Commentary: Collaborations and Alliances: A Strong Path to Realizing Joint Gains, Greater Value

By Troy, Carol Wilkinson | THE JOURNAL RECORD, September 4, 2003 | Go to article overview

Commentary: Collaborations and Alliances: A Strong Path to Realizing Joint Gains, Greater Value


Troy, Carol Wilkinson, THE JOURNAL RECORD


Strategic alliances. Collaborations. They have long been valuable tools of the business world. More and more, they play key roles in the world of nonprofits.

Such alliances and collaborations may be between nonprofits and business, between nonprofits and government, or between cooperating nonprofits. Whatever the case, the potential for interinstitutional cooperation to create joint gains and greater social value is enormous.

Mary Jo Waits is associate director, Morrison Institute for Public Policy, at Arizona State University. At a recent retreat of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce, Waits noted several key factors that lead to new economic development. Among those are:

* Being a place rich in ideas and talent.

* Attracting educated people.

* Physical and cultural amenities (especially critical in attracting knowledge workers).

* Organizations and individuals have the ability to learn and adapt.

* Bold partnerships among business, government and the nonprofit sector to bring about change.

Several compelling factors may encourage bold partnerships. Companies are recognizing that how they interact with their communities and how they address social issues can directly affect business success - or failure. Companies have also become more concerned about the social returns on their philanthropic relationships.

The focus is shifting from being charitable donors to being strategic social investors. Shrinking donor pools and rising competition for funds pushes nonprofits to work with others to cut costs and increase efficiencies.

In Oklahoma City, an exciting example of collaboration between two well-known nonprofits and a business is the upcoming YMCA-Red Cross golf tournament at Gaillardia.

After years of hosting individual tournaments, these two nonprofits joined forces to cut overhead and increase benefit. Bank of Oklahoma stepped up as premier sponsor, providing critical funding and marketing exposure that would have been difficult for the organizations to achieve alone.

Nonprofits have brands, assets and competencies that can be of significant value to business. This realization has helped shed the supplicant mind-set and create a partnering mentality.

According to James Austin, chair of the Initiative on Social Enterprise at the Harvard Business School, three stages of relationships have evolved over time.

* Philanthropic Stage. Typically characterized as a supplicant- benefactor relationship, this is the stage most familiar to most of us. The nonprofits may suffer from the gratefulness syndrome, while on the corporate side there may be the charity syndrome. The corporation wants to support a good cause, but deals with these donations as a peripheral part of their activities. …

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