Many non-profit fundraisers express some uncertainty or misgivings about networking. Networking events can feel high-pressure or even insincere, especially if you don’t feel confident in a crowd. However, if you think about networking as relationship-building rather than a simple exchange of contact information, you can understand just how important it can be to successful fundraising. On my long path to becoming a motivational speaker, I became an exceptional fundraiser: raising over a billion dollars for charity, hosting major events and even a $1 million Celine Dion concert.
While the strength of will and dedication to the cause always carried me forward, networking and the deep relationships that come from it have been essential to my success as a non-profit fundraiser. Here are some tips that can help you to make the most of your networking experience and get on the road to building a loving, supportive relationship with your donors:
Remember that others are also nervous
Many people become non-profit fundraisers because they love the cause, not because they love being salespeople. It can be all too easy to feel nervous and uncertain when meeting new people, especially when you need to ask them for donations, endorsements, or in-kind support. When you’re at a business event or networking mixer, keep in mind that many other people there are also nervous. Recognizing each other’s human feelings can help to move beyond the artificial sense of networking and develop a real relationship.
Keep in mind why you love your work.
You work for a non-profit because you care deeply about the cause, you want to make a real change, and your organization is doing great work. The good news is: these are all great reasons for people and companies to get involved in supporting your activities! Many businesses have budgets to support charitable activities, and many are looking for organizations that do important work to support the cause. Some of these contacts also have goals of their own: they may want to improve the image of their brand or make contacts in a different sector. There are so many reasons why people will want to connect with you that are mutually beneficial.
Check out a diverse array of activities.
Many different groups and communities hold networking events and welcome the participation of charities and non-profits. If you schedule to attend at least one event each month, you can make several excellent contacts. Some of those will turn into lasting, positive relationships. And keep in mind that there are all kinds of networking events. Some focus on the outdoors, while others are held at four-star hotels. Some are designed for people in business, while others are designed for community or interest groups. By getting to know a diverse array of people, you’ll have an even better chance to build real relationships.