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The Importance of Networking for Your Nonprofit

It's essential to undertake a networking plan if you want to maximize your chances for receiving grant funds for your nonprofit organization. The better you know and understand the people who provide grant money and their mission, the more likely your application will be chosen for funding.

 

Networking allows you to get insights into funds available, find opportunities new to your organization, better understand grant requirements, and find collaborators. By meeting and talking with people, you can increase your organization's chances of securing grants by expanding your circle, becoming more visible and enhancing your credibility with grant providers. According to a survey conducted by the Center for Effective Philanthropy, 91% of nonprofit organizations reported that networking with donors and funders was essential for securing funding.

 

Here are ideas for improving your organization's networking, and therefore, your chances of receiving grants.

 

• Attend conferences related to your nonprofit topics

Talking to potential grant providers, grant professionals and other nonprofit leaders can lead to exchanging ideas and establishing connections, future collaborations, and funding opportunities.

An analysis by the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) in its "State of the Sector" report found that 72% of nonprofit organizations reported securing funding as a direct result of attending networking events or conferences.

 

• Build relationships with grant providers

Showing interest by attending events, workshops or information sessions as well as taking time to understand their funding priorities, guidelines, and decision-making processes can be invaluable. Talk to grant providers about your organization's impact, alignment with their mission, and the potential for collaboration. If you're connected with them, you'll be more likely to know about grant opportunities as they arise. Networking can help you learn the specific details important to funders, what mistakes to avoid, and what strategies have worked for others. Also, networking can help you find unadvertised funding opportunities and get leads on funding you might not have known about.

 

• Join professional associations

Interacting with peers and other professionals on a regular basis provides opportunities to become better acquainted, share information and get access to resources, including information about grant opportunities and potential funders.

 

• Seek guidance

If you're new to seeking funds, seek help from grant professionals, experienced nonprofit leaders, board members and other fundraising experts. They can provide guidance, insights, and connections, which improve your chances of finding the right fit by expanding your network. Practice making a good impression for yourself and your organization.

 

• Get to know leaders of other nonprofits

Collaborate with other organizations working in similar or complementary areas. Partnering on projects can increase the impact of both nonprofits and sometimes increases the chances of grant success by impressing funders interested in supporting collective solutions to complex issues. A study by the Stanford Social Innovation Review found that 84% of nonprofit leaders believed that peer networking was crucial for their organization's success, according to "The Networked Nonprofit."

 

• Host networking events

If you organize gatherings for volunteers, community members, and leaders of other nonprofits, you can become known for your leadership role in providing a place for meaningful interactions, relationship-building, and showcasing the impact and needs of your organization as well as other nonprofits. Hosting events also shows that you want to "give" your time to your peers and grant-makers as well as "take" the resulting funds. Research published in the Nonprofit Management and Leadership journal showed that nonprofits engaged in collaborative networking were 30% more likely to secure funding compared to those that operated in isolation.

A man and a woman networking
Getting to know the leaders of other nonprofit organizations can lead to collaboration.

 

• Use social media

Choosing a social media platform such as LinkedIn or Facebook, where potential funders are active, can help you connect with private foundations, corporate funders, volunteers, and supporters. Share your stories, highlight your organization's work, and post photos of successful projects to engage your online community. You also can participate in relevant online forums, groups, or discussions.

 

• Say thank you

Expressing appreciation for the support of foundations, agency grant-makers, and volunteers can keep relationships strong. Tell them about your organization's progress, impact, and challenges. Maintaining regular communication and expressing gratitude helps to maintain connections and increase the likelihood of continued support and funding opportunities.

 

By actively engaging in networking activities and building relationships with grant providers, you and your nonprofit can increase your visibility and credibility and increase your chances of drawing grant funds to support your programs.

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