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Community Partnerships

A great way to extend the impact of your service or outreach ministry is to form partnerships with local nonprofits, agencies and other churches.

Attempting Community Transformation

As a nonprofit, ministry or church team, have you ever embarked on a new endeavor so big that you had no idea how it would turn out? Maybe you had a vision to help the homeless get integrated back into society, or to be a catalyst to help raise school test scores in under-resourced areas. Recently, we began to attempt something like this ourselves, by starting a new inner-city and urban Atlanta focused service area (what we call a Hub; you'll see why in a minute) to meet the need for critical home repairs for low-income homeowners and people who typically can't make repairs themselves - widows, single mothers, the elderly and those with mobility challenges.

We want to not just serve individual homeowners, but to help transform the community to collectively impact more people than we ever could alone by showing and sharing the love and gospel of Jesus Christ to those we serve.

Have you ever attempted something like that? What has been your experience? I hope that you'll share your learnings by leaving a comment at the bottom of this post.

We act like A HubHere's our model for attempting this. We've used it in our northeast-Atlanta suburban Hub. Much like the Hub of a wheel with many “spokes”, our new inner-city Hub Director Andre will connect disadvantaged homeowners with the following organizations or groups:

Spoke 1) Churches - HRM helps churches start or grow their own home repair teams to serve their congregations and communities. We also coordinate and rally volunteers from churches on projects we lead.

Spoke 2) Other nonprofits and agencies - We receive referrals, often pre-screened, from other community service organizations, and if there’s a need a homeowner has that we can’t meet, we try to return the favor by referring them to nonprofits and agencies we have a relationship with. HRM also makes it a priority to serve these organizations that help the hurting, with repairs or upgrades, so that they can serve more people, better. The community, and people with needs, win!

Spoke 3) Businesses - Community-minded businesses sometimes offer materials discounts (on occasion donations), grants and financial support.

Spoke 4) Individual financial supporters - Donors provide the "gas in the tank" that lets us go. Although they may not directly meet the many people we serve, donors enable us to do the work we do to make their homes safe and accessible!

This model has helped us complete over 120 projects two straight years, in the suburbs, and it’s one reason we’re so excited about the new Hub. Of course, nothing is ever certain in a new venture and area. If we need to make adjustments, we will! As we mentioned above, please let us know how your adventures have gone in serving the community by leaving a comment!



Serving the Hurting - Meet Thelma

When we met Thelma, she was a 72-years-old, and also a grandmother and a strong Christian. She had rescued her six- and seven-year-old grandchildren from the foster care system in New York. One of these children tested positive for prenatal crack cocaine exposure, and she thinks that the other one was exposed, as well. She was working to adopt them, and had already paid a large sum in attorneys' fees. She also had been hit with a large, unbudgeted repair for her septic tank drain field. So, when a sliding glass door rotted and fell off the track, she did the only thing that she could think of - jam it closed from the outside with a wooden wedge. Now she had an inoperative door, no rear exit from the house (a significant safety issue), no budget and no idea where to turn for help. This is just the sort of scenario that we love to get involved with!

First, HRM talked her through enrolling as a client of Gwinnett County Senior Services. They authorized the funds for a replacement door. We often talk about the importance of partnering with other nonprofits and agencies, and this situation shows why - together we can do much more than we could separately and make a bigger impact on the community! HRM installed the new door at no cost, and was helped by a young man serving mandatory community service hours.

Thelma is thankful to God for providing HRM and meeting her many challenges. Your support help us to invest the time, skill and sometimes money for materials (though we often find someone to make the purchase or deeply discount the price), that homeowners like Thelma need.

These stories are not possible without the generous support of many people. As the year draws to a close, will you prayerfully consider a year-end gift to HRM to help us continue the work of serving homeowners in distress and showing them the love of Christ? Thank you and God bless you!

Make a Year-End Gift to Help People Like Thelma


How You Can Engage Your Community - Part 4

This blog continues the series on how churches, outreach teams and service ministries can impact their communities.

Community PartershipsThe last way we'll discuss to serve your communities (although far from the last way to do it!) is to form strategic community partnerships. Done right, partnering with other nonprofits and agencies has the potential to have the greatest impact on the community. Let's look at why that is.

1) Leveraging broader skill/labor pools - An agency, nonprofit or church probably won't have all of the skills needed to have maximum impact or effectiveness in the community. What's true for a local church is also true for the broader Church (see 1 Corinthians 12) - we function better, and more optimally, when we're sharing skills and talents across churches and denominations (assuming we hold to the same core beliefs and doctrines). As a sidebar, that's another great reason for church home repair teams (or pick your service ministry) to serve together. If you're experience is like ours, you'll be able to do more by working across multiple churches.

2) Maximizing resources - What's true of labor is also true of materials and funding. Do you think that most organizations feel like they could accomplish more if they had more money or materials? Perhaps you can pool resources with another nonprofit or agency to benefit both. A ministry that has blessed us, Ground Zero Grace, has shared a warehouse with us for years. Their generosity has turned into many in the community getting repairs, because we have a place to store materials and tools!

3) Thinking strategically - here's where we can put #1 and #2 into use to increase impact. Our nonprofit ministry has served local co-ops to help them serve more people or use limited resources more frugally.

We've talked before about helping a local co-op build a thrift store so that they could provide low-cost goods to clients and bring in some more revenue. We've also served at a thrift/consignment store that provides job opportunities for people with disabilities. These are just a few examples. The possibilities are endless. Do you have success stories working with other agencies? Please share your experiences and help us learn! Just click on "Leave a Comment" below to add to the discussion. Please note that you have to be in the actual post (click on the blog title above) to leave a comment. You will not be able to leave comments from the main blog page (if you see more than one blog post as you scroll down, you're on the main blog page).

We've also observed that funders look very positively on community collaborations - yet another reason to explore the possibilities!

If you missed earlier posts, you can see them here -

Part 1 - Repairs and Accessibility
Part 2 - Advocacy
Part 3 - Disaster Response/Recovery



How You Can Engage Your Community - Part 2

This blog continues the series on how churches, outreach teams and service ministries can impact their communities.

CourtAdvocacy is one of those open-ended terms that can mean different things to just about everyone. What springs to your mind? A political rally? Signing a petition? A lawyer? the concept is simple - advancing the cause of the hurting and oppressed, typically through public opinion or legislation.

Have you had success with large (or small) advocacy efforts? If so, will you share your story? We'd love to learn from you. Please click on “Leave a Comment” at the bottom of this post and share your experience!

Because the challenges advocacy seeks to address can be so large and daunting, it probably scares a lot of folks off. But we think that there are ways to "stand in the gap" for people that don't require such a large-scale effort.

Advocacy can be very effective if you have good relationships in the community, but require a different set of skills for "hands-on" ministry people. Instead of swinging a hammer, collecting food, or providing shelter or rent money, these types of engagements require strong networking skills and the ability to work the phones. While they may not require material costs or volunteers, advocacy projects are a great way to build strong rapport and relationship with a homeowner and to help more people. Here's how it looks for our ministry. We get connected with someone in need, then use our connections and relationships to get funding, materials, grants, special considerations or discounts. HRM typically works with companies and nonprofits until a solution is arrived at - advocating on the client’s behalf.

We've been able to get client's heaters or air conditioners replaced or repaired for significant discounts or free. Certainly, this is not something a company or nonprofit can do all the time, but if you can accomplish one or two projects that you wouldn't have been able to before, what a difference that could mean for people!

Want to read more about how to impact your community?

Part 1 - Repairs and Accessibility
Part 3 - Disaster Response/Recovery
Part 4 - Forming Partnerships



Helping Other Organizations Better Serve the Community

Does your church serve other churches or nonprofits so that all can make a bigger impact on the community? If so, congratulations! “Multiplication” of community impact is part of our heart, too, and our desire is to equip and come alongside others so that they can go and serve their congregations and neighborhoods for the glory of God. Here's a real-life example from a project we recently participated in at a local church.

As an example, we served a church, in Roswell, on a project to help them with their community outreach. They wanted to move an after-school program for at-risk high school students into a new building, but it had a leaky roof. The program is a performance-based mentoring program that empowers the students to become contributing members, in their communities, by focusing on academic support, mentor and peer accountability, and life skills development.

Several churches served together to fix the roof. HRM and the church we were serving together recruited volunteers, and we provided the project leadership. Three other churches also participated. Another loaned us nail guns. One of the volunteers from the church we were serving was a disabled Vietnam veteran. We developed a good relationship with the pastor, and his church expressed an interest in starting their own home repair team.

Maybe soon they will be helping other churches and organizations to reach and serve more, too!

We'd love to hear what you are doing to help others serve more. Please share your stories and experiences by leaving a comment.


3 Ways You Can Have More Impact Without More Budget

Collaborating with other service agencies can help you, as it helps our ministry, work more efficiently and get more done. How?

Building a Ramp1) Getting projects via referral. We get a good percentage of our projects in this manner. Your church or service/outreach ministry might be able to, also! Each community partner you work with has a unique “sweet spot” where they focus.

Here's an example from our world. Often, our community partner's specialty is with survival basics such as food, clothing, rent, utility funds and counseling. But when their low-income, home-owning clients have a repair or accessibility need they can’t meet, they often send them to us. Sometimes, they even send along materials funding! Are there partner organizations in your community who need your services? And, if you turn it around, are there services that your congregants or clients need that a community partner can help with?

Working together like this can make everyone involved more efficient and effective, as well as make things easier for people needing help.

2) You can get more projects done more quickly. Again, using our experience as an example, we save time by getting most of our projects from referrals (from other nonprofits and service agencies) and having many of them come to us pre-qualified. That helps us do more projects in a shorter time period. Rather than chasing down needs and having to qualify them all ourselves, we get to focus on how we might help and “rounding up the troops.”

If you developed tight relationships with some trusted agencies, could you leverage the power of pre-qualification to get more done and have a greater impact?

Handymen Unleashed3) You might have heard us talk about this before, but serving other non-profits and agencies by helping them serve more (in our case, by improving, repairing or maintaining their facilities) is a highly strategic community investment. We don’t just serve an organization, we help impact the thousands of people they are serving, and in some cases, the additional thousands more they can help because of the improvement!

It may look different for your church, ministry or organization, but if you are involved in serving and helping people, can you leverage your unique skills and abilities to help other organizations make a bigger impact for the Kingdom of Christ?

For Christian organizations, it brings to mind what Paul says about the church in 1 Corinthians 12:12-26.

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body — Jews or Greeks, slaves or free — and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.



Turning Outreach on It's Head

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that outreach is important to the church. It’s one of the ways that we try to engage with folks and fulfill the Great Commission.

What we're going to talk about in this blog isn't intended to downplay personal outreach and evangelism - those will always be important and probably the most effective methods. But what we're talking about here is church-wide outreach.

Forgive the following over-simplification, but here’s something of what it usually seems to look like. A church wants to meet some folks in the community, so they hold an event or open house. People come, say “hey”, and hopefully decide to return to your church the next week. But maybe, in today’s “show me” culture, it’s time to look at that model again, or at least supplement it.

What if your church could offer a critical service and meet the community at their own front doors, literally?

And what if outreach was the community looking to your church for desperately needed help and inviting you to their homes? Think about that last part. Outreach = people inviting you to come to them. In their hour of need and on their own ground. Sounds pretty compelling, doesn’t it?

2011_4I think that a lot of churches have that opportunity and aren’t even aware of it. The opportunity I’m talking about is a home repair ministry. Most churches probably have one or two guys (or ladies) that can be called on when something goes wrong with someone’s house. By taking that informal team and ramping up a bit, you can be a vital part of the community that gets turned to when a local non-profit agency has an elderly widow with a leaky sink. Or, when someone recently disabled needs a wheelchair ramp in order to get in or out of their house. With a few community connections, or maybe even by joining up with another church or two, you might even be able to find a low or no cost option for a senior whose heater breaks down in the deep of winter.

And do you think these people might possibly be receptive to discussion and/or prayer after you’re done?


Advocacy – the Power of Community Connections

In a service ministry, it really is all about relationships. Human connections help us find homeowners in need, present partnership opportunities at other non-profits and build partnership opportunities with companies looking to make an impact in the neighborhood. In essence, they help us build service value networks.

Building these networks presents opportunities to meet needs, and that is perhaps best illustrated when we are able to advocate on behalf of a homeowner. In our ministry context of home repair, advocacy typically refers to helping someone who has an urgent need connect with a vital community resource, resulting in the homeowner’s crisis being resolved, possibly at low or no cost.

Here are a couple recent real-life example to show you how this all works.

We have relationships with many local non-profit organizations. When we run across a client who has a need we can’t meet, we can pass them along to another non-profit that can help meet their need. That also happens in reverse.

A couple days ago, we got a call from an elderly lady whose air conditioner conked out. She was referred to us by another agency. After speaking with her further and understanding her need, we were able to connect a local heating and air company that has a huge heart and has worked with us in the past.

They were able to go out, look at her air conditioner, and fix it for her. They donated the repairs to her. Without these community connections, we would not have been able to help her and meet her need.

We encountered a similar need in December of 2011 when we got a call from a widow whose heater stopped working. She called us to ask what to do. She had called an HVAC company, and after we talked with them, they graciously marked her bill down to cost. We called another non-profit connection that was able to pay the remainder.


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Igniting Your Ministry Impact

A great way to multiply your impact, whether you are an Outreach Ministry, Mercy Ministry, or other Non-Profit organization, is to build service networks with other community service non-profits. Find logical synergies with other organizations or find needs that they have to help more people in the area. You can take several approaches, such as directly partnering with the other agency or using your organization's skills or services to supplement their offerings. The Foundation Center's National Collaboration Database - collaboration.foundationcenter.org/ - is a good resource for additional ideas for partnering opportunities. Some of these include sharing space, combining marketing efforts and sharing staff.

Here are potential scenarios to illustrate some of the opportunities you might want to pursue. Say, for example, you have a home repairs ministry like ours. If you poke around enough, you can probably find a co-op or food pantry that needs help with repairs. Or maybe you can make a strategic investment and help them convert some unused space into a thrift store. That helps the co-op raise more money and provides low-income homeowners, some of whom may also be your clients, necessary and affordable goods. Another options is to help a non-profit with storage space. Giving an organization a way to store more supplies (such as cans of food for a food pantry or clothing storage for a homeless services organization) is a terrific way to help them serve more people.

What if you have a car repair ministry or non-profit organization? How about providing oil changes for those driving to the food bank to pick up food for the week? Now your partnership is adding to the service value chain for your constituency. You'd be surprised at how valuable even a small non-profit can be when they are strategic about extending their reach. Are you starting to see the potential here?

In addition to the satisfaction of helping more people and living out your organization's vision, there are some practical benefits to partnering with community non-profits as well. While you're growing your service footprint in the community, you are also building trust with a valuable network of community partners. If a client comes into their establishment or they get a referral with a need that your ministry can provide, guess who they are going to call? And that works both ways. If someone you are helping needs additional help that one of your partners can provide, you just built a deeper relationship with and provided more help for your client.

Before you undertake any projects, make sure to check with your Board of Directors to make sure that they are in alignment with your vision for extending your non-profit. Despite the best of intentions, it may turn out that it doesn't make sense for you to take up some or all of the partnerships that are described here. But if there is a strategic fit, your only limit on multiplying your impact is your imagination and the time you have to apply to the endeavor.

Want to take part in one of these partnerships? If you live in Atlanta, join HRM on a project! To sign up or for more information