In the nonprofit construct, citizens join forces around a common Theory of Change. The Theory of Change answers 3 questions:what is the problem you seek to solve; what approach (intervention) do you believe is best to solve that problem; and what will be the result of your intervention. As we all recognize, there are many citizens with their own sense of what is the problem to be solved and/or what should be the solution. And, there are those who view the problem similarly but whose intervention alone does not solve the whole problem. This reality can produce collaborations and even mergers.
Say Yes to Education and America's Promise Alliance are two national organizations who agree that in some communities, high school graduations are not satisfactory. Each organization has developed an intervention. Now they are going to join some of their resources to see if they can improve their respective results. Collaborations and even larger joining of resources like collective impact involve lots of citizens recognizing that together is better.
In today's environment, nonprofit boards must consider how they can increase efficiency and improve their outcomes and collaborations and mergers are certainly one approach where resources are maximized and doing what each does best can make increased gains toward achieving mission.
Here's the Wall Street Journal article on this latest collaboration of two nonprofits.
Thirty years ago a Connecticut money manager named George Weiss made headlines by promising 112 sixth-graders in a high-poverty school in Philadelphia that if they made it to college, he would pay their tuition.
Twenty earned bachelor’s degrees. Some of the others veered off track due to drugs, teen pregnancy or criminal behavior. Mr. Weiss decided his nonprofit, Say Yes to Education, should get involved as early as kindergarten. Now, Say Yes tries to help communities marshal local resources to provide schools with health clinics, counseling and social services.
On Tuesday, Say Yes is expected to announce a new initiative with America’s Promise Alliance, another nonprofit seeking to boost graduation rates in the U.S. where 83% of students finished high school in four years in 2015, up from 79% in 2011. While that percentage has risen, educators caution that many seniors who get diplomas aren’t ready for college-level work.
Officials at Say Yes and America’s Promise say they are investing in a new project, the Weiss Institute, which aims to help public and private-sector groups work together to help students succeed.
Mr. Weiss, 74 years old, said he hopes the institute will enable the Say Yes model to spread beyond the sites it now reaches, including Buffalo and Syracuse in New York, and Guilford County in North Carolina. Say Yes says that with its partners, it gives more than 130,000 students access to various supports and postsecondary scholarships. “Say Yes is about hope and raising expectations,” he said. “We need to help more children.”
Based in New York City, Say Yes is investing $3 million in the joint venture, officials said. America’s Promise says it will deploy its 13 researchers at the Center for Promise at Boston University. Much of the Weiss Institute’s work will be done virtually, advising communities on effective programs.
The announcement comes as America’s Promise marks its 20th anniversary in New York City on Tuesday with a “summit” on how to improve the lives of at-risk children. America’s Promise is known for its high-profile backers, including five living former presidents. Retired Gen. Colin Powell is its founding chairman and his wife, Alma, is its chairwoman. President Bill Clinton is slated to give Tuesday’s keynote speech.
One obstacle to progress is the difficulty of getting various government agencies, philanthropies and service providers to work together, say the nonprofits’ leaders.
“There are fiefdoms and egos,” said John Gomperts, president of America’s Promise. “The Weiss Institute approach is how you break those things down so that communities organize themselves to work together.”
In Buffalo, for example, Say Yes entered the city in 2011 with a pledge of $15 million. In turn, the city government, businesses, school officials, unions, churches, parent groups and others committed to provide support such as summer programs, mental-health counseling, legal clinics and a college scholarship fund.
Samuel Radford III, who heads a district-wide parent council in Buffalo, said Say Yes served as an “honest broker” that brought clashing groups together to plan changes. “They made sure everybody was heard,” he said. “People dismiss parents and talk at us instead of to us. They made sure we had an equal seat at the table.”
Mr. Radford said that collaboration was a significant factor in boosting the district’s four-year graduation rate, which rose to 64% in August of 2016, from 48% 2012. The prospect of college scholarships helped as well.
“When I go to barber shops, community centers and churches, everybody knows about it,” Mr. Radford said. “People are saying you can go to college, there’s no excuse.”