Collaborative Agreements


image: figurines putting a puzzle together

Helpful on-line tool for effective collaboration. Collaboration Coach provides examples of leading practice. This tool is the product of an OTF grant promoting knowledge sharing.

A collaborative is made up of two or more organizations that jointly submit an application to achieve a common goal where there is mutual benefit, shared decision-making and accountability to each other. A collaborative may include eligible and ineligible organizations but at least one member must be an eligible organization.

The Ontario Trillium Foundation asks that groups that apply as a collaborative create a written agreement that spells out how you will do your work together. OTF has a strong commitment to supporting collaborative projects through our funding programs and recognizes that good working partnerships require thoughtful planning.

Your collaborative agreement should be simple and no more than a few pages. It may take just a single discussion amongst your members or you may plan a few meetings to work out the details of your working relationship. When it is complete, your agreement should set out a clear plan for how you will communicate, the roles each member will play, how decisions will be made, how money will be spent and accounted for and how reports will be prepared.

A collaborative agreement is a living document. It may change as the nature of your work and your relationships change over time. Grantees with new collaboratives and projects of more than one year may be asked, or may wish, to submit a revised collaborative agreement as an outcome of the first year of an OTF grant. Your plan will also help OTF staff assess the strength of your collaboration and your ability to work together.

You should cover the following areas of your working arrangement.

Names of member groups

List the names, addresses and telephone numbers of the groups who make up your collaborative and the roles that each group will play in the project. Set out who will play the role of the Lead Applicant, taking responsibility in the agreement with OTF for the management of your project. Clarify which organization will speak publicly on behalf of the collaborative.


Write a brief explanation of why your collaborative has formed and who will benefit from your work together. When you think about who will benefit, consider not only the direct recipients of your activities but the benefits to the larger community. Here are a few examples:

  • A collaborative formed between a service club and an unincorporated children's sports organization decides to improve the lighting in the baseball diamond in a small rural community. Youth in the community benefit because more young people can play with extended evening hours. Local businesses and homeowners also benefit because the new activity for young people reduces vandalism and improves community spirit.
  • A community theatre forms a collaborative with the local tourism council to create a production house for summer theatre. The benefit of this project includes new jobs in marketing and production, new opportunities for local people to experience theatre and economic benefit to the community from tourism spending.
  • A collaborative of organizations interested in respite care develops a shared network of voluntary home care providers. The direct benefit of the project is to the families and recipients of care. However, local organizations also benefit from new skills and relationships developed in creating the shared vision and collaborative effort to accomplish a project that no single organization could do alone.

Time frame

Set out the term of this agreement between collaborative members. Indicate what date it was established and if it has a planned end point.

  • You may plan for your partnership to begin with your application and end at the completion of your OTF grant or it may be that your OTF project is simply one part of your collaborative's work in the community. In either case set a beginning and an end point on your document so that you will know when it is time to re-visit your agreement.

Decision-making process

Set out how the decisions will be made by your collaborative. Collaboratives must create structures and processes for making decisions. Existing collaboratives may need only document what you already do. However, sometimes in having the discussion about how your group makes decisions, new issues and ideas can emerge.

Shared decision-making, responsibility and accountability between collaborative members and to the community are important components in collaborative work. Most groups use a process of discussion followed by a formal decision-making process, such as a vote with a majority decision or consensus. There are many decision-making processes available; the key is that you know when a decision is made that is supported by the collaborative and that the formal decision-making method you choose suits the style and requirements of your group.

  • Collaboratives with simple project, for example two groups making decisions about equipment purchases, may have a simple agreement that each member group will approve any purchase. Larger projects may require a collaborative committee or board with a formal decision-making process spelled out.
  • Decision-making within a collaborative group may be a process with a majority of members carrying the decision or may be an arrangement that permits representational decision-making on behalf of collaborative members.
  • Some groups choose a majority-vote decision-making process. Others prefer to work in a consensus process where the group deals with all raised objections until every member agrees that the decision is one with which they can live. Both methods require the group to decide on a clear process so that each member of the collaborative will know when a decision has been reached.
  • Regardless of the decision-making process you choose, collaborative members need to think through what kinds of decision will need to be made, who will make them and how they will be tracked and reported to the whole group. In collaboratives with staff, where day-to-day decisions are delegated to employees and policy and planning decisions are made by the collaborative, clear parameters on staff decision-making are required. Some of the kinds of decisions you may need to make include:
  • Authority to spend money on behalf of the collaborative
  • Hiring decisions.
  • Decisions about policy or direction that your program will take.
  • Decisions to apply for grants .
  • Planning decisions.
  • This section should also include a simple process for how conflict will be resolved. If your decision-making process breaks down, for example with a tie vote, or if your group is in conflict, what is the process you will use for resolution?

How the collaborative's funds will be managed

Identify who will be the Lead Applicant for the collaborative. The Lead Applicant must be an organization eligible for Ontario Trillium Foundation funding.

The Lead Applicant:

  • Is designated by the collaborative to enter into the contractual relationship with OTF.
  • Signs the Letter of Agreement, accepts the funds and assumes responsibility for fiscal accountability and all required reporting.
  • Must be registered with OTF.

Roles and responsibilities of collaborative members

  • Identify which collaborative member will be responsible for each task involved in planning, doing or evaluating the initiative for which you are seeking OTF support.

Remember to...

  • Have an authorized member of each member group sign the collaborative agreement.
  • Scan and attach the agreement with your application.