The Partnership Between Non-Profit and Public Organizations


At present, the partnership between non-profit and public sectors brings many benefits to both parties. In the past, the system was different, namely, the government and the private sector worked separately and, in some countries, the government had absolute control over all spheres of its activity. Although it is considered inefficient, at that time, it was acceptable, and the system was working for centuries. However, with the rapid development of information technologies and the process of globalization at the end of the 20th century, the need for more effective methods of distributing the responsibilities within the state significantly increased. As a result, the tendency of the collaborative work of the government and non-profit organizations appeared.

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In general, this system of mutual help between the government and the private sector is considered beneficial not only for these two parties but also for the ordinary citizens of the state. Such distribution of responsibilities, where the government provides financial and other kinds of support to non-profit organizations, and they, in turn, implement the best strategies to maintain public welfare, has proven to be effective. Certainly, this system has some disadvantages, but they are insignificant.

Thus, the challenges that the partnership between public and non-profit organizations brings are few, but, nevertheless, they must be taken into account when establishing this relationship. Considering the above-stated information, the following research question can be formulated: “What are the challenges and benefits partnership or collaboration between non-profit organizations and public organizations?”.


For the last fifty years, a notable tendency of public service delivery privatization is observed. The main cause of this trend was the perception of the excessive growth of the state’s welfare. Later, the idea became a need to enhance efficiency and responsiveness, thereby improving the end results (Brinkerhoff, 2002). As it turned out, the private sector (both non-profit and commercial) was perceived by the public as more effective and efficient than the government, and that the private sector should take the role of a leader and the government that of a supporter.

Nowadays, this tendency has become global. Many countries all over the world use this model which continues to prove its effectiveness. This system is also based on the principle of subsidiarity, namely, the responsibility for addressing the needs of an individual is in those who are the closest to them (non-profit organizations, community, family), and larger units like the government should intervene only in those cases where the needs of the population exceed the capacity of non-profits organizations (Nolte & Boenigk, 2011).

The General Description of Non-Profit Organizations

Currently, non-profit organizations and the government are involved in a broad range of relationships, which can be divided into three main types, namely, cooperative, competitive, and complementary (Kapucu, 2006). Every kind of relationship is important in the provision of the effective functioning of democracy and the promotion of public welfare. Being independent to a certain degree, non-profit organizations almost always work in collaboration with the government when completing their missions (Nolte & Boenigk, 2011). Different levels of the government, namely, local, state, and federal, develop laws and regulations within which these organizations operate. Policies introduced by the government have a great impact on the incentives for institutional and individual volunteering (Alexander & Nank, 2009). In its turn, the government relies on non-profit organizations in terms of delivering public services and providing financial support to them.

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In addition, the government often cooperates with non-profit organizations in developing public policy and in finding solutions to public issues. It also assures the public that these organizations are fully legitimate, reliable, and responsible for their actions (Forrer, Kee, & Boyer, 2014). Although the relationship between the government and non-profit organizations is important, the relationship between them has grown rapidly for the past fifty years without much attention paid to it (Follman, Cseh, & Brudney, 2016). Therefore, understandably, major doubts exist regarding the best ways to maintain this relationship and predict its consequences.

Non-profit organizations greatly depend on gaining the trust of the public in order to successfully achieve their goals, provide charitable support, and defend the public’s interests. In fact, this trust can be seen in people’s willingness to spend their time and resources on a particular organization. However, there are many other aspects that influence the public opinion about a certain non-profit organization and the principles of its strategy (Gazley, & Brudney, 2007). The government can assist these organizations in their operations.

Thus, the main responsibility for ensuring the trustworthiness of a non-profit organization directly depends on the organization itself, particularly, its board of directors. Their responsibility includes developing strategies, setting a direction, introducing policies, and ensuring the effective fulfillment of their goals (Mendel & Brudney, 2012). The boards must also prove their commitment to their goals and values that distinguish this particular organization from the others, for example, the promotion of public welfare, the improvement of a democratic society, and so on. Therefore, the role of boards is not only to protect and follow their goals and values but also those of the entire sector to which their organization belongs (Jang, Valero, Kim, & Cramb, 2015). In order to carry out these functions, boards should always take into account special obligations that they have not only to their organizations but the general concept of the sector where they work.

The Role of the Government

The role of the government is crucial in establishing the trustworthiness of the non-profit sector. However, this role must be fulfilled in an efficient way so as not to disrupt the process of operating non-profit organizations. The government usually enforces legal duties of care and commitment on the part of the boards by means of assuring transparency of charitable organizations and protecting people from deceptive practices of those requesting its support (Milward & Provan, 2006). In addition, the government can demand more effective performance from non-profit organizations when they help to deliver services financed by the public.

Furthermore, the advancements of information technologies make it much easier to perform these operations more effectively than it was in the past. For example, the facilitation of electronic filling in Form 990 made the majority of non-profit organizations improve the accuracy of data included in it (Xu & Morgan, 2012). This improvement also made it possible to use various economic sources of information in order to identify the usable data of a non-profit organization and to enhance the capacity of the government in protecting the operations of this organization and improve communication between federal regulators and the state.

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Benefits and Challenges

Today, a great amount of literature is on the best methods of collaboration between the public and the private sector (Selsky & Parker, 2005). However, the majority of works regarding this topic focus primarily on the advantages of this cooperation and ignore the disadvantages of this process.

The first challenge concerns itself with the financial aspect of the problem. Indeed, the potential institutional costs of such an alliance can exceed the expectations which will certainly influence the relationship. Another challenge that can occur in the partnership between the government and a non-profit organization is a misunderstanding between the parties regarding the issues of the general strategy of the organization, its core values, and actions that it implements when performing its duties (Zhang et al., 2017). In fact, such arguments can be resolved by means of effective negotiations between the parties. In case the problem is not resolved, the partnership can be terminated.

As far as the potential benefits of such partnerships are concerned, there are a great number of them. First of all, the effectiveness and efficiency of all the performed operations increase considerably (Boris & Steuerle, 2017). The allocation of responsibilities and resources within the state allows creating a much better coordinated and well-organized system where each member focuses on a particular goal they need to achieve instead of trying to achieve all the purposes required by the state.


The process of establishing partnerships between the public and non-profit organizations is a recent trend. Its rapid development began only several decades ago. Earlier, there was no need for establishing such partnerships, as the system was built in a way that the government had the ultimate responsibility for all the actions made within the state. Currently, with the development of information technologies, the role of the private sector increased exponentially. Generally, the collaboration between the public and the private sector presents both risks and opportunities of various types. Comprehensive research has been conducted regarding this issue. According to the results, this kind of collaboration brings much more advantages than disadvantages. Therefore, this system is considered effective and is widely adopted all over the world.


Alexander, J., & Nank, R. (2009). Public-nonprofit Partnership. Administration & Society, 41(3), 364-386.

Boris, E. T., & Steuerle, C. E. (2017). Nonprofit and government (3rd ed.). Landham, MD: Rowman.

Brinkerhoff, J. M. (2002). Government-nonprofit partnership: A defining framework. Public Administration & Development, 22(1), 19-30.

Follman, J., Cseh, M., & Brudney, J. L. (2016). Structures, challenges, and successes of volunteer programs co‐managed by nonprofit and public organizations. Nonprofit Management and Leadership, 26(4), 453-470.

Forrer, J., Kee, J. J., & Boyer, E. (2014). Governing cross-sector collaboration. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

Gazley, B., & Brudney, J. L. (2007). The purpose (and perils) of government-nonprofit partnership. Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 36(3), 389-415.

Jang, H. S., Valero, J., Kim, J., & Cramb, K. (2015). Understanding the diverse forms of nonprofit collaborations: A case study of communities in schools of north texas and its partner organizations. Journal of Public and Nonprofit Affairs, 1(2), 100-117.

Kapucu, N. (2006). Public-nonprofit partnerships for collective action in dynamic contexts of emergencies. Public Administration, 84(1), 205-220.

Mendel, S. C., & Brudney, J. L. (2012). Putting the NP in PPP: The role of nonprofit organizations in public-private partnerships. Public Performance & Management Review, 35(4), 617-642.

Milward, H. B., & Provan, K. G. (2006). A manager’s guide to choosing and using collaborative networks. Web.

Nolte, I. M., & Boenigk, S. (2011). Public-nonprofit partnership performance in a disaster context: The case of Haiti. Public Administration, 89(4), 1385-1402.

Selsky, J. W., & Parker, B. (2005). Cross-sector partnerships to address social issues: Challenges to theory and practice. Journal of Management, 31(6), 849-873.

Xu, H., & Morgan, K. (2012). Public-private partnerships for social and human services: A case study of nonprofit organizations in Alabama. Public Administration Quarterly, 36(3), 277-310.

Zhang, X., Griffith, J., Pershing, J., Sun, J., Malakoff, L., Marsland, W.,… Field, E. (2017). Strengthening organizational capacity and practices for high-performing nonprofit organizations: Evidence from the national assessment of the social innovation fund – A public-private partnership. Public Administration Quarterly, 41(3), 424-461.

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