How do you network?

networkingA few days ago, I was Skyping with Henry Freeman, the owner of H.Freeman Associates LLC. It was a getting-to-know-you session because a mutual friend had suggested that we needed to meet and explore possible ways for our two consulting practices to work more closely together from time-to-time. During our conversation, Henry asked me a question that I haven’t been able to get out of my head. That question was:

How do you network?

As one does in a fluid conversation, I had to think on my feet and these were the examples that came out of my mouth:

  • Coffee meetings
  • Breakfast, lunch and dinner meetings
  • After-work cocktails
  • Virtual networking (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterst, Google+, LinkedIn, and the DonorDreams blog)
  • Group membership (e.g. Fox West Philanthropy Network)
  • Conferences

I’m not sure if I’m any good at networking, but I do it primarily because I like people. I love meeting new people. If you are a regular reader of this blog, then you know that I regularly say things like “We don’t have to re-create the wheel” and “We can all learn from each other.” Both of these expressions are most likely drivers behind what gets me out of my home office and meeting with all sorts of people.
During a little windshield time yesterday, Henry’s question was still rattling around my brain when it dawned on me that “networking” is obviously a critical skill for most non-profit CEOs and fundraising professionals. If you’re good at networking, then you are probably a natural when it comes to:

  • cultivating new prospective donors
  • stewarding existing donors
  • developing collaborations with other organizations, groups and corporations
  • soliciting donors and selling sponsorships
  • recruiting volunteers
  • identifying and recruiting new prospective board members
  • engaging existing board members

The more I think about it, networking skills sound more and more “foundational” as it generally related to SUCCESS.
As this idea continued rolling around in my thoughts, I couldn’t help but wonder what skills and traits are associated with people who are good networkers. Here is an incomplete list of things I managed to come up with:

  • Sincere and genuine
  • Conversational
  • Interested
  • Engaging
  • Good listener
  • Empathetic
  • Living in the moment
  • Intuitive

I’m not sure how accurate this list is, but they were all things that crossed my mind.
The final thought that crossed my mind on this topic was “How can someone get better at networking?” Not surprisingly, this question drove me to my favorite resource in the world — Google.   😉
After clicking around a little bit, I came across a link to Huffington Post simply titled “Networking Tips.” When I clicked it, there were two pages of HuffPo articles on a variety of networking subjects like “10 Simple Rules” and “8 Ways to Amp Up Your Personality.” It looked like a treasure trove of great reading.
Wanna see those links? Simply click here and enjoy!
Do you think that you’re good at networking? Why? What do you do to network? Which of your many skills and traits lend favorably to your ability to network?
If you end up like me and get thinking about this question, please scroll down to the comment box and share your thoughts and experiences. We can all learn from each other.
Here’s to your health!
Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Is your agency's executive director out of the office enough?

Raising Your Profile; Building Your Credibility

By Dani Robbins
Re-published with permission from nonprofit evolution blog
networking1I was running a Boys & Girls Club in Texas, when I was offered the Executive Director position for the Boys & Girls Clubs in Akron, Ohio. I knew the President of the Akron Community Foundation and not another soul in town. Thankfully, my Board had a plan.
One Board member, who isn’t the mayor of Akron but could have been because he knows everyone, started setting up lunch meetings. We went to lunch with every community leader in town and:

  • We told them of our struggles
  • We told them about our kids and what they needed to be successful
  • we told them our plan to ensure they were, indeed, successful – and that our Club was as well.

After 6 months, I, too, knew everyone in town.
What’s the lesson for your organization? There are actually a few:

  1. Who is on your Board and who do they know?
  2. Will they introduce you?
  3. Do you have a story?
  4. Can you tell it in a way that engages people?
  5. Who picks up the tab?

Now you might think it was silly of me to include the question of who pays for lunch on my list of lessons, but I cannot tell you the number of people who have asked. It matters. The question of what is a good use of agency resources is a blog for another day, but for today, it’s worth having the discussion and being clear about the answer before you ask Board members to set meetings.
Once you do, start having lunch, coffee and breakfast! Get to know people in your community and let them get to know you.
networking3Program officers of foundations are incredibly generous with their time and are interested in learning about your organization. Community leaders, by definition, care about the community. Go talk to them. You will be pleasantly surprised by the number of people who say yes to your request for a meeting.
Profile building can and is partially done over lunch, but it only starts at lunch. It doesn’t end there.
To build your profile, you also have to build your credibility and the credibility of your program. Obviously, it won’t be enough to talk about your program if your program isn’t providing excellent services. Impactful programming is critical. Benchmark similar organizations, find and implement best practices and monitor and communicate your impact.
Speak in the community. Most service groups have a speaker at every meeting. Recruit and train a “public speaking team” to present at service group meetings and in the community. It is a wonderful opportunity to get your message out there.
You should also blog about the issues that impact your clients, write op-ed pieces and meet with local politicians.
Is there a Leadership group in your city? Leadership Akron was an incredible experience for me. It contributed to my professional development and knowledge about the city in ways that I could not have replicated on my own. It also provided incredible resources for my organization. Now that I live in Columbus, I am a member of the Leadership Columbus Alumni group. Consider participating in your local group. Most leadership programs offer scholarships for nonprofit senior leaders and it is an incredible investment of your time and resources.
networking2Figure out the “must attend” event in town, and attend. And when you do, walk around and greet everyone, introduce yourself to people you haven’t been able to get in front of and ask if you can call them for a meeting. Again, you’ll be surprised at the number of people who say yes.
Finally, join groups that coalesce around the issues you care about. Most communities have nonprofit executive director groups, monthly or weekly educational forums, and leadership organizations. Find one and get involved. If there isn’t a group, start one.
We invited all the leaders of agencies that offered after school programming in Akron to a meeting. Akron had almost two dozen after school programs, yet there was no ongoing discussions about programming, best practices or service gaps. The discussion that started at that first meeting continued and our group later became the After School Council of Greater Akron.
You can do it! Profile raising, like everything else that is worth doing, takes time — lots of time. Spending the time will pay off in spades, for your organization, its mission and the community it serves!
Please let me know how it goes. As always, if you have other ideas for profile building, or suggestions for blog topics, please share. A rising tide raises all boats.dani sig