This May 2016 I am excited to return as a trainer for the Camp Colorado conference. One of the sessions I’ll be facilitating is on the topic of nonprofit networking. I’ve personally had a lot of success with networking and have even taught classes on the subject. Below are my recommendations for great networking, nonprofit-style.
- Engage with trade and networking organizations such as the Association of Fundraising Professionals or Young Nonprofit Professionals. These are examples of national and international organizations with local chapters.
- Determine the best way for you to get involved. Choose one or a combination of options such as in person (lunches, trainings, events); virtually (LinkedIn, other social media, listserv, blog, and more); and/or through volunteerism (committees, boards, one-day service).
- Understand the value of networking. Networking can open doors to opportunities that were never possible – those may be job opportunities, friendships, supporters, prospective donors, volunteer and leadership roles, and more. You just never know – be kind and gracious with everyone!
- Know what networking is. Networking is a way to create long-term mutually beneficial connections. It’s a way to authentically meet people, learn about opportunities, and share your own networks and connections.
- Know what networking is not. It is not brown-nosing or keeping score. It’s not about using people or hoarding information or opportunities. It’s not about being fake and purely transactional.
- What does successful networking look like? Be brave by taking risks to put yourself in challenging situations. Show your confidence because people are attracted to that and you are an amazing person already (note: this does not mean you have to know everything relevant, but that you are confident to ask questions and learn more). You are always prepared by having business cards with you and know a short way to describe yourself, what is unique, what you are looking for, and how you can help others (other wise known as the elevator pitch). Make eye contact and ask open-ended questions to learn more about the other person in order to find those potential connections.
- After the networking opportunity be sure to follow up. Use whatever contact/address book you have to add in your new contacts’ information including where you met and important points of the conversation. If there is anyone you said you would follow up with after meeting, do so within one week of meeting him/her for the first time. If you do find a time to meet up be prepared for the other person to have a very full schedule; s/he is going out of their way to make time (which costs money) to meet with you so be sure to make it as easy on them as possible by meeting them in a convenient location. Always follow up with a thank you email or note and even consider writing a recommendation or endorsement on their LinkedIn profile.
- Be gracious. One of my mottos is to under promise and over deliver. For example, if you say you will follow up in a week then follow up in four days. Going above and beyond in any scenario will set you apart and firm up your reputation as having a strong work ethic and reliability. These qualities are a rarity and can be incredible helpful to you and your future. Networking takes time and energy – not every connection is going to be the right fit, but you want to be appreciative of others’ efforts. Be humble, enthusiastic and kind… it will take you far!
Are there other resources you would like to share? Recommendations or experiences you have with networking? Share them here – We want to hear from you!
Emily Davis, MNM
Emily Davis is the President of Emily Davis Consulting, Fundraising and the Next Generation author; 21/64 multigenerational family philanthropy consultant; and BoardSource Senior Governance Consultant. She has served as a nonprofit founder, philanthropic grant maker, staff, and volunteer across a wide variety of organizations locally and nationally. She provides facilitation, consulting, and writing on topics for nonprofit and philanthropic leaders such as charitable advising, board governance, multigenerational issues, and nonprofit management. Emily has her Masters in Nonprofit Management from Regis University and serves as an adjunct professor in that program. Emily was recently named one of the 2015 40 Under Forty Young Business Leaders in Boulder Valley by BizWest.