Panel Paper: Bringing Nonprofits to the Collaborative Table: An Evaluation of Nonprofit Resource Contribution and Mission Alignment in Intersectoral Public Health Networks

Thursday, November 7, 2013 : 3:40 PM
DuPont Ballroom G (Washington Marriott)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Carrie L. Chapman, Peter deLeon and Danielle Varda, University of Colorado, Denver
As demand for public services increases, agencies often turn to collaborative partnerships in order to relieve scarce resource burdens and to achieve a broader range of outcomes than a single organization could facilitate independently (Bailey & Koney, 2000; Saidel, 1991). The transition from a traditional, hierarchical structure to collaborative arrangements of service delivery poses unique challenges for organizations involved in the provision of public services. Such challenges are particularly salient when organizations collaborate across sectors, as resource contributions and mission objectives vary among partner agencies, and may affect the outcomes a collaborative seeks to achieve. This paper evaluates sector-based resource contributions and mission alignment in 170 public health networks to better understand how organizations from the nonprofit sector collaborate with public and private agencies to help achieve collective outcomes, and how the challenges of bringing diverse partners together may be overcome by practitioners in the public health community.

This study is a secondary analysis of organizational level and whole network data from the PARTNER (Program to Analyze, Record, and Track Networks to Enhance Relationships, dataset. A sample of 170 collaboratives from around the United States was selected and analyzed based on a set of common criteria.

Organizational level data were analyzed using one-way ANOVA tests to determine if significant differences in responses existed across sectors. Next, weighted least squares regression models determine how sector-based differences affect the number of outcomes a collaborative is able to achieve and agreement among collaborative members regarding the most important outcome.

The findings indicate that significant differences in resource contributions, perceptions of mission alignment, and the value of mission adherence to collaborative success exist across sectors. Compared to public and private organizations, nonprofit organizations were found to bring a greater number and diversity of resources to public health collaboratives, as well as being perceived by their public and private partners as having the strongest support of the collaborative’s mission. Additionally, results of this study suggest that nonprofits, while contributing fewer financial resources than public organizations, are more likely to contribute additional resources. In particular, a greater number of nonprofits contributed volunteers, feedback, expertise, community connections/networking, and advocacy than either public or private organizations. Previous research indicates the need for these resources in collaborative partnerships (Agranoff & McGuire, 1999; Gazley, 2008), and nonprofits may be a more frequent source of their provision. Additionally, significant differences in perceptions of mission alignment indicate the need to develop innovative strategies aligning collaborative objectives.

While benefits exist when engaging in collaborative partnerships, challenges inevitably arise when organizations work across sectors. The findings from this study have both theoretic and practical implications. As public health service delivery increasingly relies on collaborative arrangements, it is critical to understand what practical challenges these collaboratives face, and to identify techniques for effectively managing intersectoral partnerships.