Non-Profits: Why compete for funding when you can collaborate?

Collaborative grants bring together organizations with complementary philosophies to provide more comprehensive services than each could on their own. 

Here’s the scenario: Your nonprofit is seeing more and more clients, but your grant funding doesn’t seem to keep pace. You and your staff are spending precious hours completing Requests for Proposals (RFP’s) to compete with the agency down the block for more dollars. Sound familiar? The world of grant cycle funds is growing increasingly more competitive - so what’s a cash strapped, mission-driven organization to do? 


What if there was a way for you to collaborate with, rather than compete against, your neighboring nonprofit? 

Through formal collaboration, organizations can create structured systems to serve their respective populations. Each organization provides the services where they have expertise and rely on their collaborative partners to provide complementary services. This is the crux of why good referral systems are necessary. We see non-formal versions of this everyday, such as organizations providing food to a client and then referring to a community partner for clothing or providing subsidized housing to a client and then referring to mental health or substance use experts for assessments and services. 

What is becoming more common in the world of funding is the concept of collaborative proposals. Collaborative grants show funders that the organizations are actively working together and combining their resources (financial, human, intellectual) to fill service gaps. 

Instead of needing to become an expert in all areas, organizations can focus on the areas they specialize in. Collaborative grants can often be more favorable than non-collaborative, with funders looking more favorably on organizations who are trying to create partnerships and leverage shared resources within the community. 


So, you’re interested in applying for a Cross-Collaboration grant. What to do next? 

There are several logistical considerations that collaborators should consider. 

  • Who are the contact points at each organization? 
  • What is each organization committing to contribute?
  • How will the budget be managed and by whom? 
  • How will cash and in-kind match handled and defined between both organizations?

Most important, familiarize yourself with the funder. Do research into what projects they have funded previously and educate yourself on their organizational philosophy and persona mission of any staff in leadership positions. Are there organizations the funders currently support that your organization aligns with? How can you leverage those resources? 

Hot Tip: Organizations can look at funders' IRS Form 990 (free at to get more information on previous funding history and organizational overviews. 

Ready to get started? Here are several resources to help organizations locate funding opportunities:

Nic Devgood is the Director of Account Management at Pieces. He works closely with teams using our nonprofit case management software, Pieces Connect, and is a seasoned pro at finding new ways to optimize workflows.