Charity vs Charity: Can’t We All Just Get Along?

In the hectic world of non-profit organisations (NGOs), fundraising is a contact sport. Resources are finite, and charities constantly compete for a little bit of not enough.

But if NGOs tackled budgets like businesses, the money might go a little farther, through collaboration, information sharing and partnerships.

Working together can save resources. Increase data. Expand donor bases. Streamline objectives. Strengthen results through common tactics and actions. Avoid duplicate research. Decrease costs and allocate more towards the actual cause.

A small NGO working under a larger, established foundation can reach an audience that might take years to find otherwise. In turn, larger NGOs may do well to see what the little guys are doing. A small NGO on a tiny budget may shake things up, and show an old dog some new tricks.

Smaller charities don’t tolerate resource or staffing droughts well. If the head volunteer finally finds a real job, a small NGO can get thrown into chaos. Help from a well-staffed organisation can fill gaps quickly and efficiently.

But size isn’t everything. Smaller NGOs tend to have fewer obligations, and can react nimbly to changing conditions. They can act faster.

Collaboration can help with geography.  A small NGO may have terrific information about a specific region. But expansion is expensive. Making data open-source helps everyone.

Large NGOs can use smaller outfits to test new strategies on a small scale before implementing full-size projects. Small NGOs can suggest these strategies, and take advantage of better funding for the operations.

Should things go sideways, collaborating organisations can walk away, keeping their names and individual reputations intact.

Don’t take my word for it.

According to a 2010 survey by the UK Charity Commission: ‘Nearly half (45%) of small charities surveyed said they had collaborated with at least one other charity over the past two years; of these, three quarters (73%) were collaborating at the time the survey was conducted.’

Does it work?

The Charity Commission: ‘82% of collaborating charities felt that their collaboration experience had been successful.’

Fundraising doesn’t have to be a free-for-all. Charities that choose collaboration over competition win the real prize: better, stronger projects that achieve better, stronger results for their causes.