Community Partnerships: Blessing or Liability?

For many non-profits, forming community partnership relationships with other like-minded non-profits can be extremely beneficial to their operation. The benefits of collaboration are almost innumerable, including:

  • The ability to offer a broader scope of specialized services.
  • Low or no additional overhead costs.
  • Both entities can gain access to each other’s networks.
  • There is wisdom in having many counselors.

These benefits do not come without a cost. It is helpful to recognize that there are unique exposures that may be presented when entering into a relationship of this nature.

You may be inviting exposures onto campus that did not previously exist there. There may be exposures that are created in the community by your operation leaving your campus.

There are several things that should be considered before entering into a collaborative arrangement.

Choose Your Partner Wisely

How does the entity with whom you will be working relate to what you do? Do you have similarities in your existing clientele? Do you both have common objectives that you are working towards? Finally, why do they do what they do? Is their answer the same as yours? Depending on the nature of the relationship, it may be very important that there is a shared philosophical approach in accomplishing your stated missions.

Contracts / Agreements

Whether written or verbal, contracts help guide the parameters under which the partnership will operate. While we are not legal experts, here are some things to consider:

  • The Involved Parties
  • Scope of the Relationship
  • Specified Duration
  • Post Termination
    • Non-Disclosure
    • Non-Compete
  • Risk Transfers
    • Insurance
    • Waivers
    • Indemnity
    • Hold Harmless


Collaborating with other entities may extend your areas of exposure and create scenarios where you become at least vicariously responsible for liabilities that you may not have had previously. It is important to speak to your insurance agent about the types of community partnerships you are involved in so that they can either confirm coverage or recommend additional coverages as appropriate.

One common misconception regarding insurance is the existence of an “Additional Insured” status. The terminology can be confusing, and many people think that if they are listed as an Additional Insured, that means they enjoy the protections that come from the policy. That is only partially true. Liability is extended to the Additional Insured only for work that they are doing on behalf of the policy owner, provided that the policy owner not the Additional Insured, is the source of the liability.

I recommend you reach out to a Merriam Insurance representative to learn more about community partnerships and their potential risks.

Joshua D. Crowder, AAI-M