Charities Need Better Collaboration for Impact - Report
29 January 2013 at 8:58 am
A new UK report by New Philanthropy Capital (NPC) and Impetus Trust has found many charities are not prepared for the challenges that accompany partnerships resulting in collaborations failing, draining resources and potentially damaging a charity’s reputation.
The report says it has identified four preconditions for success often overlooked by charities seeking to collaborate to deliver public services.
Collaborating for Impact says charities and government commissioners increasingly see collaboration as a way to access new funding, grow and improve services. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy. To avoid the risks, it says charities need to understand what makes collaboration a success.
Collaborating for Impact identifies four factors that it says need to be understood and agreed by all parties in order for a collaboration to succeed:
(1) Keeping the focus on beneficiaries: any collaboration should fit clearly into the charities’ strategy on getting the best possible outcomes for the people that they exist to help.
(2) Understanding the financial implications: as agreements and contracts have grown in complexity charities need to invest in understanding their costs and cash-flow to ensure that collaboration is viable and finances will not put a strain on the partnership.
(3) Understanding and demonstrating impact: evidence of impact attracts potential partners and offers reassurance around the quality of organisations’ work.
(4) Treating organisational culture as key to success: certain charity habits—such as the tendency to fiercely defend independence—can be a barrier to effective collaboration. Here trust is key, and the focus on beneficiaries should cut through cultural concerns over credit, competition and sovereignty.
The report also contains advice for government commissioners, urging them to encourage collaborations where the conditions are right. It says this can be done by creating a supportive environment, bringing charities together, ensuring tendering processes give charities sufficient time to work through the success factors above before committing to a collaboration, and setting a fair price for the work that allows charities to make a margin and grow.
‘Many of the most complex social problems in the UK today—such as homelessness and the rehabilitation of offenders—cannot be solved by services that work in isolation,” the Chief Executive of Impetus Trust, Daniela Barone Soares said.
“Our experience has shown though that small- and medium- sized charities are often the ones coming up with the most innovative solutions to social problems. If done right, collaborations can be a relatively quick and effective way to grow these solutions and bring impactful services to a greater number of people.”
Dan Corry, the Chief Executive of NPC, said collaboration is often essential if charities are to achieve their aims and deliver services to the people they exist to support – be that collaboration with other charities, a public body or even a private company.
“It is no walk in the park however, and this report underlines the importance of ensuring that any partnerships start with shared aims and a cultural match, for without that it will all end in tears.
“Collaboration is no panacea but when we get it right the benefits can be felt throughout the sector, and we can really forge ahead to do what we all exist to do—improve the lives of those in need, and have the biggest positive impact we can.
“Successful collaborations require an investment of time and money, but the potential results make it worthwhile.”