So, you know about social media, about marketing, fundraising, about the importance of your nonprofit organization’s website, the whole schabang. Basically, you feel like your nonprofit has a good grip on how to market your cause and promote your mission. But, have you ever considered how the value of networking?
The term “networking” typically refers to those in the business community—small business owners, professional individuals and even large companies. Networking conveys “… the exchange of information or services among individuals, groups or institutions; specifically: the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business.”
Networking builds relationships between individuals, businesses and yes—even nonprofits. So why are building these relationships important? We have some ideas.
1. Networking builds connections for the future.
Unlike some marketing concepts such as social media or email, networking involves a process for your nonprofit organization (NPO). Though there can be immediate results, networking builds a stronger foundation for the future by establishing meaningful connections today. For example, the more networking your organization partakes in, the wider and deeper your network will grow.
So, what does this mean? This means as your nonprofit continues to grow and network, you will further your reach and connections to the community. More donors will likely hear about your cause and want to contribute, or more volunteers will want to get involved. These relationships will only continue to deepen in years to come as you continue to build up your network of supporters in the future.
2. Networking gets your name out there.
Some people consider networking to be vastly different than marketing, but really they fall pretty close to each other. Networking simply means marketing the individuals within your group. When employees or volunteers from your nonprofit go to networking events or get involved in networking groups, they market themselves to every other person there. Even moreso, they market your organization to everyone there. This proves especially powerful because it gets the name of your NPO out and circulating in the community.
When it comes to marketing efforts, word of mouth marketing works as a huge contributor in promoting your nonprofit’s mission. Potential constituents trust their friends and family. So when your employees build a network for the organization, the people they confer with go on to talk to others. Then, their friends and family, having been referred to your cause through word of mouth, feel more likely to engage with your NPO. And the cycle continues so on and so forth.
3. Networking establishes your expertise.
Networking also serves as a useful tool in establishing your nonprofit’s expertise in its field. The beauty of networking is in the conversations and relationships built up between individuals. When your employees use these conversations as a time to discuss the importance of your cause, why your mission matters and the valuable work you do, networking establishes a foundation of expertise.
When an NPO serves as an expert in the community on an issue, potential donors and volunteers prove much more likely to get involved, because they feel the organization can actually make a difference, rather than one who does not seem to have much experience. For example, take some national nonprofits. They receive donations and volunteers from a large variety of sources, partly because of their marketing efforts, but also because of their portrayed expertise in the field.
4. Networking draws referrals.
Similar to getting your name out there, networking serves as a useful way to draw referrals for your group. Whether those referrals act as donations, volunteers or even potential clients needing assistance—networking establishes a system of referrals. As more and more people get to know your organization on a personal level—literally the very employees within—they will feel more connected and more likely to refer others they know to you.
Some professional networking groups even have entire databases of individuals and businesses within, which can be searched and utilized at any member’s discretion. On the flip side of this, your nonprofit also establishes a network of potential connections you can in turn refer employees, volunteers, donors or clients to in the future.
5. Networking produces ROI.
Finally, one of the greatest components of networking—it produces ROI, or return on investment. The more time employees within your organization invest in networking opportunities or groups, the greater your return will be in donations, volunteers or referrals. It’s no wonder businesses, corporations and even single professional individuals strongly encourage networking. The same networking concepts which work well to boost ROI within for-product businesses can be adapted to boost a nonprofit’s bottom line as well.
When it comes to promoting your nonprofit organization’s mission, networking serves as a powerful tool for word-of-mouth marketing. Whether online, in networking groups or at a networking event, your employees can build sustainable relationships with other individuals, and establish your organization as a focal point of the community. See what opportunities are available and try out networking for yourself.
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