Let’s cut right to the chase.
There are too many nonprofits in the Tri-Counties.
In the best-case scenario, honest, well-meaning nonprofits are simply a little too narrowly conceived and they are a little too overhead-heavy.
In the worst-case scenario, they are little fiefdoms for agenda-driven donors that simply duplicate the work of lower-cost providers.
One reason why this problem is so intractable is that merging nonprofits is really, really, really hard to do.
The better model is joint ventures or asset sharing, which is why we are pleased to point out the value of cooperation between two of the necessary nonprofits, the United Way organizations of Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.
In each case, the respective United Ways operate their own 211 hotlines for essential services. But in the case of Ventura County’s operation, it has spare capacity on weekends that allows it to serve as a subcontractor to the Santa Barbara group.
And when the Tea Fire erupted shortly before Thanksgiving, Ventura County United Way handled more than 10,000 211 calls from South Coast residents seeking all kinds of services from food to shelter to just a little more information about where to go in case of evacuation.
This sort of joint venture arrangement is important breakthrough because it allows each group to operate autonomously while also avoiding and outright and expensive duplication.
It also shows the power of broadly-based community organizations that are well established, as opposed to more narrowly-focused groups that are driven by a single issue that might or might not be essential at any give moment.
The cooperative effort of our two largest United Way organizations is to be applauded. It also should serve as a model for donors looking to get the most bang for their buck.
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