This month the College of the Atlantic and Island Institute are launching the Fund for Maine’s Islands, a joint effort that will focus our collective efforts on working with island leaders to address the greatest threats to island community sustainability. This partnership demonstrates a growing trend for non-profits and philanthropists alike.

Did you know that there are roughly 6,500 tax-exempt non-profit organizations in Maine? According to the Maine Association of Nonprofits, one in seven Maine residents work for these organization and they pay roughly $19.3 million in salaries. This sector contributes 18.3 percent of the state’s gross product. It’s a big part of our economy.

These groups raise money from a growing group of people who live, work and care about the state. They allow groups like the Island Institute to support mission-related work including the production of the newspaper you are reading right now.

But if you are on the receiving end of requests for support from this multitude, it can be exhausting and frustrating. Once you are known to be generous, everyone who knows about you asks for something, and in the worst of cases, nonprofit staff develop an expectation or assumption that generous folks ought to provide support.

It shouldn’t be surprising then, that philanthropists are asking more and more frequently for organizations to develop partnership. Why not? After all, there must be some things that 6,500 groups could do better together than on their own.

The philanthropic community is right. But getting to effective partnerships requires creativity and time. I’ve spoken with the heads of numerous organizations along the coast in the past two years about this issue. Our discussions tended to touch on one of these four scenarios:

And then there is what I view as the dream partnership.

The dream partnership occurs when a funder approaches two organizations that have expressed an interest in working together and provides the resources to create the time and space to dream together. The funder works with both organizations to think up something new, something that neither organization could do, or certainly not as well, on its own.

Over the last two years the Island Institute and College of the Atlantic have had just such an opportunity. Visionary philanthropist Polly Guth knew that COA president Darron Collins and I had an interest in working together. She asked us to dream big and come back to her in a few months with a concept. That concept was the Fund for Maine’s Islands.

The first year of funding has inspired a remarkable partnership aimed a huge problem facing the islands of Maine—our energy future. It brings staff at the Island Institute together with faculty at COA and island leaders to work collaboratively on solving the energy challenges island communities face.

Each year, and for years to come, our organizations have the flexibility to listen for the highest priority challenges facing island communities and then find ways to partner our staff and faculty to work with leaders on inspiring solutions to these challenges. We could never do alone what we are now able to dream up and implement together.

This August we launch the Fund for Maine’s Islands. It is an exciting time. Under the dream partnership model I believe we will be able to look back a decade from now and witness a coast that has benefited from the collective actions of two coastal organizations focusing on the most challenging of island issues along side tomorrows island leaders.

Rob Snyder is president of the Island Institute. Follow Rob on Twitter: @ProOutsider.