What if someone asked you to combine two 1’s? Would you get a two or an eleven? Perspectives can be intriguing. Yours shapes how you respond to challenges and opportunities, how you communicate, and how you choose to collaborate, or even choose not to.
Now, more than ever, working together is necessary for purpose-driven entrepreneurs and impact-producing projects to gain the support needed for the greatest success. This is a good thing!
Selecting and collaborating with the right partners can
- Foster new ideas, innovations, and opportunities,
- Minimize risk for everyone,
- Reduce costs,
- Introduce new relationships and connections,
- Expand your audience, impact, and reach,
- Lengthen the duration of impact.
On the other hand, alliances and group projects do run the risk of going sideways when not set up or structured well.
Many years ago, I participated in a collaborative fundraising project for a cause I cared deeply about. I happily accepted the invitation to be involved, even though the event was less than a month away. The group had been working on this for several months but had not made adequate progress. Collaboration involved extremely caring but very busy professionals, all highly interested in supporting the non-profit organization that would benefit from the event.
Unfortunately, a common cause or goal and even great passion are not enough to ensure an effective collaboration. The group I joined lacked structure. They had no meetings. Communication was through emails, which became exhausting and confusing. There was no plan or accountability. As often happens, the brunt of the work fell on three of us.
We managed to pull off a successful event, raised a good sum of funds for the charity, and shared an extremely important message through media and other social platforms. But how much more productive might this event have been if the original group had started better? When structured properly, results can far exceed initial hopes.
After the event, we had an excellent review-and-learn process, which would be invaluable should this group continue to host the event annually. The discussion included honest reflection and several pointed questions.
What worked well?
- The recipient charity supported the marketing efforts and provided needed information in a timely way.
- The event was scheduled with an important media campaign around mental health week.
- The cause was known and respected.
- Volunteers were highly dedicated to its success.
- Event attendees provided very positive feedback.
What was challenging?
- Email communication created gaps. Some people were cc’d; some were left out. Hard to follow threads disrupted planning flow and pacing, which hindered progress.
- There was no one place for information storages and project management, such as Asana, Basecamp, or Teamwork. A project management tool keeps things organized and provides a template/system for the future.
- A lack of administrative support led to poor communication beyond the committee. Very little connection was made with other stakeholders, like door prize partners and event attendees, who would have benefitted from reminders or enticing updates.
What did we learn?
- The cause was an extremely recognized and respected organization. The staff was easy to work with but under-utilized by us. We should have tapped into their skill sets and connections more.
- A collaboration agreement would support the project and the volunteers.
- Having a clearly defined plan with accountability would save time and increase impact.
- We ended up with too many prizes because of the vast support from in-kind partners. We ended up bundling several items together—at the event.
What will we do next time?
- Use door prizes more creatively. They were easy to secure and plentiful. We could have used some to support registration (e.g., every 10th person to register gets a prize, first one to register on a specific date gets a prize). This would have provided added recognition for sponsors and helped increase the registration numbers.
- Bring collaboration volunteers in early, have a plan, accountability, and a collaboration agreement.
- Put together communication and organization systems; run processes more efficiently.
- Share more post-event storytelling to keep the impact going and make next year’s event easier.
Collaboration can make profound differences in the world. When you have the right recipe and ingredients, projects have the potential to impact people you didn’t even imagine would be touched by your work. No matter how you choose to combine these important tools and ideas, may your project add up to amazing success.