Investigation of the dynamics of collaboration experienced by small, enterprising nonprofits

Date of Completion

January 2006


Business Administration, Management|Education, Adult and Continuing|Sociology, Public and Social Welfare




Over the last decade, grant makers have placed significant emphasis on structuring funding strategies to encourage and/or require formal collaboration between nonprofits that they fund. Light (2004) and Gronbjerg & Child (2004) provide evidence that smaller, younger nonprofits benefit from, and have a greater natural need for, collaborative relations than older, larger nonprofits---but are less likely to have access to (or make use of) these opportunities. Despite growing evidence of the benefits and the push by stakeholders for collaboration, there has been limited investigation into the environmental conditions and resulting dynamics in which nonprofits are asked to perform these acts of collaboration, especially the small nonprofit. ^ In this study eleven directors of small enterprising Connecticut nonprofits, identified by stakeholders as having strong skills sets in the art and science of collaboration, were asked to reflect on and articulate the dynamics that they have experienced in collaborations. They were asked to consider the dynamics that occurred in collaborations they deemed successful and those they considered unsuccessful. Participants articulated the vital need for interorganizational collaboration in the nonprofit world, especially for small nonprofits. Six determinants were identified by respondents as being critical to the success of a collaborative venture. Seven phenomena were identified as prevalent issues and/or constraints faced by small nonprofits in these collaborations. From the study's findings promising practices and systematic pitfalls for small, enterprising nonprofits operating in collaborations were identified. Based on these findings, reflection and review of literature recommendations are made for academia, collaboration funders, larger collaboration partners and small enterprising nonprofits that have the potential for positively strengthening the collaborative experience and outcomes for small nonprofits and their collaborations. ^