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!
I saw an article today addressing the issue of how a large percentage of professional fundraisers would like to take on leadership roles in the non-profit sector but that few executive positions are filled by people with that background. 

Here is the link to an interview with two fundraisers who were successful in making the upward transition:
Civil Society - Voices from the Other Side, Fundraisers who become Chief Executives

The argument that the two interviewees make centers around the broad range of high-level business, relational, and communication skills that are required of successful fundraisers and how well they translate into leadership roles. I agree that some of the most dynamic individuals I've met have been in the fundraising industry and that there is an ability among many of my colleagues to create and communicate a vision for the future with clarity and passion. In other words, there are excellent leaders hidden in the ranks!

From my perspective, there are two things that might help:

1. As a community, fundraisers need to articulate better for themselves and their peers what it is exactly that they do. What is required of them daily for success and what special talents do they bring to the table? I always think that the CMA does a great job of doing this in their television and print ads for their own constituency.


2. Fundraisers also need to develop personally as great leaders. They need to look for opportunities to learn from the best of the best and to understand what leadership means. Some of my colleagues have taken the step of enrolling in Leadership MBA programs. Others have looked to expanding their reading lists, networking with leaders and seeking out mentors both on and offline. 

One of my current favorite sources for information is Alan Kay who offers coaching in the Solutions Focus change model. In one respect, leading is about knowing how and when to create and facilitate change. I learn a lot from simply following his free webinars and blog posts. 

What else do you think we could be doing? If your aspirations include leadership, how are you moving in that direction?

Update: Excellent article on Fundraising and Leadership appeared via the AFP Resource centre. Here's the link: Association of Fundraising Professionals

© 2011-2012 Christina Attard. All Rights Reserved