Lockdown has brought to bear some of the best examples of charity partnerships. Organisations with the same goals working together to fundraise, deliver better services and drive more impact.
Service delivery and fundraising can be competitive among charities as they hunt for income in an increasingly crowded market place.
But since the outbreak of COVID-19 charities have shown great strength in adapting to the challenges this has presented, in particular working together as they pivot service delivery and their organisation online.
Such cooperation ensures beneficiaries are being supported in innovative ways, fundraising can be maximised and the quality of service on offer can keep improving.
“The benefits of successful collaboration include greater efficiency and use of resources, improved services, a stronger voice and influence and organisational sustainability,” according to the National Council for Voluntary Organisations.
Amid the pandemic charities have certainly taken this ethos on board, creating successful collaborations to help each other. They are also providing valuable lessons that many in the voluntary sector can learn from.
There has been a wide range of types of partnership showcased during the pandemic as well. At a basic level this has seen two charities that share the same goals teaming up. Meanwhile, there has been complex service delivery link ups involving many charities. Some have involved wider infrastructure bodies and others have included partnerships with other sectors to improve charities’ effectiveness.
Two charities, one goal
One recent example emerged this month when the Utley Foundation’s Music for Dementia campaign teamed up with Alzheimer’s Society.
Both organisations use music to support those with dementia. This includes the Society’s Singing for the Brain groups, which use weekly singing sessions to improve the lives of those with dementia.
During lockdown these groups have had to move online and Utley has stepped into help the Alzheimer’s Society, with funding and support to set up 80 more Singing for the Brain groups across the UK.
"Charities have been hit hard financially during the coronavirus pandemic, and it is therefore now more important than ever that organisations focus, streamline their work and collaborate where values and objectives align,” said Utley Foundation Founder and Trustee Neil Utley.
“Our partnership with Alzheimer’s Society will enable over 80 new Singing for the Brain groups to be set up across the UK, improving the lives of thousands of people living with dementia. This will help to accelerate our goal for all people living with dementia to have access to music as part of their daily care.
“Now is the time for charities to be innovative. Combining knowledge, skills and resources can help to solve problems and increase impact.”
Online platform collaboration
Partnerships between a wider range of charities have also launched amid the pandemic. This includes a collaboration between a raft of leading mental health charities, including Mind, the Samaritans, Shout, and Hospice UK, to create a mental health platform to help those providing frontline support for those affected by COVID-19.
Called Our Frontline, this launched in April and offers a raft of online resources from across those charities involved to support NHS and emergency services staff with their emotional wellbeing during the crisis.
Mind Chief Executive Paul Farmer said that the collaboration is important to ensure services can be delivered so essential workers “can easily access information and contact trained advisors to promote good mental health, any time of day or night.”
Charity infrastructure bodies are also ensuring they are working together to deliver common goals amid the pandemic.
The creation of the Product Giving Alliance is one example. This has seen Charity Digital team up with FareShare, In Kind Direct and International HealthPartners to to urge businesses to donate goods and services to charities supporting people in need during the COVID-19 pandemic.
All four organisations share a common mission, to donate services and goods, such as software, food and equipment, to charitie. This supports their organisation, fundraising and helps communities facing financial hardship. Together these groups have seen they can be more effective in achieving their goals. They have a bigger voice to encourage even more business to help pandemic affected communities.
Other partnerships have seen charity organisations link up to help improve each other’s organisation. This means they can more effectively make back office improvements to support fundraising and frontline delivery.
Using data is one such area. Last month 15 charitable organisations including digital partnership The Catalyst, NCVO, British Red Cross, Citizen’s Advice Bureau and the Centre for the Acceleration of Social Technology (CAST) launched a partnership committed to gathering data and using it to help the charity sector as a whole.
This aims to specifically support charities that do not have the resources and capacity to innovate with data.
It will also look in detail at “the current and emerging needs of individuals and communities during the crisis” as well as service delivery, according to Catalyst.
A concern has been a “lack of cohesion” around data among charities, which Catalyst warns leads to “a lack of knowledge”.
The collective will gather expertise in data gathering to ensure that charities, both on the frontline and in leadership, can access information they need to improve services in a timely fashion and in an accessible format. The partnership is looking for more organisations to join up to further improve data use.
Priorities include mapping data collection across the charity sector, better signposting of data and creating collaborative datasets on how the sector is responding to COVID-19.
Longer-term work will include improving data collection and presentation, “so non-experts can understand it” says Catalyst.
The Catalyst was launched last year to support the use of digital skills and technology among charities. The aim is to help charities use digital to tackle social and environmental issues. This includes helping charities be more responsive to the needs of communities and work collaboratively to accelerate the use of digital in the voluntary sector.
Other organisations involved in the data partnership include the charity DataKind UK, which supports charities improve their use of data. Its projects have included supporting Huddersfield based food bank The Welcome Centre. Last year it built a machine-learning model to predict which of the charities’ beneficiaries are most likely to become dependent on food bank food and other goods.
Another charity supported by DataKind UK is homelessness charity Llamau. This Wales based organisation was helped to use data to better understand who is benefitting from its services as well as identifying projects that have the best outcomes.
Not all charity partnerships to spring up during the pandemic are national. Increasingly at a local level the spirit of collaboration has been strengthened amid the crisis, so that charities share expertise and resources to help communities.
Among local charities to do this are those in Suffolk, which in April saw the groups Volunteering Matters and Community Action Suffolk link up to help match charities as well as businesses together to ensure their communities’ needs are being met during the pandemic.