Anyone who has been a reader of this blog since its inception knows, I am a big fan of collaboration. I think working together can multiply the reach. I firmly believe that more gets done when no one cares who gets the credit. And grantors love to see organizations working together, eliminating the waste of duplicated efforts.
Nevertheless, I think it is natural for those of us leading a ministry to wonder how we maintain our own identity, focusing on the mission we have been given while still collaborating. Here are some thoughts:
- Actually HAVE a mission, a business plan on paper. It’s easy to lose your identity as a ministry or organization if you don’t have one to begin with! What is your mission? How does this collaboration fit in with or compliment that mission? You had better know going into the partnership unless you are willing to be either swallowed up by it or eliminated by it.
- Identify and remember what your ministry or organization is the “best in the world” at. Nobody is able to do everything and do it well. There are enough areas of special needs ministry for every leader to zero-in on a specific area or two of work to pursue with excellence. Before you collaborate, make certain you know your core area of competency.
- Recognize what your ministry is in need of or lacking that you see another group doing with excellence. Again, no organization can do it all and do it all well. Great collaborations can be initiated when we are willing to accept the weaknesses of our own group. Reaching out to others who exhibit strength in a given area can mark the beginning of some terrific teamwork.
- Define the collaboration. What role will each ministry play? Who is responsible for what finances? Expectations and job definitions should be put in writing.
- Give the collaboration a life span. Clearly define a beginning and ending date for your partnership. If things are going well, you may make a mutual decision to extend the relationship or even unite your ministries in more permanent ways. If the life span has served its purpose and is reaching a natural conclusion, both organizations can walk away with a sense of satisfaction. If things haven’t worked out very well, you can look forward to the pre-appointed opportunity to escape the situation.
Each of these ideas will help you emerge from a collaboration with your own mission remaining intact, while also protecting each organization involved.