing) programmatic funding of nonprofits that choose to collaborate; and supporting efforts to educate the sector about the benefits of collaboration as a way to build capacity and maximize impact.