“It’s not just about money”

Charities can get a lot out of going to local, face-to-face (F2F) business networking events; and yet – it seems to me – that very few do so on a regular basis.

Let’s look at the benefits:

  • Raising awareness of what your charity does.
  • Building a stronger profile in your local community.
  • Promoting your brand to people who are interested to know more.
  • Expanding your volunteer base so that your charity can keep running its services.
  • Increasing fund-raising, sales leads.

Some advice for budding charity business networkers*

  • Don’t think about it as just money – sponsorship means more than money.
  • Ask for practical support: volunteer marshalls on a sponsored walk eg
  • Believe that people want an opportunity to get to know the charity well (what it does, who and how it helps people).
  • View it as a chance to build lasting, sustainable relationships – not just a one-off event.
  • Go with some specific stories up your sleeve about how businesses can benefit by working with you eg how it has helped in team building.

And a few tips from me:

  • Be open, optimistic and supportive: How can you help the person you’re talking to? Building relationships takes time. Perhaps there’s an issue that you can resolve together?
  • Set your objectives. What do you want to achieve? Be as specific, measurable and realistic as possible eg share 3 human stories (some people call them case studies) about the benefit of your services/products? give out 6 business cards; ask 5 people to visit your website?
  • Be prepared: Have the answers to the following questions along with a stash of business cards: what you do; who you work with, what service and products your charity offers, and how it helps people.

 Finally, two actions to set the ball rolling: 

  • Choose your event. Find out what F2F business networking events are happening in your local area. Some like Business Biscotti and First Friday – in my local area of Reading, Berkshire – are free. Others charge. Be careful.
  • Double-check when they’re on: normally early mornings or late afternoons. Timings can be a barrier for some – but this shouldn’t put you off – it’s worth it!

I’d love to hear from any charities about the things that have worked for you n F2F business networking. Please do write a comment.

* Thanks to Jacqui Dunne of Business Biscotti and Juliette Smith of the Athena Network for their expert advice.

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