People who have known me for a while have listened to me bang on before about charities wasting resources by not collaborating more with one another. During this present crisis, never has such a thought been so relevant. We are talking about a sector which has seen funding nosedive in the last few weeks and forecasted to get worse. Not only are we competing with each other for funds but now we have monies traditionally donated to the sector being diverted to the NHS and businesses crowd funding to survive which is another diversion of funds. Cash flow is drying up, so we need to either generate income in other ways or make better use of valuable resources.
In the last few weeks, we have seen major supermarket chains, traditionally fierce competitors, working together to ensure food gets delivered to where it is most needed. We have seen Formula One teams diverting their design and engineering resources to work with other manufactures to produce ventilators. Industry and Commerce are thinking outside the box to make things happen so what is stopping charities from doing so? Too many times I see charities working with common beneficiaries in complete isolation and this cannot be a good use of charitable funds or indeed make things easier for the potential beneficiaries at the present time. It’s rather like the electricity company digging up the road to install new cables followed immediately by British Gas digging up the same piece of road a week later to install new pipework. You’ve all seen it and asked why they cannot work together so why not charities.
Some charities, particularly those pitching for EU funding (until Brexit) have had to work in collaboration with others as the EU preferred to make a large grant to one organisation and leave them to manage smaller chunks locally with others. Smaller charities have often had to swallow their pride in order to access such funds.
It should be part of the strategic thinking of any charity to consider whether existing or potentially new service lines can be done more efficiently by working with others, even if these others are considered "competitors". Think about outreach programmes for example. If “Meals on Wheels” are delivering to a beneficiary, do the same beneficiaries access help from other charities that could be outsourced at the same time? Do you have a van that is not fully utilised? Can the same van be used by a neighbouring charity that services the same catchment area? Are your admin resources being diverted to frontline work whist a neighbouring charity has spare capacity and could handle additional admin? And ask yourself a really big question. Would corporate donors be more ready to back a Partnership of two or three charities to get more “bang for their buck” than individual charities?
When I opted to create In the Round Advisors with three other people,
did I think about what impact it would have on my existing business? Absolutely but I believed and am being proved right that it would enhance my business and not detract from it. Whether as a short- term fix or a long- term strategy, do not ignore the possibility of working together and recognise that with the ever- increasing scramble for funding, it makes sense. Funders like the thought of their grants being maximised by showing that you can get more out of them by working with others.