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Collaboration is Key: How charities can work together in partnership

I have always felt that collaboration can be extremely valuable for charities, particularly smaller ones, but it is something I don’t feel we see enough evidence of. It can make charities more effective, but it also help increase impact. I am not alone in thinking this; monitoring reports have often referred to the need for more partnership working in the charity and public sectors. The benefits are also reported on, The Foundation for Social Improvement (FSI) has highlighted that collaboration can help to solve social problems and facilitate efficiency, growth and sustainability.

As a consultant, I work with several charities, and I am keen to look for ways that organisations can come together. I am so pleased to see this becoming a topic that more people are discussing and exploring.

Ben May, Charities Marketing Manager, at CAF, has written an interesting article entitled Five tips on how to work with other charities. Some of the areas covered in the article are the more typical areas of collaboration we see; informal signposting and joint funding bids, for example. He reports that “Research undertaken by FSI in 2016 found that two-third of small charities had reported some form of collaboration, with networking the most common form (90%). It identified four other types of joint working - strategic alliances, formal partnerships, joint ventures and mergers.”

There is clearly an appetite for charities to get together, and I enjoy playing a role in facilitating networking within the sector. In 2019 I co-founded the Shropshire Charity Networking Group, and I have recently become involved in the Shropshire Chamber of Commerce Charity and Not-for-Profit Partnership, which will be launching bi-monthly networking meetings, with the first taking place this month.

While this has been a topic that many of us have been thinking about for some time, the current pandemic has resulted in increased collaborative working between charities. The Small charities responding to COVID-19: Winter update by the Lloyds Bank Foundation reported that the urgency of COVID-19 collapsed many barriers between organisations, and unblocked new and more effective ways of working, with several charities citing improvements in partnership working during the crisis. It is interesting to hear what can be achieved within a quick time frame and that partnerships are coming together in an extremely timely manner, something that pre-covid may have taken months or years to establish and put into practice.

From my own experience, the examples I have seen of successful collaboration and partnership working have often been focused on project work, were charities come together who support a similar group of beneficiaries. This is, of course the most natural alliance, and it makes sense. What I am keen to see more of, and to get involved in, is charities coming together to work together on fundraising. Joint fundraising events are gaining popularity, and this too has gained momentum during the pandemic. In September 2020, 20 cancer charities came together to launch a collaborative fundraising campaign 20 For 20: Cancer doesn’t stop for covid, inspired by the 2.6 Challenge, which raised more than £11m for charities last spring. On a local level, in Shropshire, the Shropshire Virtual Show saw five charities come together, who had not previously worked in collaboration to join and pool their resources to create a new virtual fundraiser. In this case these charities did not necessarily have the same groups of beneficiaries, but they were able to utilise their skills and resources to deliver a joint event.

One thing to note if you are looking to work together with another charity is the Charity Comission's guidance, which can be found here!

Working together is just one thing I think the sector can aim to continue in a post-covid world/as things start to get a little more back to 'normal'. I think there can be more face-to-face fundraising events and activities delivered in collaboration, as well as virtually. It was something I spoke about recently on the InTune Radio Shropshire Love Show and is something I continue to actively think about. Joint events would also create fantastic opportunities for sole fundraisers at small organisations to work alongside others and have an even bigger impact. It will be interesting to see if covid has made us think more about collaborative working and fundraising, in particular, not just in the short term, but in the longer term too.

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