One of the most tired pieces of advice around nonprofits (as well as your personal career) is network, network, network!
This isn’t to say that networking and collaboration aren’t vitally important to an organization’s success – I’d wager it’s quite the opposite. In a world of finite human and financial resources and seemingly infinite need, successful nonprofits are connected to and learning from other great organizations. These nonprofits are also filled with well-connected individuals.
My personal beef was never with the accuracy of this advice – rather, it was the lack of explanation as to how to accomplish this. The concept of “networking” for personal and organizational success has become such an accepted truth that for many people (including your dear author), it morphs into an insurmountable feat, a nightmare filled with sleazy schmoozing and mountains of hastily exchanged business cards.
So you can imagine my surprise when I left my yoga studio last night with a business card in my hand, along with real plans to talk about future collaborations. While chatting with some fellow yogis after class, I discovered that one of my friends – who I’ve exchanged small talk with for over months now! – is the head of a nonprofit that’s looking for some fundraising assistance.
In that moment, it finally clicked for me. Networking doesn’t have to be scary. The conversations you’re having naturally with people are not only opportunities to personally connect, but also to see what they’re up to professionally. Listen carefully.