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Networking- You’re Doing It Wrong. + tips to build authentic fundraising relationships.

I often hear people say that they hate fundraising. Well, actually, that’s not completely accurate. People love having more money come in for a cause they believe in. Don't we all?

But the thing is, we hate asking for it. We hate having to go out and meet new people. The word “networking” feels just as gross now as “salesy”.

Why? Because a lot of us have been taught that in order to be successful you have to:

  • Meet as many people in the room as possible
  • Pretend to be interested in someone, even if you’re not
  • Give out as many cards as you can
  • Push to convince people that they want to work with you

Notice that none of that actually has anything to do with the other person?

That’s right, all those mindsets are just super selfish and Gimme-ey (pretend it’s a word and slide past it, Love).

And we wonder why it feels itchy and gross to network.

Because, when you think of it this way, it really is. It feels crappy because it is. For you, and for the poor soul that has to be on the receiving end of all that mess.  

I'm tired of people trying to convince me or anyone else that it’s not.

After all, we're looking for partners, not drones.

Fundraising is about building long-lasting relationships within others in the community. You want people to know that you really care. About your cause, about the people walking with you, and about staying ethical.

When was the last time you trusted someone who you didn't think really cared about you? How did that go? I can take a wild guess.

Yes, you need to be able to ask for things while fundraising, but your top priority is finding people who have goals and values that mesh well with what you're trying to do.

Next time you are out at an event, try talking to someone. For real.

All your focus should be on is getting to know them a bit. Go past just asking what they do so that you can mentally apply a dollar sign to them. Ask them more about what they do, what they like about it, what goals they have, as well as what their organization might be trying to accomplish right now. Find out what really gets them fired up.

I know, I know, super groundbreaking stuff right?

But you'd be amazed how many people don't do this.

If you introduce yourself to someone, ask them what they do, get a card and then spend the rest of the conversation plotting who you're going to try to talk to next, you can bet that you aren't going to be wowing them like you’d hoped.

When you follow up by emailing that person, they aren't going to remember how charming you were. They're going to remember that you're the person who got their card and didn't listen to a word they said after that.

You're the person whose eyes kept roaming around the room, and didn't fully respond to what they said because it was obvious you weren't really all that into it.

If you’ve found yourself guilty of this (don’t be embarrassed to raise your hand), a little bit of tough love- cut it out now!

I’m not saying you have to spend the rest of the night talking to just one person, especially if you don’t vibe, but while you’re in the conversation, be in it. Don’t let yourself get distracted by trying to be everywhere else too.

Remember, the goal here is finding like-minded people who want to join your tribe. That’s long game.

You have to choose these people wisely and really take the time to nurture those relationships.

Treat them like new friends.

Most of all, be authentically yourself. Don’t be afraid to laugh and joke with people. Really give them a chance to get to know you too and what you’re all about.

I once took another event planner out for coffee and we bonded over painting. Yep, totally not what you'd expect to talk to someone about, but they showed me some of their artwork, and we both naturally connected without the stress of trying to be ON. I now have one more person where we can be resources for each other, because we’re both focused on building a real relationship first.

The Challenge:

Next time you’re at a Networking Relationship Building event, try changing your mindset.

Focus on building feelings of knowing, liking, and trusting each other on both sides. Leave all agendas at the door and just talk to someone.

I guarantee that not only will it be less stressful for you, you’ll walk away feeling more connected with people and will grow meaningful relationships much faster than you normally would. Getting out there to meet people in the community will be fun, not a chore.

As always, pop back into the comments below or join the facebook group to let me know how it goes. I’d love to hear from you!