Networking at a Grassroots Level

Milad Yazdanpanah - 08.14.2009

A few days ago I received an email from a board member of an organization with which I am involved. While she was cruising around on Facebook, she came across an invitation that was calling on all nonprofits in the area to come and network. Knowing very little about the organizers, I took her up on the invitation to go and table for the organization.  

 

 

To my surprise the event was held at a local bar arriving just in time for happy hour.  I was warmly greeted by the organizer of the event the moment I arrived and I was escorted to my table.  At first I was a bit hesitant to reach out to the other organizations simply because I didn’t want to reach out to the competition. I very quickly learned that speaking with other organizations simply broadened my perspective about what services are offered. 

 

After about 30 minutes of table hopping, I returned back to my table anxiously awaiting the crowd of people to come and ask me questions about the organization. I generally regard myself as a pretty good speaker, but I found myself slipping and losing the attention of the person standing in front of me. I realized that I was so passionate about the organization (as many of us are) and I wanted to share every aspect of what we do with them. Some people find that overwhelming and difficult to embrace.  Learning the hard way, I quickly changed my tactics and spoke about one aspect of the organization that I felt the person could relate to. It worked, sometimes less is more.    

 

I share this information simply because there were many lessons learned. In just two hours, I had the opportunity to speak to 50 people, collect 30 email addresses, and meet a city council person that will be running for office in 2010. Given that there are over 1.5 million nonprofits in the US (source: National Center for Charitable Statistics (NCCS), establishing partnerships with other organizations and networking at the grassroots level proves to be very valuable.

 

Food for Thought:

 

  • Do you currently have established partnerships with other organizations? This is one of the repeated questions that I was asked.
  • Have you considered bartering your services with other NPO’s? This could be mutually beneficial both as a cost saving measure as well as the benefits your constituents receive in a “one stop shop”.
  • How informed are you about what other NPO’s are doing and how they are reaching out?  Why try to reinvent the wheel when you can learn from other on what has worked.
  • Have you considered staff swap for a day? Learning from what others do in similar role could save both organizations time and money.
  • How far is your reach with other NPO’s at the local, state, and national?
  • How often do you reach out to the community and let them know what you are doing?

Things to Consider:

 

  • Attending resource fairs in the community
  • Explore the events calendar on Craigslist
  • Look at the events pages on Facebook for potential outreach efforts
  • Attend the local neighborhood meeting in the region your organization belongs to

 

What steps is your organization taking to network and remain connected?  Leave a comment below and let us know!

 

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/justinrussell/

 

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