‘Catalyst Fund’ created to support collaboration among nonprofit organizations in the region

September 21, 2010

Additional press contacts:

Brigid Boyd
United Way of Massachusetts Bay
and Merrimack Valley

Jan Talansky
Nonprofit Finance Fund

Catalyst Fund header

Technical assistance will be provided to spark, sustain partnerships and mergers

Boston—A funding partnership has been established by the Boston Foundation, Boston LISC, the Hyams Foundation, and United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley and managed by the Nonprofit Finance Fund to help nonprofit organizations develop collaborations as a way to create greater impact for the work they do. This will be accomplished through the use of technical experts who will be made available to help eligible organizations work together.

The new fund, called the Catalyst Fund, was created in response to years of requests by Greater Boston nonprofits for support in the often complex challenges related to collaborations. These can range from shared back-office professional functions, such as financial oversight, to partnerships in shared enterprises, to full mergers of established organizations.

The Catalyst Fund is the first funder collaborative of its kind, working to develop supportive resources for a robust merger-and-collaboration practice. It has raised commitments of $1.75 million against a goal of $2 million over the next five years from its funding partners.

“This has long been the missing piece in the nonprofit toolkit, despite the importance institutional collaboration in the nonprofit sector” said Paul S. Grogan, President and CEO of the Boston Foundation. “This will have a significant impact on organizations here, and we expect it to serve as a model for similar funds elsewhere in the country.”

How the Catalyst Fund will work
The critical work of the Catalyst Fund will be to develop a deep bench of experts in a broad array of professional skills to serve as technical advisors to organizations seeking to collaborate. Interested technical assistance providers will be reviewed to determine skill levels and areas of expertise and will attend informational workshops run by the Nonprofit Finance Fund. The Catalyst Fund is committed to building a pool of technical assistants who have a record of experience in nonprofit collaboration and who reflect the diversity of communities served by the region’s nonprofits. The Nonprofit Finance Fund will be the point of contact for the technical assistance providers and will support them through regular status meetings to ensure a timely and satisfactory completion of work to be done.

“Greater Boston has a long history of organizations coming together to increase the scope and impact of the work they do by teaming up with one another, and this new Fund will build on that tradition of voluntary association that seeks to amplify the mission of local nonprofits,” William Piakiewicz, Director, New England Program, Nonprofit Finance Fund. “The details of partnership should never slow down or undermine the commitment to increase impact, and we are providing technical assistance to that end.”

Applying for help
Details about the criteria to be used to select organizations to receive support from the Catalyst Fund and technical assistance providers will be given at a series of informational workshops. Applications will be accepted on a trolling basis according to procedures made available on the NFF website at www.nonprofitfinancefund.org under the Catalyst Fund and also on the website of the Catalyst Fund partners.

“At the United Way, we see the Catalyst Fund as an important step in the growing sophistication of the nonprofit sector in the region,” said Michael Durkin, president and CEO of United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley. “Sometimes collaboration is the way forward for organizations servibg the region, and this will offer a key set of supports and strategies to make that possible.”

NFF will assist interested nonprofits to produce a qualifying application to the Catalyst Fund. Initially, the Fund is interested in supporting collaborations among organizations in the mission areas of Arts & Culture, Community development, Human Services and Youth Development. Nonprofits approved for support will have the opportunity to select their technical assistance provider from a pool of providers confirmed by the Catalyst Fund and with proven expertise in the relevant field.

“Having exactly the right technical assistance provider can make all the difference in the world to a successful collaboration, and that is why building a deep bench of seasoned and appropriate experts is key to this new venture,” said Elizabeth Smith, Executive Director of the Hyams Foundation. “Collaboration can be an exciting and empowering time and the Catalyst Fund will build a team of consultants that helps to ensure a good fit from the start.”

“Greater Boston has long had a deeply entrepreneurial culture, and has been a true wellspring for the nonprofit sector, with more nonprofits per capita than any other urban center in the country,” said Bob Van Meter, Executive Director of Boston LISC. “It is a natural place for new ideas for nonprofits to arise, and this is one of the most important in recent years. The Catalyst Fund will contribute to the health of the sector, and in that way to the economic health of the region.”

Each nonprofit will enter into a formal agreement with the technical assistance provider specifying work to be completed and fees associated with it, with the portion of fees covered by the catalyst Fund determined on a case-by-case basic.

Each nonprofit client will continue to meet with the NFF staff through the duration of the contract to help ensure timely and satisfactory completion of the work.

For funders
The Catalyst Fund welcomes additional local and national funding partners. The leadership will reach out to potential funders to encourage the development of similar funds in other parts of the country.

Informational workshops
Workshops for interested nonprofits and technical assistance providers will be held on Monday, October 4, and Wednesday, October 6, at times and locations to be announced and posted through the websites of the funding partners and on the NFF website. For more information, please contact Peter Kramer, Catalyst Fund Manager, at 617-204-9772 or by email at catalystfund@nffusa.org. Nonprofits and technical assistance providers interested in the Catalyst Fund should contact the Fund manager directly rather than contacting the Fund's individual funding partners.
About the Boston Foundation
The Boston Foundation, Greater Boston’s community foundation, is one of the oldest and largest community foundations in the nation, with assets of $682 million.  In Fiscal Year 2009, the Foundation and its donors made over $95 million in grants to nonprofit organizations and received gifts of over $81 million. The Foundation is made up of some 900 separate charitable funds established by donors either for the general benefit of the community or for special purposes.  The Boston Foundation also serves as a major civic leader, provider of information, convener, and sponsor of special initiatives designed to address the community’s and region’s most pressing challenges.  For more information about the Boston Foundation, visit www.tbf.org or call 617-338-1700.