Networking is an essential part of working in the nonprofit field; with a limited number of people and resources trying to do an infinite amount of good, there is no choice but to collaborate and to do so effectively. One big relief, though, is that “networking” does not have to involve suits and business cards. You just have know what is you need and what it is you have to offer. As often as not, it seems that valuable information and opportunities come from casual conversations with coworkers and friends. The biggest goal then, is to meet with people who are in your field or have similar interests and allow these conversations to surface. With this in mind, I was completely on board when one of our Regional Coordinators Laura suggested we have a meeting with both VMC and VISTA members with Volunteer Maryland who are serving on the Eastern Shore. After all, neither Laura nor myself have spent must time in that area, so we have a difficult time pointing out specific people and organizations which can be helpful. We thought that one of the best ways we can support our Eastern Shore members is by connecting them with each other, so that they can begin sharing the local resources they’ve each found. It was also a great opportunity for us to learn what the needs of that community are and how we can best support their efforts. That, and the chance to take the beautiful drive over the bay bridge and spend time with some pretty spectacular people.
On Monday, Laura and I headed over to Salisbury and met with Jon from the ShoreCAN Volunteer Center, Sarah from American Red Cross of the Delmarva Peninsula, Matt from Nanticoke Watershed Alliance and Michel from Phillips Wharf Environmental Center. Laura brought along some great material on resume writing and how to encapsulate the service experience, and beyond that we just wanted to stand back and let those in the field be the experts and tell us what they know and what they need. Over the course of a couple of hours, we talked about everything from how locally involved residents are to how eating nachos is shockingly similar to playing jenga. We dicussed marketing opportunities in the area alongside when to go camping on Assateague Island. A couple of members were also working on volunteer recruitment events and invited the organizations of other members along. Suffice it to say that it was a great time to both make professional connections and to learn about each other as people.
I feel that one of the greatest resources the regional coordinators and I have to share is a large network throughout the state. Volunteer Maryland knows people and does an incredible job of keeping track of what’s going on in the community, and there’s not shyness about sharing ideas, resources, or knowledge of events to anyone and everyone who might benefit. I also feel that one of my great privileges in this position is getting to know incredibly dedicated people with interesting stories and knowledge to share. This meeting really brought those two things together for me and I only hope it was equally beneficial for the others.