Get information on every U.S. Foundation with one search in FDO Quick Start. It’s free to register!  
Featured Jobs



Win-Win: Partnerships and the Sustainability Game

“The issues we face are so big and the targets are so challenging that we cannot do it alone. When you look at any issue, such as food or water scarcity, it is very clear that no individual institution, government or company can provide the solution. Collaboration between different types of organizations can produce previously unimagined solutions” (Paul Polman, CEO, Unilever). 


During a recent GPA webinar, Dr. William Moore from the REACH Healthcare Foundation outlined twelve essential questions the Foundation uses to evaluate nonprofit sustainability. He defines sustainability as organizational health, and emphasizes that many factors determine a nonprofit's well-being. The REACH Foundation considers financial stability a necessary ingredient in sustainability, but not the only one. Some other REACH evaluation factors include diversified funding, strategic plans, leadership, and best practices in non-profit governance. One of the essential questions asked when analyzing grant proposals emphasizes the importance of partnerships: “Is the organization creating new partnerships and collaborations, especially public-private partnerships?”

It is easy to only focus on financial stability when developing grant proposals. As grant professionals, we need to think outside the box when answering the sustainability question and also include sustainability throughout the narrative if allowed by space constraints. Consider the following examples of successful collaborations as a catalyst for you to begin thinking creatively about ways to win the sustainability game.

WWF-Canada & Coca-Cola Canada. The World Wildlife Fund's mission in Canada is “promoting a world where humans live in harmony with nature.” WWF and Coca-Cola have a communications and awareness-raising partnership focused on the Arctic. Since 2007, this collaboration has focused on polar bear conservation with a powerful, well-known Coca-Cola polar bear icon. This fundraising campaign along with an Arctic home campaign has raised more than $5 million dollars since 2011. Globally, these two organizations support energy conservation, polar bear conservation, and freshwater conservation. Through this partnership, Coca-Cola also improved their water efficiency by 21.4% between 2004 and 2012 (

University & Non-Profit Collaborations. Universities often require students to complete service-learning projects as part of course requirements, and nonprofits gain free student assistance. In addition, fraternities and sororities often require their members to conduct community service. Students gain fantastic real-world work experiences; communities and nonprofits gain valuable support for their causes. Perhaps a college intern can provide free grant writing/research services or a student pursuing a business degree can help draft a business plan. Other opportunities abound. Xavier University provides Service Learning Semesters focused on social justice where students live and work with people experiencing poverty locally or internationally. The University of Cincinnati is involved in an “Uptown Consortium” with partners such as Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, The Health Alliance of Greater Cincinnati, Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce, Ohio Department of Transportation, and TriHealth, Inc. This collaboration focuses on Uptown neighborhood revitalization ( Miami University sponsors the Pledge A Meal/Hunger Awareness Week where students skip a meal and donate that money to local food pantries along with attending events spotlighting hunger in the community.

Arizona Gives Day. This is a 24-hour annual online fundraising campaign in April for local charities. It is hosted by the Alliance of Arizona Nonprofits and the Arizona Grantmakers Forum. Some nonprofits join a coalition with other charitable organizations to share marketing strategies and proceeds raised. Instead of working individually on the same campaign, these nonprofits gain more from collaboration and raise more money.
Parrots & Veterans. In 1997, the West Los Angeles Veterans Administration Medical Center donated land for Serenity Park on its campus to New Directions, a nonprofit residential treatment center for homeless veterans. The park is a home to a New Directions program for rescued parrots and veterans with PTSD to help each other heal. The parrots have been abused and abandoned by their former owners, and veterans participate in a work-therapy program by caring for these birds. Lily Love, a participating veteran, says: “Their (the parrots') spirit gives me the will to get up and do it another day. I see the trauma, the mutual trauma that I suffered and that these birds have suffered, and my heart just wants to go out and nurture and feed and take care of them, and doing that helps me deal with my own trauma. All without words.”

The Whimsical Woodsman & Books to the Rescue. Chad Castagliano from Chroniker Photography wanted to help his wife, Jasmine, raise funds for her nonprofit in Yavapai County, Arizona. So he took his friend, Tim, into the woods for a photo shoot, creating the Whimsical Woodsman calendars, shirts, and other items. It is now a Facebook phenomenon, and the nonprofit, Books to the Rescue, receives a third of profits from the sales of the calendar. This worthwhile charitable project provides books and toys in backpacks for first responders to use with children in crisis situations while their parents are being interviewed.

While researching this article, I was inspired by the many great examples of collaboration I found, far too many to list. Unfortunately, many nonprofits view fundraising as competitive and are unwilling to collaborate with others. What winning partnership stories do you have? How have you helped develop creative public-private collaborations? Will you make this a goal for future grant opportunities? How do you win the sustainability game through collaboration?