In life, networking serves many purposes: networking for jobs, networking to grow your client pool, to expand your group of industry professionals, recruiting volunteers, etc. As a result, networking is a crucial part of business for a non-profit organization. But it can be a very daunting task. No, worries. We’re here to assist.
First, it’s important to understand and take advantage of the principle that networking can happen at anytime with anyone. If you only take one thing away from this post, take that. After all, networking is essentially creating relationships. The people who you know the least or you believe have the least to offer you might surprise you (though it might be later in your life/career). Treat everyone with the same respect and start a conversation! Though your initial conversation might not completely revolve around your jobs, simply finding common ground in a book you both love or a hobby you enjoy doing, can be a great start!
Now for nonprofits particularly, we love these tips that we found over at knowhownonprofit.org! First, you’ll want to identify the key players for your organization and both their level of interest in your organization and their degree of influence they hold (high, medium, or low). It should also note their expectations and needs as well as their attitude about the organization’s performance.
Next, you might want to consider mapping out how the key players relate to the work your organization does. A spreadsheet, like the one would be a good start. In comparison with your organization. how do their beneficiaries, their values and approach, and their services match with yours? In what areas are you similar and in what areas are you distinct? Knowing this will be the key to making the most out of your networking opportunities!
In preparation for networking opportunities, print your business cards and never leave home without them! You never know you’ll meet! Prepare an elevator pitch about your position and your organization. Include three points and make it about a minute long! And when going to an event, be clear about why you’re attending and pick out two or three people you’d like to make contact with. Never leave an event without meeting someone and giving them your card! Following the event, be sure to follow-up with those you’ve met! Remind them of who you are, where you work, and something memorable that you talked about! And lastly, maintain that communication through sharing interesting articles, finding them on social media platforms, and reaching out to them regularly!
There are never-ending ways to network (through an industry association, mutual contacts, conferences, or even visits to their offices), but regardless, the result of successful networking should be a meaningful and mutually beneficial professional relationship. It’s important to remember that there are two people involved with different goals, needs, wants, obligations, and abilities! Ask yourself this, “What am I contributing to this partnership?” Instead of thinking of this as an opportunity for personal gain, think of networking as a chance to a two-way street, give and take.
Though these relationships aren’t always easy to sustain and the fruits of your labor don’t always come to fruition until months or even years later, the benefits you’ll receive are well worth the time and effort.
Do you have some tricks of the trade when it comes to networking? Let us know down below so we can help each other become networking pros!