4 Min Read
Networking for Good: How Networking Benefits All – Nonprofits and Businesses Alike
Sometimes people take a step back when they see me coming. As in an effort to avoid a conversation with me. I don’t think I’m all that scary. I mean I’m all of 5’ 1’’. Here’s the thing – they see The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society on my name tag, and they think “uh-oh, she’s gonna hit me up for something. . .”
Do I make a lot of asks of a lot of people? Of course. I am out to cure cancer after all. The truth is though that I, along with the more than 20,000* Long Island nonprofit organizations’ staffers, are a valuable networking resource. Where else do all walks of life, businesses – big and small, come together in one place for one common goal?
I have quickly learned how powerful my network is thanks to a pro in the field. Ellen Volpe, Founder of American Business Associates, often reminds her clients that “harnessing the power of your social capital is one of the most valuable assets you have.”
The following is a half a dozen key learnings I’ve discovered in navigating the networking arena representing a nonprofit (though I’m pretty sure many of these are applicable to those in other lines of businesses):
- When they take that step back, start with them. Dale Carnegie said, “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”
- Be specific and clear on who you are looking to meet. Those who know me well know I have at least three wish lists at any given time with me.
- Building trust takes time. This means repetition is necessary for people to really get to know you. Attend networking opportunities events, groups, etc. often.
- Let go of expectations. Now if we only applied this beyond networking! In truth, I’ve heard too many complaints about “I referred them, but they never referred me back.” Just know going into this that it’s never going to be “even steven” so it’s best to accept that from the beginning.
- Long Island is a very small world. Like Kevin Bacon six-degrees-of-separation small. For me, this makes it somewhat fun in seeing the things come full circle (often, someone I knew from a lifetime ago is married to that business partner’s associate). Of course, it can also be somewhat challenging when you are trying to GROW your network.
- Nonprofits are in a unique position to leverage their network to benefit supporters and thereby create a stronger community of support for the mission. When I speak to people about how our organization will help them in their business, sometimes I’m met with “Oh, I’m not here for business purposes, I’m here for the mission!” Why not look at it as an added benefit? My primary goal here is to cure cancer, but I can’t do that without a strong community of supporters. Networking helps to foster that community. It actually helps the organization!
What I love most about networking is the connections and friendships I see formed and the intent to do good. I’m fortunate when I get to play a role in either. So, if you see me coming, I hope you’ll take a step forward.
*Tax Exempt World