Strengthening Collaboration in Ontario's
Not-for-profit Sector

"If we want to make a difference … we're going to have to collaborate because there's no way we can 'fix' things ourselves…There's no question that the sector has to get better at this." (Funder Collaboratives, Grantcraft)

The environment in which not-for-profit (NFP) organizations operate is increasingly complex and evolves continuously. Every issue is connected, no single issue exists in its own silo.

In Ontario, the sector is responding by adopting innovative approaches to working together. Groups are experimenting with new forms of collaboration to address complex, persistent problems, breaking down traditional barriers between regions and across sectors along the way.

Collaboration is an area of strength for OTF. The Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF) is one of the largest funders of collaborative initiatives in Ontario. Since 2005, OTF has invested $136M in grants to collaboratives across Ontario.

Recognizing the Foundation's leadership role in this area, in the spring of 2010, our Board of Directors identified collaboration as a strategic opportunity for the Foundation. We can build on these strengths and enhance our impact in the sector and the communities we serve by focusing on innovative and strategic forms of collaboration in our granting and knowledge sharing strategies. Our research report, Strengthening Collaboration in Ontario's Not-for-profit Sector (pdf), by Heather Graham, Catherine Lang, Linda Mollenhauer and Lynn Eakin, identified new opportunities for OTF that have informed our action plans for 2011 and beyond.

What are we doing?

Our granting supports collaboratives through flexible, multi-year grants.
  • About 16% of all grants each year are to collaborative initiatives

We are convening the sector

  • We held a symposium on Collaboration for a broad array of stakeholders in June 2010
  • We are offering ongoing learning opportunities for OTF grantees, staff and volunteers
  • We are working with other funders to identify and pursue areas where we can collaborate to better support the needs of the organizations we fund, and the sector as a whole
  • Our upcoming symposium on Aging and the Not-for-Profit Sector in April 2011 included the theme of innovative collaborations as a way to respond effectively to the challenges of demographic change in Ontario

Opportunities for further action

  • We will foster a culture that embraces a broad spectrum of collaboratives, from  those just emerging around a great idea, to those with a longstanding record of success
  • We will continue to bring together funders and non-profit leaders to better understand and support the different forms of collaboration present and appearing in the sector
  • We will focus on collaboration as a tool for increasing our impact as part of OTF's learning agenda for 2011 and beyond, including at the OTF Conference and in the Great Grants Awards for 2012
  • Our web site will feature a series of articles and presentations highlighting examples of successful collaborations supported by OTF and what we have learned from them
  • We will continue to use online collaborative tools to share information and build networks and communities of practice, including through our new blog [ sector in conversation ].
OTF Symposium on Collaboration for Innovation