The purpose of partnership
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Service delivery partnerships between public, governmental institutions and private, nonprofit agencies are widespread and increasingly important to local governments in meeting public needs. What motivates local governments and private, charitable organizations to jointly deliver a public service? What do these partnerships look like and accomplish? And what community or institutional characteristics will foster or discourage collaboration? Although scholars have begun to lay the groundwork for an exciting, inter-disciplinary and multi-dimensional approach to answering the above questions, they remain largely unanswered, due in part to the relative youth of related scholarship. This research project addresses the questions posed above through a quantitative analysis of service delivery partnerships between Georgia city and county governments and 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations. The study is built on original survey data employing two large comparative samples that explore the experiences of both public and nonprofit officials with intersectoral collaboration. This study has two objectives: to provide a descriptive understanding of the scope of local government-nonprofit service delivery arrangements in Georgia, one of few such attempts across the states; and to build a stronger theoretical understanding of the contribution that a number of institutional, environmental, and structural factors make both to the propensity to collaborate, and the achievements of partnership. This study has employed a three-stage research framework that examines, first, the factors that can foster government-nonprofit partnerships; second, their scope and nature; and, third, their accomplishments. At each stage, the model draws on the fields of public management, network and organizational behavior to explore multiple dimensions of partnership such as jurisdiction, age, formality, size, goals, sector, and policy area served. The data analysis employs logistic and OLS regression models, independent sample difference of means tests, and contingency table analysis. The findings suggest that Georgia government-nonprofit partnerships are widespread, but fairly limited in scope and depth. Partnership formation is associated with local government fiscal capacity and nonprofit experience, and efficiency goals related to privatization literature are weakly supported. A lack of association between partnership achievements and formal contracts, and the finding of a connection between government volunteer involvement and partnership formation offer intriguing direction for future research.