Networking. For many of us, that one little word often
conjures up a feeling of dread and uneasiness, but it shouldn’t. Networking is about making connection and
building relationships with individuals you might not otherwise have met. This is an opportunity many nonprofit
professionals ignore to their own detriment.
The individuals you
meet could be your organization’s next community advocate, board member,
volunteer, donor, or corporate sponsor.
When you make the effort to attend network building events on a regular
basis you will begin to make long last relationships with people from a wide
range of background. Isn’t that what you
need to get the word out about your
Does the idea of
attending an event like this terrify you?
You would be surprised by how many people feel shy and out of place when
networking. Remember, you are ALL there
to meet new people. When you see a group
talking simply walk up, introduce yourself along with your organization, and
shake everyone’s hand. A good trick to
get comfortable is to volunteer to help at or stand by the registration
table. You will meet everyone that
walks in for the event and, most likely, be the first hand they shake.
A recent article in the
Foundation Center says,
Try not to
see networking only as a way of getting something out of someone for your
personal gain. This should be a two-way street, in which both of you are
learning things about one another and building a meaningful connection. …at the very least you might make a friend or
get some good practice for future networking opportunities.
Tips for a successful
A great book to learn more about connecting with others is
How to Win Friends &Influence People
– You want people to
remember you and the best way for them to do that is to give them a reminder
about who you are and your organization.
Bringing business cards when you network is key. When someone gives you their card make a few
notes about them and what you talked about on the back.
The Follow Up
– As any good fundraising professional
knows, it’s about how you follow up with someone after the initial investment
that truly makes the connection. Two to
three days after the event send a short (a couple sentences) email expressing
how much you enjoyed meeting them and bringing up a topic the two of you
discussed (you wrote it on their card, remember?).
– If you’re feeling uncomfortable
talking about yourself all you need to do is ask questions. Most people really enjoy talking about the
things they care about so if you show interest by asking questions you will
endear yourself to them and solidify a new connection.