What is a network and what is networking? As a noun, network means ‘a group or system of interconnected people or things’, and as a verb, to network means ‘to interact with others to exchange information and develop professional or social contacts’. (Source: online dictionary).
Networking is crucial for one’s personal and professional growth in the work sphere. Organizations employ people specifically to expand their network in the ecosystem they work in. For non-profits, networking becomes even more important, because of closely linked roles of various stakeholders in the ecosystem, inter-dependence on one another, and dependence on the governments and donors to some extent.
Here are 7 steps for NGOs for building a network:
- Take initiative:
Networking might be a little out of your comfort zone, but you may hire someone with experience in networking, or ask your board members to get involved as they will have a strong network already. Lack of initiative and inactivity will not help, so you will need to take initiative for networking.
- Participation in events:
There are lot of events going on all year round related to non-profit sector, civil society and CSR. Participation in these events can be very fruitful for networking, building connections, and potential partnerships in future.
- Create a database of contacts:
Collect lot of visiting cards and contact details. This contact information will grow if you keep attending events and conferences, meet-ups, etc. With this information, create a database of contacts. Save this database as one of your e-mail list too.
- Exchange information:
Keep your network posted about the work you are doing. This can be by means of mailers, newsletters, reports, pictures, graphics, videos, testimonies, anything! Having no information to share implies inactivity. So, document your work in some form and broadcast! Keep a lot of visiting cards with you, and brochures and other promotional material too, while attending an event.
- Show interest and remember the principle of reciprocity:
Be posted about what others are doing. Read about them, explore their websites and social media pages. Show interest in their work and events, and remember their interests.
- Online and offline networking:
Though the internet and social media are making networking easier and faster than ever, you must be aware of the pros and cons. There is a clear emotional difference in online and offline ways. For example, if you wish to invite an important person for an event, you would like to meet or call up rather than only sending a mail. So be aware of these emotional differences and decide what will appeal, as per the context.
- Lastly, remember that it is ‘humans’ you are dealing with:
Remember that in any sector, organization, or industry, lots of human factors come into the picture. So, networking does not only have a rational basis but emotional too. So be nice and greet people you meet. Introduce yourselves get to know about the others. Try to stay in touch. You might not like all the people you need to meet, but be aware of your emotional responses, and try to strike a balance.