Non-Profit Fundraising, Part 3: Networking Skills for Non-Profits

It’s all in who you know. We’ve all heard that saying over…and over…and over again, but never is the importance of good networking skills more obvious than when you’re trying to drum up support for your non-profit.

Remember when I was talking about the reasons that businesses would decide to support your organization? Sure, there’s a little quid-pro-quo involved, but any business you’re going to talk to about being involved in your non-profit is going to enjoy the good feeling they get from giving back just as much as they are the tax breaks and positive PR your organization can give them. When you’re soliciting donations from individuals rather than corporations, however, you’re going to need to turn down the quid-pro-quo and approach it from a personal angle.

You’re going to have to sharpen your networking skills.

Make the Connection

Do you have any idea how many non-profit organizations are currently operating in the United States? As of the beginning of 2010 there were 1,515,746 non-profit and charity groups operating in the US, keeping in mind that since there are plenty of organizations that slip into a gray area when they’re being tallied up those numbers aren’t entirely set in stone. You’re going to be facing a huge amount of competition when it comes to generating support for your non-profit.

The best way to encourage individual donations is to connect with the individual, and that’s where your networking skills need to kick in. It’s your job to forge that personal connection with your donors. They need to know why your cause matters, what you’re doing to help and what their contribution is going to do. Connecting with them on an emotional level is going to be the difference between walking away with a long-term donor and a donation in hand and just walking away.

Of course, it’s one thing to know that you need to forge that emotional connection. It’s another thing entirely to actually make it happen. Relax. Take a deep breath. You’ve already got all the networking skills and tools you need. The fact that you’re working with the non-profit means you have compassion. The fact that you’re actively soliciting donations means you’ve got dedication. The fact that your organization trusts you enough to send you out as their representative means you’ve got passion. That passion, that sense of drive, is what’s going to bring your donors around to your side.

Everyone wants something to stir their blood. They want to feel like they’re a part of something, to know that the choices they make and the actions they take are going to change the world. They want to feel as though a part of them is going to live on long after they’re gone.

Forging the Right Links

Now that you’re all fired up and ready to take your newly empowered networking skills for a test drive, let’s back the car up just a little bit. It’s one thing to know you’re going to go out and connect with people that might one day help you save the world. That job gets a lot more overwhelming when you realize it takes more than 5 or 10 donations to keep a non-profit flowing smoothly. Can you really spend your entire day wheedling donations from each and every one of your potential donors?

Of course not. There just aren’t that many hours in a day. So, as unfair as it might be-and it really is unfair, when you get right down to it-you’re going to have to pick and choose which potential donors you’re going to wine and dine with your precious free time. I suggest taking a three pronged attack to networking from this point on:

1)      Put all of that passion and fervor into creating some awesome promotional materials to draw in new donors. After all, who knows the beauty of your cause better than you do?

 2)      Mingle at every event you attend. Just a few minutes with each group of guests could secure thousands in donations for your organization and create a positive impression of your non-profit they’re not going to forget any time soon.

 3)      Take time to personally speak with potentially large donors. Let them feel personally welcomed, and encourage them to get involved. There’s a lot more that goes into keeping a non-profit running than money. Seeing your organization in action will not only help them feel more connected, it also gives them the chance to understand just how much good their donation can do.