Step One: Are you ready?
Before seeking to engage in a collaborative endeavor, there are a few ideas that you may want to examine first. Consider the following questions:
1) Does my organization have a clear vision of where we are headed, and a roadmap to get there?
2) Is my agency fiscally solvent and stable at this time? 3) Has my agency established measurable criteria for success?
4) Have we experienced quantifiable results toward the achievement of agency goals?
5) Are my Board, agency leaders and staff in the position to emotionally, physically and psychologically engage in a joint partnership at this time? Am I ready?
If you’ve answered No to any of those questions, now is not the time to attempt a joint venture. Instead, it may be helpful to engage in some internal organizational development first. Let us help you get prepared!
Step 2: Look Around You
If you’ve answered Yes to each of the questions in Step 1, CONGRATULATIONS! You are ready to move forward. Creating opportunities for research and reflection within one’s weekly schedule is imperative for all industry leaders, and particularly for non- profit leaders. Due to the complexities of non- profit operations, start with dedicating 30 minutes each week specifically for the exploration of joint collaborative endeavors. These 30- minute sessions can be spread out over 10- minute increments, or completed in one sitting. To start, create a geographically boundary for the search. Try a 7- block radius of your main headquarters or other facility locations. Potential partner agencies can also be found within your professional networks, alliances and association memberships. Ideally, you will identify organizations who share a similar vision and mission, and who may provide similar or ancillary services, along your systems of care.
Once you’ve located some potential partners, narrow the list down to 2-3 organizations that appear to be a good fit, based on the following criteria:
1) Vision and mission
2) Demographics of community and clients served
3) Current service provisions
4) Level of recognition and impact within the community
5) Organizational structure and design.
Armed with this knowledge, proactively engage prospective partners via the most effective communication method to date: face to face (or a virtual meeting during COVID-19). Stop by their office, and make a personal connection with the executive assistant and staff. Leave a hand-written note for the Executive Director, if they are not available, offering to take them to coffee, or attend an open Board meeting, in hopes of identifying opportunities for collaboration. Remember to follow- up in one week, if you haven’t heard anything, by stopping by the office again and chatting up the executive assistant. Only after this second visit can you send an email, if desired. Repeat as desired, until you get a response from 1-2 agency leaders.