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Posted by Sarah Brown on 03 Dec '20

It's the time to think seriously about Collaboration. Here are three reasons why

Covid 19 has put charities under stress and collaboration is a key strategy for success going forward

In these challenging times for charities, Collaboration is becoming even more critical for success.

Covid-19 has badly impacted charities, and a fifth of charities will not be able to deliver adequate services at Christmas according to the latest Charity Tracker Survey by third sector think tank Pro Bono Economics. Over three-quarters of charities say they will need financial support to achieve their objectives next year.

Dipika Kaushal, chief executive of member organisation Voluntary Action Calderdale in Halifax, says that the number of operational charities has reduced by as much as half between March and September. There has been Collaboration to address the pandemic as Ms Kaushal says "There is still a thriving sector, but it is challenging for small charities. Local lockdown has been difficult, but organisations have come together to make sure public health comes first and help reduce Covid-19 cases."

A research report by Dr Sinéad Fitzsimons, a research officer in Education and Development at the University of Cambridge, has called for a 'new social contract'. The contract should be supported by greater public and private sector collaboration, and targeted funding to support communities facing disruptive events such as the coronavirus crisis. He calls for more generous support for small-scale charities and social-purpose organisations to help them survive and transition during the period of financial hardship caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, and for leadership training to be available in every locality.

However, rather than wait for others to act, individual charities need to think now more strategically about longer-term collaborations starting in 2021.

How Collaboration can help

There are potentially three main rationales for collaborating:

1 To save money
2 To improve the service you offer
3 To attract more funding or income

Often a collaboration fulfils more than one, and sometimes the different collaborators have different reasons to be involved. The key is that everyone agrees on what success looks like for each partner. Here are examples of how Collaboration is helping charities address the challenges they face.

Saving money

Instead of seeing each other as competition, the RSPCA and Blue Cross are looking to collaborate to save money. They will be exploring whether their joint purchasing power will get them better prices as they both need to buy items like animal food and bedding. They also could get more efficiencies in the transport of animals and behaviour services which could reduce costs. An RSPCA spokesperson said: "Like most charities, both charities are looking at ensuring long-term sustainability as a result of the unprecedented situation, and this partnership approach is an exciting way of collaborating to use our valuable funds to get best value for money and to benefit animal welfare."

While these are two relatively large charities, smaller charities can also share resources to save money. Potential areas are premises, staff roles and shared use of resources like minibuses or kitchens.

Improving the service you offer

Pregnant Then Screwed collaborates with the law firm Gorvins so that it can offer a Legal Advice Service if women feel they are being or have been discriminated against.

They enhance their helpline, which is staffed by specially trained HR advisors who are not solicitors. These advisors are qualified to deal with most queries; however, they are not able to provide legal advice. If they believe that legal advice would be helpful, they arrange for an appointment with an employment solicitor generally within a week of calling. The meeting is completely confidential. The average call takes about 20 minutes, but Gorvins provide up to an hour of free advice. There is no obligation to instruct Gorvins if a woman wants to proceed with a case against her employer. In fact, only 6% of callers to the line go on to instruct Gorvins.

Generating income

Large numbers of charities turn down public sector contracts because the operational risks are too high, others can't bid because on their own they have insufficient turnover. Successful Collaboration between charities can create more efficient ways of managing administration, resources, and the aggregated incomes can let them bid for more significant contracts.

Few charities, particularly now, have commercial marketing departments with resources to look for income generation and sometimes charities have hidden resources which can attract money. A small example of generating income through a link with a business came when Probado a business saw an opportunity to support a local charity and its client, Carers Trust Mid Yorkshire and fulfil the needs of another client, local 3D printing manufacturer, Wayland Additive.

Gordon Maclean said: "We'd just completed installing a new phone system at Carers Trust Mid Yorkshire and Victoria did an amazing job recording the voice prompts, so when Wayland approached us to install a phone system with voice prompts, I immediately knew that Victoria would do another great job.

"It was an absolute pleasure to facilitate this Collaboration between Wayland Additive and Carers Trust Mid Yorkshire. Both organisations do fantastic work for the local communities and it is vital that we are able to collaborate to better Yorkshire's businesses and charities. It is now more important than ever that we help each other out by sharing skills, resources, and expertise."

Speaking of the project, Victoria Stratford, Carers Trust Mid Yorkshire's locality manager, said: "I have never done any voice recording before, until I was asked to provide them for our own system that Probado fitted, where I was asked merely on the premise of being 'a bit posh'.

"We are a charity, so any money raised goes towards helping provide care services to local families that need it. Being able to lend a hand and help bring in additional funds is a wonderful bonus, and an enjoyable experience for myself personally!"

In these difficult times, many charities are diversifying their fundraising methods to help bring in additional funds, Victoria added: "There are charities out there doing all sorts of weird and wonderful things to generate financial support. Wherever there are ways to help support charitable income it is so important to grab hold of those opportunities."

In return for Victoria's voice skills, Wayland Additive donated to Carers Trust Mid Yorkshire, helping to support them during these challenging times. Will Richardson, co-founder and CEO of Wayland Additive, continued: "First impressions are vital in business, so having a professional voice at the end of our new phone system was important for us.

"Collaboration, dedication and integrity are the core values of Wayland Additive, so when Gordon pointed us in the direction of Victoria at Carers Trust Mid Yorkshire, it was a perfect fit. We like to work with local partners as much as possible, and the idea of supporting a worthy cause at the same time made it even better.

"The new system which features Victoria's voice offers a presentable front-end to our system, providing a professional output to our customers, suppliers and collaborators." Probado Ltd manages the phone systems for Carers Trust Mid Yorkshire and all IT system support, servers, and phone systems for Wayland Additive.

Attracting more funding and achieving your mission

The winner of the Third Sector Awards 2020 Corporate Partnership of the Year was End Youth Homelessness(EYH) collaborating with Yorkshire Building Society(YBS). Together they worked to get vulnerable young people into a place they could call home. The partnership has funded a Rent Deposit Scheme (RDS), supporting young people facing homelessness to access the rental market and helping landlords fill vacant properties.

As well as the traditional fundraising activities by staff and customers the building society created two savings products that donated 0.10 per cent of the balances to EYH; the first raised £169,000 to support the RDS and the second aims to raise £100,000 for EYH's Covid Appeal. It also communicated to its customers who were buy-to-let landlords about the Rent Deposit Scheme and updated its mortgage terms for landlords to enable them to offer tenancies to renters who receive benefits. YBS has run two marketing campaigns across online, print and high street outlets promoting the partnership and challenging the stigma of homelessness, and worked with EYH to create an e-learning programme educating over a 1,000 staff on youth homelessness. The Collaboration has helped house over 500 young people.

Collaborations beyond the third and public sector

There is more and more focus on business doing the 'right' thing showing that they care about more than money. Commercial brands and charities can both gain from working together. Long term successful partnerships depend on both sides getting value from the relationship. Success generally means that the relationship has to include more than promotions and sponsorship actually impacting how each side works or thinks based on shared values and learning. Great Collaboration will often lead to exciting innovations.

A single CAB shows what can be done if you can find the right partnership. Citizens Advice Plymouth has been working in Collaboration with EDF Energy for ten years to provide advice to EDF Energy customers who may be experiencing fuel poverty or financial hardship.

During 2018/2019 the partnership supported over 13,000 clients through to advice and of these 13,000 clients they addressed over 100,000 different issues that clients were facing.

Citizens Advice Plymouth identified £2.2 million of additional income that clients could be entitled to and supported new claims where appropriate. They also supported clients to write off over £1.5 million of debt by contacting creditors, charitable grants or insolvency solutions. The impact of the budgeting advice has meant that clients have successfully rescheduled repayments with creditors to the value of £2.8 million.

Short term collaborations to help a company launch a product or to get specific support for a charity campaign are also useful but achieve less impact.

Collaborations should be a critical part of any charity's future plans whatever your size. I am happy to have free chat with you if you want some ideas. Find out more about collaboration:

Collaboration Development

The three ways to grow your organisation

5 reasons any charity should develop partnerships

Tags: collaboration charity

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