One of the best outcomes of the Lodestar Foundation’s Collaboration Prize (a competition to identify the best nonprofit collaboration) is the Nonprofit Collaboration Database, a searchable database of nonprofit collaboration models in the US that were submitted through the competition. There are currently 670 collaboration examples in the database, which was recently upgraded and is now housed on the Foundation Center’s website. I spoke with Cynthia Bailie, director of the Foundation Center’s Cleveland office and of Special Information Initiatives, about the improvements to the database. Cynthia explained that the Foundation Center had two goals for the upgrade: 1) to encourage community dialogue and share knowledge around nonprofit collaboration; and 2) to allow nonprofits from anywhere in the world to submit their collaboration stories to a growing collection of models.
Cynthia explained that in the effort to make it easy to submit a collaboration model, there are no hard and fast rules about how to define collaboration. The Foundation Center provides a PDF collaboration template on its website that takes about 45 minutes to thoughtfully complete. “We want to help nonprofits understand the role of strategic collaboration in advancing their goals and to invite them to collaborate with us in building the database. We plan to add as many models of effective collaboration as possible,” explained Cynthia.
In addition to open submissions to the database, the Foundation Center is adding media content to its Nonprofit Collaboration Resources page to facilitate dialogue around (and ultimately to advance) the collaborative agenda. It wants to know what the nonprofit community wants in terms of support for collaboration, and to provide a feedback loop for funders and others with a stake in nonprofit collaboration. “We want to talk about the types of support foundations are giving to [nonprofits] to advance their collaborative agendas and what they wish they could get,” explained Cynthia. “We want to try and raise the bar across the sector for collaboration best practices.”
There are great podcasts and written documents on the collaboration resource page—helpful to anyone, no matter how little or how much you know about collaboration. But frankly the Twitter widget on the database search page is what kept me glued to the site a lot longer than was good for me. If you have not checked out the Nonprofit Collaboration Database, or if it has been a while, I encourage you to take a look. Also, if you have collaboration examples from your own organization, please consider writing up and submitting them to the database; we would all benefit from sharing each other’s valuable collaboration experiences.