Cool Collaborations

Did you hear the one about the Jewish Community Center and the YMCA? They merged. Yes, we are serious. In Toledo, Ohio. And for this, last week, they were rewarded with a share of the first Collaboration Prize awarded by the Lodestar Foundation. The other winner was the Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas, which used to be three separate museums until they decided to merge into an entirely new entity.

There were 600 entries for the $250,000 prize, which Lodestar – mission: “seeking happiness through philanthropy” – launched to encourage collaborations between non-profits that too often do their own thing, wasting valuable resources and often achieving less impact than they might in the process. The need for more collaboration, including more mergers, is something we highlight in the book, and indeed is even more urgent given today’s tough economy – as Matthew reiterated in a keynote speech he gave at the award ceremony last week.

Collaborating is not easy. The YMCA and Jewish Community Center, for instance, had to overcome resistance from national umbrella organisations, resistance from professional staff, and scepticism from funders of each organisation who feared that the programs and character of each would be compromised.

Yet, they say, the benefits include better understanding of each other’s faiths, the elimination of duplicative and competing programs, saving money that would have been spent on new YMCA facilities and a larger pool of potential donors. Congratulations to them, the Museum of Nature and Science, and the six other finallists. Here’s hoping many other non-profits follow their examples.