by Dan Kennedy, Kumveka Executive Director. He's served dozens of ministries with the expertise an agency provides.
One look at the title of this post and you may be thinking, "An agency guy offering advice on why to choose an agency? Self-serving much?"
The truth is I really have learned a lot over the years about what makes a good fit between those with a mission (the client) and those with outside expertise (the agency). And on many occasions I have been able to point clients to other agencies based on what will best serve their needs. I think the principles that should govern this process have broad application. So, let's dive in.
Why should ministries consider using an agency?
The short answer is: giftings. There's a reason I hire a plumber even though I consider myself handy. It's a different set of gifts, training, and experience. Of course, Scripture says it best: "But in fact, God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be." (1 Corinthians 12:18)
Clearly, God intended us to be different and bring different gifts to our work. Our job as leaders is to:
- Clearly understand the opportunities and challenges ahead of us.
- Understand the types of gifts needed to do the work.
- Have an honest internal self-assessment.
- Be open to look outside of our organizations for help.
Now let's look at this in terms of the value equation: Benefits vs. Cost.
What's the benefit of using an agency?
- Deep Expertise. See the question and answer above. Consider that entire careers are spent learning and mastering research, brand strategy, creative direction, and marketing planning, just to name a few. Knowing about something and having practiced it over time are very different things.
- Limited Scope. You can bring in an outside group to tackle a specific challenge or opportunity. This allows you to avoid incremental headcount and limit both the length of time and dollars invested. Said differently, you get to—lovingly—"rent" an entire team of experts for just the work you need done.
- Lasting Impact. The best agencies I've worked with follow the When Helping Hurts model, focusing on the third state of development. Agencies should not just help fix a problem, but also leave the organization better off. This can be done through truly working the project together, as well as intentional training. You should be better equipped to lead when the project is complete.
What's the cost of using an agency?
- Financial. Compared to using internal resources or hiring an individual freelancer, yes, the price tag is certainly higher. But this is a clear case of "you get what you pay for." Individual freelancers can be amazing, but they are still just one person with one set of gifts. An agency brings a full suite of gifts to your challenge. It's often best to compare the investment to the upside for the organization. And in many cases, what is the "cost" of not making significant changes?
- Time. While an agency will bear the brunt of the load, it's still critical that you are prepared to work with them and invest time in ensuring your goals are met. Our experience is that the best ideas come not from any one person, but when we truly collaborate. And this takes time.
What else do you think should be considered? What other questions do you have about partnering with an agency? Let me know in the comments.