March 8, 2012

State of Alabama
Press Release: Alabama Department of Commerce

Alabama Nonprofits Gain Strength in Working Together

March 8, 2012

http://www.al.com

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- A growing number of nonprofits squeezed by the combination of less funding and greater demand for their services are merging or forging partnerships, the head of an organization that helps nonprofits join forces said Wednesday.

Lois Savage, president of Arizona-based Lodestar Foundation, speaking at the Cahaba Grand Conference Center on U.S. 280 during the 2012 Nonprofit Summit, said she is not surprised to see so many social service agencies recognize the value of working together.

"Too often, nonprofits think of collaboration as sort of a defeat, meaning they failed," said Savage, whose agency has funded collaboration by nonprofits for 14 years. "In reality, they need to think about collaboration as a way to strengthen organizations and make a greater impact on society."

Savage said two organizations that Lodestar Foundation gave $100,000 to in their first year as a combined entity generated savings of $700,000. In another instance, Lodestar gave $11,000 to help a nonprofit that provided job training to help female ex-convicts fold its services into a larger social agency. "After the first year, the other program got a $4 million grant to provide re-entry services for women prisoners," she said.

John Stone, president of the Alabama Association of Nonprofits, said many nonprofits hurt by a decline in giving during the economic downturn have recognized the power of working together.

Three years ago, the Alabama Association of Nonprofits became the first state association of its kind to forge a partnership with a college business school when it relocated to the campus of Samford University, he said.

"It's been huge in terms of enabling us to better serve our members," said Stone, whose association represents 670 nonprofits from large organizations like the American Red Cross to small nonprofits.

The Nonprofit Summit, called "Alabama: A United State of Nonprofits," included two days of workshops and panel discussions. The event was co-chaired by Regions Bank and the American Red Cross. Speakers included American Red Cross President for Humanitarian Services Jerry DeFrancisco, American Cancer Society Chief Counsel Sheffield Hale and Chronicle of Philanthropy Editor-in-Chief Stacy Palmer. The conference included experts from Regions as well as nonprofit experts from Minnesota to Texas.

Officials with the Alabama School Readiness Alliance, a collaboration of four statewide organizations, in a panel discussion talked about how joining forces has enabled it to make major strides toward its goal of increasing access to high-quality pre-K education through partnerships with nonprofits, governmental entities and business and community leaders.

Val Porter, director of the Foundation Center's Atlanta regional office, said some nonprofits don't understand how collaboration works.

"Collaboration doesn't have to be a merger," Porter said. "Some nonprofits can maintain their separate organizations and partner to do a program, or they can create a separate partnership to work together and better serve the community."

She encouraged nonprofits considering partnerships to check out the New York-based Foundation Center's website that lists agencies across the country that are doing collaborations. At collaboration.foundationcenter.org, you can pull up nonprofits by region or by state, Porter said.



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