You know, at least theoretically, that attending your chamber or other civic meetings is a good idea. You will meet other leaders, potential board members, catch-up with acquaintances, and often learn something from the program. Yet, with the press of other priorities, it’s hard to invest the time and energy in civic groups. How can you participate and maximize your investment in these meetings? Here is a plan that offers you the opportunity to attend, meet new people, and maintain balance while furthering the goals of your nonprofit.
1. Draw up a list of potential groups where you might be active. Jot down a list of potential benefits you seek for becoming more active. Attend a meeting of each group. Select one, which meets criteria, in which to be active for a trial period of eighteen months. Join and add their meetings to your calendar as a priority.* This is your group of choice.
2. At meetings focus on building relationships. Arrive ten minutes early. As you enter, set a goal to meet five new people before you sit. Then, select a table with new people and meet them, also. Use breaks to catch up with friends and do business.
3. The same day, as part of your post-event routine, invest fifteen minutes in follow-up. Send notes as appropriate. Ask new friends to join you on LinkedIn. If you extended the invitation and they expressed interest, add them to your organization’s mailing list.
4. After three months, contact the leaders of your group of choice and ask about engagement opportunities. Where would your time and energy fit best? Identify and volunteer one activity you will enjoy and that will benefit your nonprofit. Say no to everything else. Be strategic. For instance, work with membership allows you to meet new people. Work with programs allows you to shape the program content and meet experts, etc.
5. After six months of membership, examine the membership benefit list. What benefits are you not accessing? As appropriate, add them to your to-do list. Consider sharing the Branson-RaY model with the leadership. Is there a celebrity who already visits your community, whom might donate a lecture?
6. After one year, evaluate your time and financial investment. While one year is too soon to expect a long list of tangible benefits to accrue, you should be experiencing some tangible returns, i.e., 50 plus new contacts. What have the benefits been? How might you improve your return? If you see none, you may wish to join another group or redouble your efforts for the next six months.
Every nonprofit needs a community of support to obtain resources and income. Some of this support can be built one-by-one by active participation in civic groups. Follow the six steps above to obtain resources and income by partnering with your chamber or other civic group.
*Print this list and place the dates in bold in your calendar.
Karen Eber Davis provides customized advising and coaching around nonprofit strategy and board development. People leaders hire her to bring clarity to sticky situations, break through barriers that seem insurmountable, and align people for better futures. She is the author of 7 Nonprofit Income Streams and Let's Raise Nonprofit Millions Together.
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