Determining Levels of Involvement

Organizations can work together in many ways. Some arrangements are informal while others may involve a contract or memorandum of understanding.

The following table describes four levels of involvement: networking, cooperation, coordination, and collaboration. One level is not necessarily “better” than another. Find the one that is the best fit, given what your organization hopes to achieve.

Four Levels of Involvement

Level Purpose Structure Process Examples
  • Provide dialogue and common understanding
  • Create clearinghouse for information
  • Create base of support
  • Non-hierarchical
  • Loose/flexible link
  • Roles are loosely defined
  • Community action is primary link among members
  • Low-key leadership
  • Minimal decision-making
  • Little conflict
  • Informal communication
Sharing what various organizations are doing during an interagency networking meeting, talking about community issues in which they all have a stake, or communicating with other organizations about existing programs, activities, or services
  • Match needs and provide coordination
  • Limit duplication of services
  • Ensure that tasks are done
  • Central team acts as communication hub
  • Semi-formal links
  • Roles are somewhat defined
  • Links are advisory
  • Group leverages/raises money
  • Leaders who facilitate
  • Complex decision-making
  • Some conflict
  • Formal communication within the central team
Partners publicize each others’ programs in organization newsletters, write letters in support of each others' grant applications, co-sponsor trainings or professional development activities, or exchange resources such as printing or meeting space
  • Share resources to address common issues
  • Merge resource base to create something new
  • Central team consists of decision-makers
  • Roles are defined
  • Links are formalized
  • Team develops new resources and joint budget
  • Autonomous leadership focused on issue
  • Central and subgroup decision making
  • Frequent and clear communication
Serving together on event planning committees or community boards, or implementing programs or services together
  • Accomplish shared vision and impact benchmarks
  • Build interdependent system to address issues and opportunities
  • Consensus is used in shared decision-making
  • Roles, time, and evaluation are formalized
  • Links are formal and written into agreements
  • High leadership, trust level, and productivity
  • Ideas and decisions equally shared
  • Highly developed communication
Formal agreements between participating organizations, including memoranda of understanding or formal contracts, developing common data-collection systems across organizations and community sectors, partnering on joint fundraising efforts, pooling fiscal or human resources, or creating common workforce training systems
Last Updated: 09/24/2015