Capacity Building Series: Taking Peer Relationships One Step Further – Tips for Collaborating with Organizations

How to Approach and Build Collaborations

In our last blog, we explored collaborative peer relationships. We shared why and how nonprofits might collaborate with each other—the benefits, reasons, and methods of collaboration. We now want to dive a little deeper into what collaboration could look like for nonprofit organizations. Let’s keep in mind that the goal of collaboration is not always to write a collaborative grant, but it could be, if it’s what might be best for your organization. Sometimes it’s even more beneficial to partner with other organizations—and funders—to seek out more funding and maximize your impact on your community.

“Most funders and nonprofits value working together, and many are looking for ways to improve the quality of their collaborations. Even if some of what we try doesn’t work, deepening relationships with grantees and other stakeholders builds a strong foundation for future efforts. With the right conditioning and enabling environment, we can make progress on effectively partnering with others to achieve meaningful impact.”  Source:


Here are Some Tips for Collaborating with Organizations:

  1. Tie collaboration into your organization’s goals:
    • Be clear on your goals and how collaborating can help you achieve them.
  2. Determine how you fit into the landscape:
    • Learn more about the subject matter, issues being addressed by the collaboration, other collaborators, and the roles they play.
    • Ask yourself, “What role do we want to play? Where can we add value?”
  3. Lay the groundwork through relationship building:
    • Time to utilize those relationship building skills we discussed in our previous blogs (linked below)! Be intentional about developing trust by showing your flexibility, ability to compromise, and communicating openly about your community’s needs and how a collaboration can make a meaningful impact.
  4. Build a diverse and committed leadership:
    • Having a diverse staff and board that’s representative of your community helps provide a variety of perspectives and connections that can strengthen your network, and therefore your collaborative.
    • Get your staff and board on the same page in prioritizing the collaborative. Make sure they have buy-in and get them involved.
  5. Focus on communication:
    • Communication is key, right? So, communicate often and well—both within and outside of your organization—to ensure everyone is aligned on the vision of the collaborative. Carve out space and time early on for your organizations to get to know each other. Having these connections can make it easier to talk openly about challenges and hold each other accountable.
  6. Provide the resources required:
    • Be mindful of the amount of time and money needed to invest into a collaborative as well as your team’s capacity to focus on it. Remember to secure funding appropriately to help cover the associated costs of a collaborative.
  7. Ensure that collaboration remains a priority:

How to Write a Successful Collaborative Grant (Just One Way to Collaborate!)

Collaboration takes many forms. Building relationships and partnerships might be all that your organization needs. However, if you find that exploring a collaborative grant with fellow organizations might advance your organization’s mission in impacting your community, we would love to provide support. If you’ve never applied for collaborative funding, that’s okay! We’ll break it down in a few steps.

Step one: Identify Partners

You’ll want to begin by identifying other organizations that could be great partners and reach out to them now. Great partners often address the same or similar challenges of your community, have similar mission, vision, values, and goals to yours to make a broader impact. Or maybe they have an entirely different approach to addressing the challenge that compliments and aligns with your organization’s goals.

Establishing trust and getting to know each other’s expertise and available resources takes time. You can think of developing a partnership as an ongoing part of your grantseeking efforts. You can start by appointing a team leader and establishing a workplan and project schedule. You then might assign roles and responsibilities and agree on how you’ll make decisions. It might also be helpful to designate one person to do the writing and have everyone read a draft and suggest edits.

Step Two: Establish Communication and Infrastructure

Although we know that frequent communication is critical, everyone communicates differently. Be sure to discuss communication approaches and ensure a strong infrastructure with tools that all organizations can utilize. There are many types of collaboration tools available online such as:

  • Project management software
  • Document sharing tools
  • Communication tools to stay in touch remotely via messages and video calls
    • e.g. Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts, Skype
  • Time tracking tools

Step Three: Call on Community

When you’re concerned about a community issue, act. Let the needs of the community be your driving force rather than funding opportunities. Before searching for funders, consider which other organizations you can partner with to address the issue together, leaning on your respective viewpoints, assessing data, and brainstorming possibilities.

Step Four: Talk Money

Discuss money early on. After agreeing on an approach with your collaborative partners, create a budget that details what each partner needs in the collaborative. Without a clear and comprehensive budget being established, a collaborative proposal can fail. Although, remember that a collaborative project budget does not always completely fund an initiative, program, or personnel. This means that organizations who are part of the collaborative might have to seek additional funding to make collaborative efforts monetarily whole.

Step Five: Confront Discord

Confront discord right away and ensure that all partners commit to civil, honest discussion to address the issue. If you are unable to find a solution, strive to maintain ongoing relationships even if a partner organization decides to part ways with the collaborative. However, keep in mind that collaborative relationships are often very fluid and just because a partner needs to bow out doesn’t mean the collaboration is failing. Source:

Hopefully some of these tips and suggestions will help you in your collaborative journey. We know that collaboration can look different from one organization to another based on needs, goals, connections, and resources. Your organization might be newer to collaborative efforts and eager to learn and get started. Maybe your organization is more seasoned and experienced in collaborating with other organizations, or collaborative funding, and ready to dive a little deeper. Perhaps you’re somewhere in between! We can all learn much from each other’s experiences, no matter where we are in our journeys.

So, let’s chat! Tell us below…what has your experience been with collaborating with other organizations? Have you experienced any barriers to collaborating? Would trying a new approach to collaborating help address a barrier? What experiences have you had with collaborative grants? What was that like for your organization? What lessons did you learn?


Learn more about what Methodist Healthcare Ministries’ Capacity Building team is doing to assist organizations in improving operations and performance through its Capacity Building blog series on If you have any questions, please email us at

To read previous entries in the Capacity Building blog series, see below:

Capacity Building Series: Relationship Building with Funders (Part I)

Capacity Building Series – Part II: Why Relationships Matter

Capacity Building Series: Building Collaborative Relationships author pics

About the author: Chloé Laurence (she/her)

With a professional background working in education, mental health counseling spaces, and the nonprofit sector, Chloé serves her community through education, advocacy, and capacity building. She utilizes her love of learning and connecting with people in her work as a Capacity Building Specialist at Methodist Healthcare Ministries to support and empower our funded partners. Her mission is to strengthen our partners’ organizations so they can continue their incredible work building health equity and serving underserved individuals.