Robin Peake, the Senior Fundraising Executive at Home for Good, explains why building relationships is so important for building success, and gives some top tips to help you network more effectively while at next month’s Fundraising Convention.
If we’re honest, a lot of our success in life has come because of who we know. I got my first job in fundraising in part because I had a friend who worked at that charity. Wealthy people have agreed to meet with me because one of our supporters made an introduction. I’ve run successful appeals because fundraisers better than me have let me buy them coffee and ask them questions. Most of the solutions to our problems are held in the relationships that we already have.
Building relationships is important for building success. So opportunities to network – however much we might hate that word – should be grasped. A good conference is measured not only by how many notes we take, but by how many connections we make. And next month’s Fundraising Convention is a great place to do just this. Here’s some of my tips on effective networking.
Lots of people seem interesting. A lot less seem interested. Use the time between presentations to meet new people and ask them interesting questions. Ban yourself from asking closed or predictable questions: “What do you do?”, “Who do you work for?”, “Are you enjoying today?”
Instead, aim to ask a question that will make someone think. “What are you going to do differently because of that last session?” “Are you working on any personal passion projects?” “What are you learning right now?”
Pretend to be the host
One of my favourite things to do is to act like I’m the host. I find when I do that, I come across more cheerful and confident. Adopting the persona of a host leads me to asking questions like: “Would you like to join us for dinner after today?”, “Is there anyone you’d like to be introduced to?” or – if they’re unfamiliar with London – “would you like some recommendations of what to see before you leave the city?”
Lots of people at Fundraising Convention will there be on their own. Focusing on helping them to have a good time is a great way to meet people, and helps you focus less on your own discomfort (it’s also just a nice thing to do!).
Networking is for introverts too
I’m an introvert. Being around people depletes my energy. I’m the kind of person who diaries in time with myself so that if people ask me to dinner I can say “I have another appointment”.
Yet every introvert is different. If I’ve had a day that is light on meetings and people time, then networking in the evening and meeting people for the first time can actually bring me energy (it’s meeting you for the second time that really drains me).
My advice for introverts would be to evaluate your energy and manage it. That’s why at some conferences, I’ll duck out of a presentation so that I can give my best self to the coffee break, recognising that sometimes that’s where the real value is. Learn how to operate as your best self.
Know the tactics
No tactic can be a substitute for being your authentic and interesting self. But networking, like other aspects of fundraising, is a skill that can be improved. Here’s what I’ll be doing at Convention:
• Keeping up to date with the #IoFFC hashtag on Twitter, and tweeting people I’d like to meet in the coffee breaks.
• Instead of trying to talk to people on their way to get a drink or bite to eat, I’ll be positioning myself to greet people as they turn around with a full plate or glass.
• I’ve learnt that if I want to join a group conversation, trying to make eye contact with the person talking won’t work. Instead, I’ll attempt to make eye contact with the person listening who will try to include me.
• Repeating someone’s name back to them three times within a minute of meeting them so that I commit it to memory.
• Making eye contact. I don’t want to be that guy (it’s usually a guy) who isn’t listening because he’s looking behind you for a better business card. People avoid him.
• If I find myself bored, I’ve learnt it is okay to escape. I just ask the person if they’d like a drink. If they don’t, I’m free to go get one for myself. If they do, I can return to them with their drink and a polite “it was really nice to meet you” and move on.
I look forward to meeting you at Convention!
Fundraising Convention is held annually by the Institute of Fundraising and each year sees thousands of fundraisers gather at the largest professional fundraising event in Europe. It is taking place on 1-3 July at the Barbican, London. View the full programme and book your place.
Science of People
Captivate – Vanessa Van Edwards
The Power of Who – Bob Beaudine
Never Eat Alone – Keith Ferrazzi
Fundraising for Introverts – Workshop being run by Simon Scriver and Nikki Bell at IoF Scotland and IFC
Robin Peake is the Senior Fundraising Executive at Home for Good. He spent six years as Head of Fundraising and Communications with Innovista, winning Best Donor Experience at the 2018 National Fundraising Awards ‘1242 Thank Yous’. Find him on twitter at @robin_peake and hear him talk about the donor experience at this year’s Fundraising Convention.