by Ron Worth, CAE, KCSAE Treasurer
“No matter how smart you are, no matter how talented, you can’t do it alone.” Harvey Mackay
The article I was asked to write this month for KCSAE was on networking in the non-profit world. I can truthfully share with you my own sincere belief in the power of networking for not only your association regarding the growth of membership, recognition and revenues but also enhancing your position and power within any industry. My background was in architecture. I was working in a large global organization and a new career opened up called marketing for professional companies. It was new, it was viewed as car sales, and no one understood the ramifications of what it could do for your company. But I could see it had the potential or not following tradition or be hampered by policies or procedures……….there were none.
I had no one in the firm to learn from so I turned to a national organization (there is a chapter in Kansas City) called The Society of Marketing Professional Services, SMPS. One key point they addressed initially for me was the fact that all successful people had one common trait; they had created and cultivated a network of contacts daily. If you are not doing this, now is an ideal time given the multiple tools and resources you have available.
The big misunderstanding of networking is that it is only for lead generation. It is important for that fact but just as equally important is the opportunity to use networking to help with introductions, marketing research, find out what others are doing in your segment of the profession or other nonprofits to determine trends. The research will illustrate what works with members and what doesn’t. This alone will save you time focusing your time and limited resources on successful actions to garner sponsorship, recognition, revenue, attendance at programs and the ever-needed influx of new members.
Another question I have been asked frequently is how many should be in my network. There is a Rule of 250. The general understanding is that if you have 250 very relevant professionals in your network, there is NOTHING you can not find an answer to or obtain the resources needed, within three phone calls/emails/text messages (at a minimum) in any city.
So………what is in networking for you?
- Reflection: One very important gift I received was the ability to test out ideas or questions I had prior to meeting with a key client or employer. Have a group who can ‘reflect’ back to you options of what your actions may take can be critical is assisting you with the development of your own unique solution to your problems, challenges and opportunities. There is strength in numbers and a powerful variety of counter arguments that can help you close the sponsorship effort, position your self and the one for the promotion, or position you association as the one to belong too. Others have been down this road before and can save your considerable time and effort.
- Groups: Networks can help you expand your own contacts. KCSAE has several amazing Special Interest Groups, SIG’s that match your current position in the nonprofit world and align you with other professionals you are doing exactly what you are doing. They help each other, give your leads to the answers you seek and share with you the pitfalls of going after a sponsor who will never commit and why. Your team in the office will be impressed with you uncanny ability to predict the future when in reality it is your SIG who honestly shares with you to help you increase your contacts, resources and skills.
- Help others: Networks can help you help others. Either within your organization, your stakeholders, or your supplier resources. Why would you want to pass up on an opportunity to be of service to those around you who you depend on and they equally depend on you and your non-profit,
- The world is yours: When I first was given the task of developing new business opportunities outside of the United States I didn’t know where to start. But………. remembering the power of networks n the states………..it had to be similar outside of the country. First and most important, your current contact know much more than you realize until you ask for this help, ideas and direction with international opportunity. They will contact you with other professionals, books, associations, federal agencies, meeting/conventions that can education and triple your contacts. Your life and perception of the world will be altered from this experience forever.
- Personal Career Enhancement: With a strong network, you never have to worry about a job again. The network will always be with those that give and when you need their help, they will give back to you. During the COVID pandemic in 2020 and the world crashed around us, my own network of peers, consultants, financial specialists, meeting planning associates, close ties to the DC area and global economy, technical professionals, industry SIGs (like KCSAE CAEs and ASAE Collaborate), came through with a wealth of options/innovations/past solutions/access to PPPs/professionals to talk with/and general support to keep my sanity. That experience alone was worth it weigh in gold.
Ok. So how do you get started building you own network? The key word here is YOU. Going out and each event each contact, and every possible group/person could provide you with the guidance you may need. Locally as small sample is:
List of Kansas City Professional Associations & Organizations:
- American Institute of Architecture – Kansas City (AIA KC) provides services and benefits that empower local architects to create environments that enhance quality of life and the collective future.
- American Marketing Association – Kansas City Chapter (AMA KC) is committed to educate, connect, and empower the professional development of marketers in KC.
- Financial Executives International – Kansas City (FEIKC) brings together Kansas City’s top leaders in finance.
- Financial Planning Association of Greater Kansas City (FPAKC) is the preeminent organization for financial planning professionals in the Kansas City area.
- Greater Kansas City Employee Benefit Professionals Association (EBPA-KC) serves working professionals who devote the majority of their time to employee benefit plans.
- IPMA-HR Greater KC Chapter (IMPA-GKC) is a non-profit organization comprised of HR professionals from across the Kansas City metropolitan area.
- Kansas City Data Management Association (KC DAMA) welcomes all data management professionals in the greater Kansas City area to participate in educational and social functions with fellow professionals.
- Kansas City Society of Association Executives (KCSAE) facilitates professional advancement and unique networking opportunities for the KC association community.
- Kansas Contractors Association (KCA) is a professional association of contractors and those who provide supplies and services to the heavy, highway and utility construction industry.
- National Association of Asian American Professionals: Kansas City (NAAAP KC) inspires leaders to make a meaningful difference in society.
- PMI Kansas City Mid America Chapter (PMI KC) provides the opportunity to network with other PM professionals and practitioners in the Kansas City area.
- Society for Human Resource Management of Greater Kansas City (SHRM-KC) is one of the largest and oldest chapters of SHRM.
- Society for Marketing Professional Services (SMPS – KC) advocates for, educates and connects leaders in the building industry.
University/Local Alumni Club – sponsorship, contacts for legal, finance, consulting.
- University of Missouri in Kansas City, UMKC
- Kansas University, KU
- Metropolitan Community College, MCC
- Johnson County Community College, JCC
- Kansas State University, KSU
- Baker University, BU
- Missouri University, MU
- Downtown Club
- Knights of Columbus
- And a hundred others locally: com/cities/us/mo/Kansas_city/social/
Another primary rule of networking is the need for you to stay in touch with you network regularly. This can be as simple as Happy New Year, sharing an article that may be relevant to specific individuals, a general article on trends, challenges, new opportunities is always important. The overriding need to aid your network when ever asked. The moto here is “He/She who Gives…..Gets.” These will get you started. Don’t consider this work but a wonderful way to meet people with potentially a common interest and eventually friendship. Some of the very best friends I have evolved through the network, and it seems like every day I make new ones. This is a lifelong ambition.