Shared Services: A Guide to Creating Collaborative Solutions for Nonprofits (San Francisco, CA: Nonprofit Centers Network) is the "first comprehensive guide for nonprofit leaders looking to create shared services programs." Chapters provide an overview of shared services, planning tips and tools, and offer case studies as examples. Here are some questions/answers culled from the guide:
"What are shared services? What benefits do shared services offer?"
Broadly defined, it's the "collaborative use of resources across traditional organizational boundaries." These resources may include physical (office) space, equipment, staff, or program resources. Benefits include more purchasing power, efficiency through the reduction of duplication of functions, employee retention, and stability through the creation of a long-term system.
"How are shared services structured and funded?"
There are four common structures: independent provider, joint venture, fiscal sponsorship, and networked support. The guide provides a matrix to help you choose the right structure. Regarding funding, diverse streams are recommended; some of these include earned income, corporate support, and debt or investment funding from banks and foundations. While initial funding may be needed for start-up investments and expenses, the book provides an example of a shared Internet service that did not require start-up funding.
The guide also provides detailed advice on managing and staffing such programs, and devotes an entire chapter to planning tools. The case studies look at 10 shared services programs around the U.S.; each profile includes key lessons learned, the mission, budget, structure, and contact person.
For more information on this topic, last year Jean Butzen, a blogger for the Stanford Social Innovation Review, wrote a series on nonprofit back-office integrations or what these organizations refer to as "shared service alliances." Here are links to the four entries, which all focus on the Early Childhood Education (ECE) industry:
- Creatively Combining The Back Office: A Series on Shared Service Alliances
Introductory blog to the series.
- Creatively Combining the Back Office: Shared Services Alliance Part 2
Provides an example of what can be done to preserve small, community-based nonprofits through a unique business model.
- Shared Services Alliances, Part Three: Early Learning Ventures Alliances
Addresses creative and productive partial integration models.
- Tipping Point for A National Movement for ECE Shared Services
Describes the National Shared Services Technical Conference Butzen attended in Philadelphia, Sept. 20-21st, 2010. She also links to a shared services toolkit that can be used in the start-up of local early care and education alliances.
In addition, Tides (the creator of the Nonprofit Centers Network program) makes available Develop Shared Nonprofit Space & Services, which describes their work in shared services and points to helpful resources, such as a green workspaces brochure.
Shared Services: A Guide to Creating Collaborative Solutions for Nonprofits is available at the New York, DC, San Francisco, and Atlanta libraries under call number 609 CEF.
The Foundation Center--New York