Across the US, funders are organizing themselves to assist nonprofits in the difficult but important work of exploring or completing formal collaborations. Some of these Funds have been one-time efforts, while others have become ongoing parts of the philanthropic landscape:
- In 2017, the RGK Center for Philanthropy and Community Service interviewed catalyst funds across the United States to synthesize best practices, learn more about drivers and barriers to nonprofit collaboration in the Austin area, and provide a set of recommendations based on the findings. The findings can be read here.
- In 2009, SeaChange Capital Partners (“SeaChange”) and The Lodestar Foundation partnered to create the SeaChange-Lodestar Fund for Nonprofit Collaboration (the “SeaChange-Lodestar Fund”), a national grant-making entity that supports collaborations among nonprofit organizations regardless of their focus area or geography. SeaChange has been responsible for managing the day-to-day activities of the Fund and is its second-largest donor. The Lodestar Foundation is the Fund’s founding and largest donor. Since inception, the SeaChange-Lodestar Fund has evaluated over 275 opportunities and has made 65 grants.
- In 2015, the Nonprofit Repositioning Fund (“the Fund”) was launched by a collaborative of nine funders, hosted and administered by Philanthropy Network of Greater Philadelphia. The Fund supports long-term, strategic alliances and collaborations to build organizational sustainability and improve program and service delivery across the 5-county Greater Philadelphia Region. The Fund provides two types of grant support (1) Exploratory Grants of up to $40,000 and (2) Implementation Grants of up to $100,000. In its first year, the Fund granted 8 Exploratory grants and 4 Implementation grants.
- In 2012, the New York Merger, Acquisition, and Collaboration Fund (“NYMAC”) was established to encourage and support mergers, acquisitions, and other types of formal, long-term collaborations between nonprofit organizations working in New York City. NYMAC donors include The Altman Foundation, The Booth Ferris Foundation, The Clark Foundation, The Heckscher Foundation for Children, The Lodestar Foundation, The New York Community Trust, and several high-net-worth individuals with transactional experience. SeaChange manages NYMAC’s day-to-day activities and is also a donor. Since inception, NYMAC has evaluated over 95 opportunities and has made 21 grants.
- In 2013, the Nonprofit Sustainability Fund (“NSI”) was launched as a collaborative of foundations (now ten) working together to fund Los Angeles nonprofit organizations interested in exploring and pursuing strategic restructurings to achieve greater organizational effectiveness and efficiency. Strategic restructurings range from jointly managed programs and consolidated administrative functions to full-scale mergers. NSI was designed in three phases. Phase 1 was a convening attended by more than 700 nonprofit executive directors and board leaders representing 310 nonprofits. Attendees were then invited to apply for Phase 2, a free strategic restructuring assessment for their organizations (paid for by the participating funders). Out of the 80+ applicants, 42 organizations were selected for Phase 3 grants, ranging from $20,000-$50,000, to hire consultants to facilitate restructuring negotiations. To date, 15 partnerships involving 39 organizations have been approved for funding to enter into strategic restructuring negotiations.
- In 2010, The Community Foundation of Greater Atlanta launched The Strategic Restructuring Fund (“the Fund”), with funding from the Foundation’s Common Good Funds. The Fund supports efforts that involve any or all of the following factors: partnership assessment, administrative consolidation, joint programming with integrated systems, shared facilities, joint business venture, integration/merger, transfer of programs from one organization to another, and dissolution. The Fund makes individual grants of up to $100,000 to support projects that are in any one of three different phases of restructuring: 1) partnership assessment; 2) readiness and negotiation, and 3) design and/or implementation. Since inception, the Fund has awarded 31 grants, for a total of $1.6M.
- In 2010, the Catalyst Fund for Nonprofits (“CFN”) was launched as a five-year funder collaborative (now closed) to support the exploration, planning, and implementation of voluntary strategic collaborations and mergers in the Boston area. Its efforts focus on supporting technical assistance for collaborating nonprofits and promoting collaboration as a strategic tool to advance their missions. CFN was created through a partnership of The Boston Foundation, Boston LISC, The Hyams Foundation, The Kresge Foundation, and the United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley. CFN is a fund of the Boston Foundation that is managed by the Nonprofit Finance Fund. The total fund size was $1.925 million.
- In addition to these formal efforts, a number of funders have dedicated grant-making and/or technical assistance pools to support repositioning work. These include The Forbes Funds (in Pittsburgh), The Patterson Foundation, The Dyson Foundation, The Foellinger Foundation, and The Chicago Community Trust.
- Other one-time Funds have been started in: Cleveland (The Greater Cuyahoga County Restructuring Pilot); San Francisco (The Nonprofit Transitions Fund), and North Carolina (The Community Catalyst Fund).