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Networking

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We all know it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. That’s why developing a strong professional network is so important. Strategic Business Network, LLC’s Adam Small says it is “the single most powerful marketing tactic to accelerate and sustain success for any individual or organization.”But the networking landscape is changing. It’s no longer just breakfast clubs and business after hours. More and more, people are networking online. In fact, 39 percent say they interact more online than they do in person. Even so, the value of face-to-face communication should not be discounted. Offline conversations tend to be perceived as more positive and credible. Plus, those who see the greatest networking results tend to have more face-to-face interactions. To have the best of both worlds, read these tips for striking the right balance between your on- and offline networking activities.

  • Use online networks to set up face-to-face time: Online networking will never replace in-person relationship-building. But it can build a connection that allows for an eventual in-person meeting. Try moving the conversation offline with a personal message via email, LinkedIn® Mail or even Skype®, and discuss partnerships, collaboration or ways your organization is making a difference. At that very first face-to-face meeting, provide “nice to meet you” gifts, such as water bottles or individually wrapped candies, imprinted with your organization’s logo as a thank you for the person’s time.
  • Grow both networks simultaneously: If you meet someone offline, be sure you connect online, too. This not only makes it easy to reach out in the future, but your new friend’s posts and follows provide ongoing conversation topics and network-building opportunities. In turn, keep your social media friends and followers updated with valuable content about your organization as well as offline activities and events your nonprofit is hosting—they may want to join in the fun!
  • Think outside of the networking event: The local coffee shop, a sporting event, a waiting room … even the gas pump can be a great place to strike up a conversation. That’s not to say you should talk business and hand everyone your card, but breaking free of stereotypical networking and socializing can help build connections—and your organization’s mission, too.

If you made a connection, either online or off, and it feels appropriate to do so, nurture the relationship. A simple message or handwritten note accompanied by a logo’d seed packet or sticky note set is a nice way to stay in touch.

Networking can be a great way to connect with potential donors or volunteers, gain support or sponsorship and further your organization’s mission. Enjoy the best of both worlds and reap the benefits with both online and face-to-face networking. Cheers!

“Importance of Networking.” Strategic Business Network. N.p., n.d. Web. Retrieved 10 June 2015.

“10 Must-Know Facts About Networking (And Why Coworking Does It Better).” Cohere, LLC Blog. N.p., 10 Mar. 2014. Web. Retrieved 18 June 2015.

Grant, Alexis. “How to Mesh In-Person and Online Networking.” US News and World Report. US News and World Report, 14 June 2011. Web. Retrieved 18 June 2015.

Sweeney, Deborah. “7 Everyday Places To Start Networking Face-To-Face At.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 05 Mar. 2013. Web. Retrieved 18 June 2015.

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