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Collaboration is more important than ever

With constant funding challenges, it’s not surprising that currently the primary focus for most charities is income sustainability. And while most are reacting to this challenge by exploring ever more innovative fundraising methods, an increasing number are exploring collaboration with other charities. 

charity collab jigsaw

In the recent State of the Sector report which collected the opinions of around 400 charity leaders, the topic of collaboration between charities was a reoccurring theme. Many have already considered the idea and encouragingly: 52% of those asked—the top answer in the survey—said that they expect to be partnering with other charities more in three years’ time. Only 2% said they expected to collaborate less and in fact, 60% reported that they are already partnering with other charities. 

charity collab cut out people

In a recent survey of our own charity customers, we found a similar step-change increase in those considering collaboration, with 20% saying they were actively considering a merger.

How can charities steer through the risks involved in collaboration? 

Get backing 
One simple but important thing to remember for your client, is to seek the support of others as early as possible in the process. Gain feedback from beneficiaries, learn from other organisations that have dealt with similar challenges, and work with specialist professional advisors such as insurers and brokers.

Write it all down 
Your client should think carefully about their collaboration aims to achieve and who will do what is really important. So getting clear agreements upfront and in writing will help you do this and avoid fruitless partnerships. There are unlikely to be legal barriers but it is important to set out clearly which party has responsibility for staff and volunteers. Any collaboration agreement needs to protect each party’s interests and take into account risks to their assets and reputation, without incurring unreasonable administration costs or over-complicating the relationship. The process does not need to be drawn out or difficult, but putting things in writing could save a lot of pain down the road.

Make sure you're covered 
Uncertainty over responsibilities, as well as the type and extent of existing partners, can leave all parties vulnerable. From an insurance perspective, a lack of clarity on who is insured can lead to gaps in cover - it’s vital that they talk to you, their broker. You can help them identify any gaps in insurance cover and get the right solution in place.

Step up your support if the collaboration escalates 
If, ultimately, increased collaboration leads to a merger taking place, the people, property and liability risks move up several more notches, and this should be reflected in the support received. 

Overall, the key to a successful charity partnership is good governance, flexibility and shared mission from all parties. Get the right structure in place and there can be greater support for beneficiaries, an increase in the skills base and reputational gains for all involved.

How can we help?  

With Ecclesiastical’s experience and expertise in the not-for-profit sector, we can help you offer unrivalled specialist support for your charity clients. We have produced a guide for you to share with your clients on collaboration, looking deeper into the insurance risks.

A version of this piece originally appeared on NPC’s blog.

*State of the Sector report by NPC, June 2017 - 400 charity leaders.

David Britton - By David Britton, Charity Director

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