We use cookies to help us provide you with the best experience, improve and tailor our services, and carry out our marketing activities. For more information, including how to manage your cookie settings, see our privacy notice.


Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

Covid-19 update: Government guidance changed on 19 July 2021 - we're currently updating our information in response to this. In the meantime, visit the government's guidance on lifting restrictions.

Community-made content which you can improve Case study from our community

How to collaborate

This is a brief guide to identify what collaboration options may be appropriate and available to you and how to start the first stages of this.

Things you'll need

  • Your business plan or.....details of your current objectives and direction
  • Time to undertake research and to review findings
  • An open mind – aim to think “out of the box”
  • Your existing and potential contacts list.

Why are you thinking about collaboration?

Collaboration is a very broad area to consider. Some types are informal and simple - others more complex and will call for formal methods and processes to be employed. It’s important to understand the reason why you are considering this. It may sound obvious but by really understanding “why”, it will save you time early on and help to point you in the right direction.

Reasons could be:

  • Contract opportunities being bundled together, requiring more than one organisation to deliver.
  • Grant funding has ceased or been cut; donations or giving have reduced.
  • New opportunities have arisen. Perhaps through a changed local funding landscape.
  • Increased competition for funding or services.
  • An alternative to a merger or a step towards it.

Collaboration may have been a long term objective in your business planning but if not, once you understand the exact reason why, it is wise to compare and contrast it with these original plans. Is it consistent with these or is a good time to undertake a fuller strategic review? This is often overlooked even when significant political and industry changes take place.


How big is the opportunity and how formal or informal does it feel?

Having considered the reasons for collaboration and the fit with your overall strategy and existing business plan – consider the size and shape it might be, There are lots of ways you can do this and many formal tools exist but just as a first step consider:

  • The financial need – is it modest or substantial?
  • Service delivery impacts – can we change existing service levels or must they be maintained or improved?
  • Your ability to manage change and complexity. Good, bad or untested?
  • The likely risks and how they might be successfully overcome.
  • Geography and target audiences. Are these increased, static or reduced.
  • How will key stakeholders feel about it? 
  • The urgency
  • The likelihood of success to address the reasons in section 1 above.

Reflect on the answers here and overall consider “is this a substantial collaboration or a more modest informal partnership”


What form of collaboration is best?

As already stated there are many forms of collaboration but consider your findings and needs against the types below.  

A simple informal arrangement, which might include:

Joint events, shared advertising, shared office facilities or just sharing ideas and working together for common goals. Usually this is achieved fairly quickly.

  • Likely cost and complexity – Low                       
  • Benefits - Modest

A formal arrangement 

Different Contractual Service roles – particularly likely in Public Sector Service Delivery. Here a party may be a Prime Contractor or a sub contractor. The 1st has a leading role in delivery of the contract.

  • Likely cost and complexity – Medium         
  • Benefits – Medium to high

Joining or forming a Consortium.

This opportunity is increasing particularly with the changing public service contracts.

  • Likely cost and complexity – Medium               
  • Benefits – Medium to high

A joint venture or the establishment of a specific project or programme.

Usually this will be a medium to longer term initiative. These arrangements are typically a partnership of equals.

  • Likely cost and complexity – Medium              
  • Benefits – Medium to high


Perhaps the most complex and risky – potentially it may take longer and will involve more stakeholders and professional advisers.

  • Likely cost and complexity – Medium to High
  • Benefits – Medium to high

Who do we approach?

This is where your contacts list comes in handy. You need to set aside time to think “out of the box” here - perhaps working with two or three trusted people, it is good to “brainstorm” ideas and short list possibilities.

Consider also researching:-

  • The Register of Charities on The Charity Commission web site. This has a useful advanced search facility based on criteria such as: Charity Activities, geography and key words.
  • Local newspapers and magazines plus relevant trade journals – most have articles on work of Charities, Social Entrepreneurs and other opportunities.
  • Business clubs, professional advisors (Solicitors and Accountants may be prepared to chat informally and make introductions)

It may also be worth making enquiries via Trustees or trusted supporters and stakeholders.


First contact!

How this is done will depend significantly on how sensitive and substantial the collaboration might be and an understanding of the possible response to any approach. Here again detailed intelligence is essential and you should cautiously undertake as much research as possible on the other organisation’s business and plans.

Some will be in the public domain – again The Charities Commission web site holds useful detail here and obviously information in the public domain may be secured via Google search or the business’s own web site – all these should be carefully scrutinised.

Whether the first approach is via letter, email, telephone or via an introducer will depend on what your research reveals.


Next steps?

This will depend on what route you are taking. However overall as a rule of thumb, the greater the opportunity and complexity, the more likely that further specialist input will be required.

See the section below which suggests where to go for further information.

Further information





Page last edited Mar 23, 2021 History

Help us to improve this page – give us feedback.