...Brought to you by the Letter “C” and the Number “2009”...

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Cookie Monster photo credit: http://s228.photobucket.com/albums/ee212/not_dead_yet_2007/?action=view&current=cookie-monster.jpg 

In today’s shrinking economy the charitable sector is going to have to start looking at new ways of generating revenue and securing sustainable funding.  Cookie Monster

Collaboration – or what the business sector might call Mergers and Acquisitions is going to be a common term for 2009 in the charitable sector. 

 

Non-profit organizations do not like the words mergers and acquisitions.  These words are too emotional.  The word collaborate implies that there is the opportunity for two, individual organizations, with similar mandates to work within the same sphere.

 

The definition of collaborate from the Oxford English Dictionary:

 
  1. Work jointly on an activity or project
  2. Cooperate traitorously with an enemy

     
I smiled when I read the second definition because we so often hear about how charities are “stepping on each other’s toes” in service delivery.  As donors and community investors become more attuned to how their dollars are being spent and as the economy starts look inwards, charities are going to be forced to collaborate.  This will be done in order to maximize the dollars invested in their social, cultural, educational, scientific, etc. cause. 

The action of collaboration leads us to the next “C” word for 2009.

Consortium – An interesting example of collaboration is happening around Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.  A group of organizations ranging from medical teams to social service organizations to the city police have formed a taskforce in Lethbridge, Alberta to address some of the issues associated with this disorder.  McMan Youth and Family Services is at the heart of this consortium effort.  I had the opportunity to sit down with Liz Doleman, the Executive Director of McMan, to learn more about this partnership.

McMan is acting as the fiscal agent for the FASD Consortium chaired by a representative from an organization called First Steps.

The idea behind this group is that if they each take a piece of the FASD puzzle (diagnosis, educational services, job training, family education, community awareness and safety) then they can better serve the needs of this clientele.  Each of these groups has identified a specific area that they are experts in and are managing that one area in consort with the others.  Communication is directed through the group as outlined by the guidelines that they have established.  There is a clear understanding of which organization is responsible for providing the specific services.  This division of labour is to prevent the possibilities of duplications of services as well as to prevent clients from getting lost in the shuffle.

Clustering – Clustering is when a group of organizations come together to share resources.  One of the best examples of this is the Centre for Social Innovation in downtown Toronto.  A building on Spadina Avenue is the home to several charitable & non-profit organizations who are sharing common resources while working on their individual missions.  The driving force behind this type of clustering is the need for affordable workspace.

It is generally understood that innovation is sparked when people meet and share ideas.  In the case of the Centre for Social Innovation, these organizations are not working towards a similar goal on a micro-level, but on a macro-level they see the benefits of sharing resources.

What does this mean for you as a community investor?

Simply put, it means that as more organizations start working closer together you will be able to see greater impact for your dollars.  It also means that there will be an even greater need for you to hold those with whom you invest your community dollars accountable. 

Because there are several organizations involved in managing your donation, there is opportunity for greater impact, but also the opportunity for things to go awry.  You should know who the players are in the partnership, how they have each defined their roles and what you can expect to see at the end of the day after your investment is put to use.

Recession CartoonCharity in a Down Economy

There is much talk about how now it is even more important to be giving to charitable organizations.  I question this logic, simply because an organization that is well run and managed will have sustainable funding in place to see them through this economic downturn.  Instead, I think now more than ever, it is time for donors to think about how your charitable dollars are being invested in community.  There are several organizations that are in repeated funding crises.  Yes, organizations go through tough times.   No, I do not think we should abandon them.  However, unless you are looking at investing in long-term capacity building then supporting an organization in crisis is not the best donation.  Typically, an organization that is in constant funding crisis is one that does not have the foresight or management to take them to the next level. This means that they cannot protect your community investment and show you the return that you need.  The solution—ask questions.  As a donor, it’s your right!

 
For a list of questions to ask an organization before you donate please visit:

www.dexterityconsulting.ca/Questions_To_Ask_Before_Donating

New Staff: Bridget Warner
Bridget joined Dexterity consulting in the fall of 2008. She has worked with the non-profit sector for over six years in the areas of Direct Marketing and Database Management. Previously, she worked at an Investment Bank as a Senior Database Manager. Bridget brings strong Project and Client Management skills to Dexterity Consulting, and enjoys working with clients to build social capital. 

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