One of our clients is putting together a new program in a new market and it’s coming together quickly and smoothly. There are lots of reasons for their success, including solid experience and a really good idea, but one of the main factors is networking.
This client has inspired another nonprofit to advocate on their behalf to funders, and they’ve engaged a foundation that is gung-ho and potentially willing make a lead gift to the project. They are creating a buzz around town by talking to the right people and building interest. We’ll see how it goes, but I’m optimistic!
Word of mouth is one of the strongest tools you have to promote your agency.
In the fundraising realm, that means having positive relationships with funders, donors, other nonprofits, financial advisors, and even vendors.
Why not take some time this summer to get out there and strengthen your network? Here are few ideas:
Join a committee that includes other nonprofit leaders and fundraisers. The Association of Fundraising Professionals or your local community foundation are great places to start.
Identify three financial advisors and meet with one per month over the summer. Encourage them to include your nonprofit in their recommended list of charities for their clients.
Meet with your program staff to see what nonprofits they’re already collaborating with. Reach out to the fundraisers at those nonprofits and take them to coffee. See how you can work together to increase resources for all of you.
Before you submit a grant proposal for a new idea, try to meet with the program officer or at least talk to them on the phone. Build the conversation around the big community picture, not just your own needs. Let them see your agency as a thought leader and convener, rather than an isolated charity. Let them see YOU as a trusted resource.
Ask your nonprofit partners to write testimonials or letters of recommendation that you can include in grant proposals and on your website.
Take your biggest vendors to coffee and let them know how they can help spread the word about your good work. Offer to do the same for them.
Identify a few of your best donors who might be willing to grow your network. Ask them to make a few specific introductions.
Most importantly, be helpful to others!
Offer to write letters of recommendation, provide advice when needed, make introductions. In other words, be the kind of friend and partner you want others to be for you.
This isn’t brain surgery, but it does take time and energy. Your best bet is to put networking time in your calendar and commit to making it happen.
You don’t have to go it alone…build a strong network and you’ll have a stronger fundraising program. After all, we’re all trying to make the world a better place.