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Why Charities should get involved with networking

 

For many people, the perception of networking is that it’s for businesses, and business owners. And those who represent or run a charity or other voluntary organisation are not going to benefit. However, that’s definitely not the case. There are a variety of reasons why a charity, CIC, Trust or other voluntary organisation can, and should, take part in networking.

1 – Your charity could need business services. Whatever the shape of your organisation, limited company or tiny-start-up CIC, you’ll probably need some professional services, somewhere along the line. Accountant, web developer, graphic designer, solicitor, IT tech, builder… Where will you find them? How will you know that they are a good and trusted provider of the services you need? If you have met them through networking, or are recommended them by one of your networking connections, then you’ve got a good start towards finding someone trustworthy.

2 – You are likely to find others who have similar experience, or have faced similar issues, to those you’re going through right now. Whether it’s finding reliable staff, or setting up an online booking platform, there are challenges that are common to both businesses and voluntary organisations. You can pick people’s brains at networking events, and find how they solved problems, and apply that to your own situation.

3 – There might well be people in the networking events who are looking for charities or causes to support. Within Your Partnerships, there are some very generous people who will offer in-kind support for events, or who choose a ‘charity of the year’ in their workplace, and support that organisations throughout the year. Others won’t be able to offer large-scale support, but may be happy to attend events that you hold, or undertake sponsored activities for you. Even sharing your social media messaging is support, that you can encourage – you never know who might see what is shared!

4 – There might be commercial outlets for your charity that open up through conversations at networking. Could you offer specialised training to companies, for their staff, or to support vulnerable customers that they have? Could your facilities be hired to others? You might never have considered this before, or be unsure how to approach launching something like this, but there are a wide variety of people in the Your Partnerships network who could help you through making this kind of offer.

5 – Where do your volunteers come from? Do you have trouble recruiting them? Maybe, if you speak about what you do at a networking event, you will inspire people to come and volunteer with you – or maybe they’ll know someone who can come and join you.

6 – And it’s always possible that there is someone in a networking meeting who is in need of the services you offer, or knows someone who is. If you rescue dogs from neglect abroad, there are surely potential dog-owners in the room. If you support people with mental health conditions, or cancer, or other medical issues, what are the chances of someone present wanting to know more? If your charity has an environmental message, how many of those businesses need to hear it, and could get on board?

From the horse's mouth...

Those are just a few of the reasons why voluntary organisations can and do join Your Partnerships. We spoke to several who are established members, and asked them why they have made that commitment, and what they feel they gain from it. This is what they said:

 

Sarah Stott, Head of Fundraising at Children’s Hospice South West’s Little Harbour children’s hospice in St Austell, said:

“Networking is at the heart of everything we do in the fundraising team at Children’s Hospice South West.

The charity relies almost entirely on voluntary donations to be able to provide vital care for local families facing unimaginable challenges – and we just wouldn’t be able to provide that support without local businesses fundraising for us and the incredible networking opportunities that are available, such as those offered by Your Partnerships.

Forging connections and building relationships with individuals, businesses and organisations is what helps drive the incredible support we receive from the local community.

Through Your Partnerships we’ve met some inspirational people, shared and developed ideas, and have also been able to offer mutual support and encouragement to others, particularly at a time when we’ve all needed to stand together more than ever.

And not only has networking created opportunities to raise much-needed funds for CHSW, we’ve been able to raise significant awareness of the impact our children’s hospices have in the South West.”

 

Zoe Morrison, Business Development Manager at Heartlands, said:

“Heartlands has been attending and hosting networking events for several years.

When we first started networking, we weren’t sure what we would gain from participating. As a charity, resources are vitally important, and there was an element of worry that networking would be a wasteful use of time and money.

But what we found is, networking added value for our charity.

Through the relationships we built, by regularly attending events, we have managed to recruit champions for our charity. These champions have supported us in numerous ways, including using our services, providing sponsorship, donation of goods, and exchange of knowledge.

I feel it is important to mention, relationships aren’t built overnight. To really benefit from networking, it is key to be consistent, and give back when you can. Giving back can be using other networker’s services or recommending them to others, for example.

Networking is now an essential part of our marketing and fundraising planning. I would highly recommend networking to other charities.”

 

Lynda Thomas, Community Fundraiser at Marie Curie, said:

“Networking is crucial to our organisation - the support we can get from the businesses we connect with is more than just financial, although that is very important to us. We really value the connections, as well as the links with other charities.”

 

 

I am a director of Access Cornwall, a CIC working to improve disability access across Cornwall, including offering training opportunities. One of the benefits we have received from my involvement in YP, was making a connection with a single person in an organisation who worked with the kind of people we needed for our training programme, who helped us fill a third of the places we offered in the first training cycle. That single connection was invaluable to us. In addition, my regular conversations around disability access are helping raise awareness in local businesses around disability access, in all its forms, for their customers and staff.

 

 

And finally, I brought a friend to the Heartlands networking event, Victoria Edwards, who operated the Bear in Mine’d teddy bear museum, and Therateds SMW CIC, providing access to the therapeutic benefits of interacting with old teddy bears. Since that meeting, she has used Trusted Tech to provide refurbished IT equipment and sort out a few issues with her existing IT kit, and spoken with others present that day to make connections that will take her organisation forward.

 

 

Upcoming events

Your Partnerships has two events that are specifically tailored towards voluntary organisations, and those who can provide services to this sector.

Charities, Trusts and CICs Networking takes place on

  • the 4th Tuesday of the month, at the Victoria Inn, Roche, from 10.30am. Edward Chapman is the new Ambassador for this event, which is relaunching in February.
  • the 1st Thursday of the month, at Venaspace - The Apex, at Derriford Business Park, Plymouth. This is a new event, and we're hoping it grows!

In addition, Edward Chapman also hosts an online event for ‘Businesses with Purpose’, on the 4th Wednesday of the month, at 12pm. Any business that has an ethical or community-minded ethos is welcome here, whether a voluntary organisation or not, or a business who has a service to provide to these organisations.

You can book to join all events via the Your Partnerships website.

 

Blog by Hannah Danson of HD Words