Relationships are important in any business. They’re especially important in fundraising.
Building trust and showing true interest in a person’s experiences, beliefs and values will lead you to lasting rewards — both personally and professionally. When you nurture strong and authentic relationships, your network will grow — and so will your potential for fundraising success.
Here are some tips on the art and science of relationship-building that I often share when I’m coaching executive directors or leading a board retreat:
- Remember something. When you meet someone new, remember their name — say it out loud a few times or write it down if you have to — and at least one other thing: where they work, what their dog’s name is, where they traveled last. Remember something that gives you a starting point with your next conversation with them. Give every new relationship a solid foundation that you can build on as you expand your network.
- Ask, listen and repeat. People love to talk about themselves. It’s human nature — our way of sharing our take on the world. So whether you start a conversation or join it, ask good questions and give people a chance to talk your ear off if they’re so inclined. Shoot for three to five questions every time you meet someone new. It’s OK to stick to the same topics — pick whatever you find most interesting. My faves: family, work, travel and hobbies.
- Lean into LinkedIn. If you haven’t updated your résumé in a while, carve out an hour to polish it up. Then make your LinkedIn profile sparkle. If it needs a lot more than a polish, don’t let yourself get intimidated. Take it step by step. When you’re ready, follow LinkedIn guru and WiredAdvisor Stephanie Sammons’ “10 in 10 rule” — spend 10 minutes per day making one-to-one connections with 10 of your LinkedIn contacts. (More on this in Entrepreneur’s recent article, 8 ways to better market yourself on LinkedIn.)
- Connect others — and connections will come your way. One of the best ways to build out your network is to connect people within it. Is there a friend, colleague or client who’s grappling with a challenge in their organization? You probably know someone who’s worked through similar issues. Connect them — and there’s a good chance that they’ll return the favor someday by referring a potential who could use some help from someone with your skillset.
- Follow up. Especially if you ask someone to introduce you. Once you meet, don’t let your relationship-building mojo fade away as fast as time flies. Reach out, build time into your busy schedule for a coffee or lunch or happy hour with them before you become “someone they met at some event somewhere … what was her name again?” Following up is most important if you ask someone to introduce you.
As you nurture these new relationships, go back to the beginning and be thoughtful about making introductions. Patrick Ewers, an early LinkedIn exec who’s now a relationship management coach, offers some great tips on strategically managing your networking introductions.
May the networking force(s) be with you!