Lonely office chair

Does it feel like you hear a lot about networking these days?

Sometimes "networking" sounds like a popular buzzword for slick business types. People like me are always going on about LinkedIn and Twitter for business networking. However, I think for many, it feels like yet another thing they should be doing more of but that they don't do and it ends up in the category of to-do items that includes losing 20 pounds and cleaning out the gutters on the house. 

There are a number of books, tools, tips and blogs out there on networking, so rather than belaboring the point, if you do want to learn more and tackle this, my best resources are: 

Adventures in Networking by Paul Nazareth

Shepa Learning Company by the Authors of Work the Pond

SMO Books by Noland Hoshino

What I'd like to focus on here is what I like to call "Lonely Chair Syndrome." It's one of the only diseases that is beneficial to professionals whose work relies on relationship building and is especially beneficial to fundraisers. It's the fact that if you stay in your chair, behind your desk, your networking (and your fundraising/business development), whether it be through new or old technology, will not yield benefits. The more time your chair spends alone, the better!

The old rule that face-to-face meetings are key to adding value to your work and the work of others still stands, despite the variety of new ways that we make initial contact with new people through technology. 

Today, thanks to connections I've made through LinkedIn, and follow-ups by telephone and personal meetings, I was able to organize a province-wide mini-conference with two other non-profit agencies that are separate from mine, but share the same mission. We shared successes, failures, marketing material, strategies, templates and stories. We each saved months of work for our teams in a single day. It was free. It was voluntary on each of our parts. It would not have happened if I hadn't stuck to my commitment of interacting with every member of my online network in a personal way. The value here for me and my team was incredible.

I'd like to encourage you to 

Ask Better

By looking for opportunities to reach out to those around you either in your community circles or online and invite them for a coffee, give them a call, make an appearance at a tweetup! Don't be afraid to ask questions - 9 times out of 10 when I speak with a "stranger" from twitter or LinkedIn to learn more about their areas of expertise, I've got the perfect answer to a different problem that they were working on!

Give Smarter

Of your time and energy and efforts to others who you think you can help. It will pay dividends in ways you will not be able to see until later. And force those in your networks online to tell you how you can help them. Don't accept template networking invites, give your time to those who show you how you can do better together!

A Special Offer

On April 17th I'll be co-hosting a (free) casual networking meet up in Victoria, BC (Canada) with a group of fundraisers, gift planners, financial and insurance advisors. The plan is to meet in the lobby of the Fairmont Empress Hotel at 6 pm and go for dinner locally.

If you're in the city for the CAGP-ACPDP Conference, join us. If you're interested in coming and you're not attending, you're welcome too! Did I mention free? Did I mention that you DO NOT need to eat alone while traveling for business!

Get out from behind that computer screen and let's get to know one another! No reservations necessary, but if you'd like to touch base, email me at christina (at) christinaattard (dot) com

Last year, this networking event led to me spending the evening with a fundraiser living across the country. Unbeknownst to me, we'd be working in the same city on the same volunteer committees only five months later.

A little James Brown to get you going!
Today was a great day for people like me. 

It all started with a long standing Telemiracle fundraising campaign on TV here in Saskatchewan, Canada. It had all the elements you could ask for from high-drama philanthropy - emotional stories, compelling appeals and amazing corporate participation with just under $1 Million donated by two companies for a total of $5.9 Million raised in just two days. For most of us fundraising professionals, those results would indeed feel like a miracle!

Today, the campaign made front-page news. But this year, it was because of one farmer's legacy gift - a bequest in the amount of $1.46 Million presented by his son and daughter-in-law. For legacy gift planning evangelists like myself, it was a dream come true to see the positive power of one person's generosity grabbing the attention of so many.  

I think practically the whole province was celebrating today! But there's a bit of a dark side to it too... I also heard so many comments today about how this must have been an unusually wealthy person, how it's nice that this happened, but we could never expect to do something like this ourselves, about how the children must feel to have so much taken away from them... 

Frankly, this type of thinking makes me go crazy! 

Why? Because the beauty of charitable bequests is that a planned gift is well within the scope of what most of us could do for our communities based on our financial capacity. It's not about disinheriting the kids and it's not about being a wealthy, flashy philanthropist. It's simply about being responsible about what we've been lucky enough to receive in life and considering how that could be shared once our own needs and those of our families/friends have been met. That's what this particular farmer did and he brought joy to many hundreds of thousands of people today as a result. 

Today was also my own lucky day. I had the opportunity and the great pleasure of standing up on my little soap box to speak to Saskatchewan about my passion for legacy giving on the radio thanks to Craig Lederhouse on CBC Saskatchewan's Afternoon Edition. 

The interview is available online here.

Craig asked me on-air how rich one must be before considering philanthropy. It surprised me, but the story of a homeless man who came to the (financial) aid of one woman who had always stopped to greet him on the street was the first thing to come to mind. That news story can be found here.

Ask Better?

Craig was very interested in how fundraisers open the conversation about a legacy gift and I hope my comments in the interview will give some insight into that process. The thing to remember as a fundraiser is that connection, relationship, involvement with the charity were the main factors behind the bequest that made the news today - not tax, not ultra-high-net-wealth, not naming rights.

Give Smarter?

It's about joy. It's about how you feel when a child or grandchild opens a gift from you. When you know that though your contribution may be small, you are changing the world for the better. Really thinking deeply about whether there is an organization you care deeply enough about to make part of your family and include in your will. There is joy and gladness there for you and for so many others who will remember you by your kindness. 

Love to hear your thoughts!

© 2011-2012 Christina Attard. All Rights Reserved