Stephen Cotterill: Collaboration doesn’t necessarily mean consolidation

08 Feb 2021 Voices

It might seem counterintuitive, but working with your closest competitors offers opportunities, writes Stephen Cotterill.

Collaboration in all forms seems to be on the rise in the sector. From campaigning to fundraising to service delivery, many charities are seeing it as a smart move as demand for services soars and funding continues to be challenged.

Our cover story this month looks at fundraising initiatives that combine talent and resources to boost income at this critical time. This is not always easy and requires high levels of coordination and organisational buy-in, but the benefits can be great. Some charities are still hesitant to combine efforts, but the pandemic has presented a chance to rid ourselves of bad habits. And in the case of fundraising, that includes a dogged protection of territory.

Often the fear is that collaboration will lead to consolidation, with the smaller organisation being absorbed and ultimately rendered obsolete. This may sometimes be the best course of action, but it isn’t inevitable.

Helen Stephenson, chief executive of the Charity Commission, recently said that the regulator had not seen the expected increase in mergers that it felt were likely during the pandemic, although she was quick to stress that the full financial impact of the last months of turmoil have not yet been fully realised. Speaking at the ICAEW Virtual Charity Conference 2021, she said: “It could be months or years before we realise the true nature of the impact of the crisis on the shape and size of the sector. But at present, the Commission is not seeing an increase in the numbers of organisations which are becoming insolvent or removing themselves from the register.”

Stephenson also said that she had seen “far better partnership work across the sector” during the pandemic, and added that she hopes this remains post-Covid-19.

To survive and offer the best service to their beneficiaries, many organisations may have to adopt a collaborative model whether they like it or not, perhaps partnering with their more established counterparts. But this could be seen as a sustainable opportunity rather than a threat to sovereignty.


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