I looked at my calendar the other day and almost passed out. Never in my life can I remember being invited to or required to attend so many meetings and events. In a panic state, I frantically began writing things down in my planner and making sure they were updated to the calendar on my phone (as a back-up). This whirlwind-of-a-month known as December causes people (me included) to become frenzied. So much so that we forget that the events, fundraisers, parties, and benefits we are invited to are actually opportunities to network.
At the time, I updated my calendar thinking about how each of these events represented tiny, minor annoyances that equaled one gigantically hectic month of running around. Now, I see things differently. I am in a unique position as a Regional Coordinator with Volunteer Maryland (VM). As an AmeriCorps member with VM, I work with an interesting network of Volunteer Maryland Coordinators (VMCs) serving at various host organizations. Being that their role is so important to the establishment and sustainability of volunteer programs at the nonprofits where they serve, they are presented with a myriad of opportunities to build capacity and also; to network.
Approaching the Board of Directors
Most nonprofit employees have the opportunity to meet their organization’s board of directors. This is an extremely valuable opportunity as board members are often well-connected individuals who are knowledgeable about the organization and other organizations with similar missions. Further, they are usually volunteers and therefore have a professional network that extends well outside of the nonprofit sector. Don’t be afraid to make connections with the board. The wealth of knowledge that board members posses could serve you well in your role within the organization.
Going to tabling events is sometimes looked down upon as “grunt work”. However, these on-the-ground opportunities allow nonprofit employees not only to increase awareness of their organization’s mission and needs, but also allows them to network with other organizations looking to do the same thing. These sorts of events are not a competition to see how many people will stop in front of a display board. These events provide opportunities for partnership and often spark conversations that turn into community-changing programs.
Presenting in Front of Groups
The dreaded public speaking venue….Yes, we all hate them. Yes, we all will have to do it at one point or another. If suffering a panic attack or feigning sick don’t get you out of speaking in front of a group, it’s comforting to know that your presentation is also an opportunity to network. If you are invited to speak or present in front of a group of people, chances are that you are considered the expert in your field. My advice; own it! You are there as a representative of your organization to speak on a topic. Be confident in your knowledge, and if you don’t know the answer to something, say so. You can always follow up with the organizers of the event providing the information to attendees. Just remember, never apologize and don’t read from your notes! Afterwards, you will have at the very least three people in line to speak with you about your delivery. One on one interaction is less daunting than speaking in front of a large group. Use this time to make as many connections as possible. Your organization will thank you in the end!
Volunteer Managers (and Volunteer Maryland Coordinators) are faced with the task of recruiting general and specific volunteers to build capacity for the organizations for which they are working (or serving in the case of VMCs). That being said, you never know who will respond after reading an article about your volunteer program. You never know who is searching idealist.org for a convenient place to fulfill the remaining service-hour requirement for graduation. Being a volunteer manager presents, say it loud, a networking opportunity! You never know who or what your volunteer may know!
Do you know of any networking opportunities coming up in Maryland? Share them here!