Models of collaboration between nonprofit organizations

Kelly E. Proulx, Mark Hager, Kimberly C. Klein

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    32 Scopus citations


    Purpose-Third sector organizations regularly innovate through collaboration with other organizations in order to secure resources and to increase the potential to more effectively meet each collaborator’s mission. Following a review of relevant literature, the purpose of this paper is to explore and document the variety of ways that third sector organizations collaborate with other nonprofit organizations. Design/methodology/approach-The paper reviews the literature regarding motivations to collaborate, barriers to collaboration, and ways to ensure that collaboration is successful. Drawing on exemplary cases of collaboration that applied for a national (USA) prize, the paper describes the range of collaborations that third sector organizations used to enhance their performance and productivity. Findings-The analysis culminates in eight models: the fully integrated merger, partially integrated merger, joint program office, joint partnership with affiliated programming, joint partnership for issue advocacy, joint partnership with a new formal organization, joint administrative operations, and confederation. Research limitations/implications-All cases are drawn from one country in one part of the world, the USA; some models will have less veracity in other countries or contexts, and the nonprofit sectors of other countries will likely generate additional kinds of models not anticipated by the USA cases. Second, the eight models generated by the method are the result of debate, deliberation, and iterative process carried out by two coders. Other coders employing the same analytic process might generate more or fewer models. Practical implications-Once nonprofit boards, staff, and other advocates understand the potential that can come with collaboration, blurring boundaries and giving up autonomy might not seem so intimidating. The practical value of our work is in reporting the wide array of options available to nonprofits-models that staff and board can use to plot their way forward. Social implications-The value of our work to research is identification of the assortment of ways that nonprofits collaborate. Future research may consider how any of the issues discussed in the literature-trust, co-opetition, resource dependence, network connectedness-vary or are conditioned by differences across these models of collaboration. Originality/value-The paper documents collaboration as a viable strategy for the enhancement of performance and productivity among third sector organizations in the USA. For each model described, the paper discusses the circumstances in which they might be used, as well as the challenges and advantages associated with implementation.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)746-765
    Number of pages20
    JournalInternational Journal of Productivity and Performance Management
    Issue number6
    StatePublished - Jul 8 2014


    • Collaboration
    • Joint programming
    • Merger
    • Nonprofit organizations

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Business, Management and Accounting(all)
    • Strategy and Management


    Dive into the research topics of 'Models of collaboration between nonprofit organizations'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this