By Jo DeBoltWednesday, February 27th, 2013
Earlier this month, we highlighted examples of philanthropic prizes directed at advancing collaboration among nonprofits. The creation of special purpose funds is another strategy funders are using to support nonprofits in exploring strategic alliances and restructuring.
When parents called upon autism organizations in Toledo to create a more integrated and easily navigated system, these organizations turned to the Strategic Alliance Partnership fund, a collaborative funding pool created by the Toledo Community Foundation, the Stranahan Foundation, and the United Way of Greater Toledo, which supported a planning process to define how they would work together. This led to the creation of the Toledo Regional Autism Network (TRAN), a formal collaborative of sixteen organizations involved in delivering services to those with autism, their families, and caregivers.
Other foundations have designated or set aside funds to a similar purpose. The Forbes Funds in Pittsburgh supports strategic restructuring through its Innovation Fund, and in New York the Dyson Foundation has committed resources through its Nonprofit Strategic Restructuring Initiative.
In some regions, foundations have pooled funds to support strategic partnerships. The Catalyst Fund in Boston, and the Community Catalyst Fund in North Carolina are two examples that have supported a range of mergers, administrative consolidations, and joint programming. Although many of these funds are open to all types of nonprofits, the California Catalyst Fund was created by the California HealthCare Foundation and Blue Shield of California Foundation to underwrite technical assistance for primary care clinics involved in restructuring through existing or new partnerships.
We have worked with several foundations that have launched strategic restructuring funds. Creating these funds offers a ready resource when organizations decide to move forward with exploration or negotiation of deeper partnerships. Their presence also signals that this is a strategy the foundations endorse.
While funds have been attractive, there are some foundations that have decided they want to take a more active role in encouraging partnerships in their community. These foundations have either individually or in collaboration with other funders launched major initiatives. We’ll describe some of these in our next and final installment in this three-part series.