Nonprofit organizations are exploring how to work together in new and creative ways. Why?

  • Demand for services is up, along with competition for financial resources, making the drive towards efficiency increasingly important.
  • Duplication of services is viewed as wasteful.
  • Some types of restructuring are equated with cost-savings.
  • The social issues that nonprofits address are larger and more complex and call for scaled-up solutions.

Understanding the types of strategic alliances is a good first step in determining a fit for your organization. There's general agreement that the types of strategic alliances follow a continuum. At one end are informal arrangements. At the other end are those that require high levels of formality, shared decision-making, and organizational integration.

The following types of strategic alliances are taken from the work of Dr. John Yankey, Ph.D., retired professor, Case Western Reserve University:

  • Endorsement: Providing approval or support of a concept or action already conceptualized or completed by someone else. Example: letters of support.
  • Co-sponsorship: Two or more organizations share (although not always equally) in providing a program or service.
  • Affiliation: A loosely connected system of two or more organizations with a similar interest(s).
  • Federation/Association: An alliance of member organizations established to centralize common functions.
  • Coalition: Independent organizations that usually share a political or social change goal.
  • Consortium: Organizations and individuals representing customers, service providers, and other agencies who identify themselves with a specific community, neighborhood or domain.
  • Network: Organizations that share resources for mutual benefit, such as service provision.
  • Joint Venture: A legally formed alliance in which member organizations maintain joint ownership (generally through a joint governance board) to carry out specific tasks or provide specific services.
  • Acquisition: One organization acquires a program or service previously administered by another organization.
  • Divestiture: One organization "spins off" a program or service to another organization.
  • Merger: A statutorily defined alliance in which one organization is totally absorbed by another.

La Piana Consulting, a national firm with a practice area in strategic restructuring, includes the following categories in their Collaborative Map:

  • Collaboration: Includes information sharing, program coordination, and joint planning. Organizations involved in collaboration remain independent with full decision-making power.
  • Administrative Consolidation: Typically aimed at increasing efficiency, includes formal agreement for contracting, exchanging, or sharing services. Organizations involved in administrative consolidations share decision-making powers.
  • Joint Programming: A restructuring where organizations share the launch and management of one or more programs. Organizations involved in joint programming share decision-making powers for the progam while maintaining their independence in managing their own programs.
  • Corporate Merger/Acquisition: Includes full integration of all programmatic assets and administrative functions.




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