7 secrets of good networking
The charity sector, with its values of collaboration and community, is an ideal environment for networking. In her latest blog, Zoe Amar highlights 7 secrets of good networking. A must read for all charity fundraisers!
I’ve blogged before about using Twitter and Linked for networking. Today I’d like to share some thoughts on what makes good networking, whether it’s on or offline.
As Head of Marketing and Business Development at Lasa, it’s an important part of my job to network, and I’ve learned a lot along the way. I also advise other senior staff about networking and am very aware that I need to lead by example, and to keep reflecting on what I can do better. To me, networking is about how people form relationships, make decisions and achieve more together. The charity sector, with its values of collaboration and community, is an ideal environment for networking. Many charities now work closely with corporates too, and in my experience the principles of good networking in that sector are often similar.
I’d like to share with you 7 tips that I’ve learned over the years:
- Networking is as much about how you can help people as much as how they can help you. I’m a great believer in karma. Call me a hippy, but I think that if you do good stuff, one day other people may be helpful to you too. Not everyone remembers this principle. A contact of mine was telling me about a management consultant who had offered to help his charity with a project on a pro bono basis. At the very last minute- and with no prior warning or good reason- the consultant pulled out. My contact was recently asked if he would recommend the consultant for a potential paid job, and he didn’t feel able to do so. So always think about how you can help people and aim to create a good, long term, mutually beneficial relationship.
- Preparation is key. Before I go to any networking event, I research it thoroughly. I take a look at the delegate list and think about who I’d like to talk to. Similarly, even if I’m just meeting someone for coffee, I’ll try to find out some information about them beforehand and consider ways we can help each other. That might sound a little premeditated, but like you I’m very busy, and it’s the best way to make efficient use of their time and mine. Speaking of which…
- Always have an objective in the back of your mind. Never, ever just go along to an event or for coffee with a contact ‘to see what happens.’ A CSR manager at a bank recently told me, “It drives me mad when a charity wants to meet me just to ‘say hello.’ I expect them to have a clear idea of what they want to achieve from the meeting.” So have a plan in place. But don’t forget to take time to build rapport and explore other potential ways you can help each other too.
- Think about how you come across. It’s a small world, and the chances are that people may have heard of you or know about your work. What might people have learned about you online? (i.e. your ‘digital footprint’). What do your Twitter feed and LinkedIn profile look like? Have you written blogs or articles recently that people might have read? (One charity CEO told me that she periodically Googles herself to see what people might know). And once you’re at an event, what is your elevator pitch?
- Always follow up. So you’ve met a fantastic new contact and had a great conversation about how you could work together. It sounds obvious, but not everyone sees opportunities through. Get in touch quickly to develop the relationship.
- Be selective about what you do- that goes for online and offline networking. In theory, you could network all day and night at events, coffees with contacts and on social media. Doing anything 24/7 inevitably makes it less enjoyable; it’s fine to pick and choose. Again, this is where having clear objectives in mind will help, as they’ll keep you focused on priorities.
- Always be on the look out for opportunities. Perhaps there is someone in your network who you haven’t seen for a while, but who might be just the person to help you at the moment. Or maybe you know someone who could really benefit from being introduced to another person in your network. Keeping an eye out for ways you can help other people- and how they might be able to work with you- is always good.
Networking is really about one thing: people. So get out there and be helpful. Who knows where those conversations might lead?
A version of this blog originally appeared on the Charity Leaders’ Exchange site.
Zoe Amar MCIM, is Head of Marketing and Business Development at Lasa. Zoe is a regular blogger for The Guardian and Charity Comms amongst others and speaks frequently at charity events. Zoe is on the management team of volunteer run communications agency, Bright One and is a Chartered Marketer. More about Zoe.