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Why Fundraising Consultants Should Commune Not Compete

By Marcie L. Wagner, CFRE

Recently a fundraising consultant reached out to me for a face-to-face meeting. I gratefully accepted and the outcome of the meeting exceeded my expectations. We shared stories, offered one another affirmation regarding what we have accomplished over our years of working with non profits, and discovered ways in which we could work together to strengthen the services we provide to clients.

social network of African American businesswomanFundraising consultants understand they need to carve out time to market their firm and ensure it can be easily found by those seeking professional fundraising services. But do we spend enough time making sincere and long-term relationships with other fundraising consulting firms? If one makes this a priority, and it is done well, one will have access to a large and diverse portfolio of contacts to help us routinely stay connected to a network which not only offers new business opportunities, enhance the services your offer, but also will be available should you need counsel on any number of areas where another’s professional opinion would be of great benefit.

Social media combined with traditional networking makes it both convenient and cost-free to build a network with other fundraising consultants who are credible, trusting, and have a solid relationship of mutual sharing of information.

Here are four areas to be mindful of when creating strategies for successful relationship-building with your consulting colleagues:

1. Taking But Not Giving

As you connect with peers in consulting, learn about their experience, skills, values, business model, and what types of projects they’re working on and looking for. If you see an opportunity to help someone by making a connection or setting that person up with a project that doesn’t suit you, partner with them or pass the potential client on to them. Your help and thoughtfulness are not likely to be forgotten, and your peers will be more likely to return the favor in the future.

2. Meet Casually, Face-to-Face

fundraising_consultants2Traditionally consultants consider meeting face-to-face at events and an exchange of business cards as successful networking. More recently, connecting and communicating through online social networks such as LinkedIn and Twitter are considered time well spent. These are great ways to find your colleagues and make that first connection. But you need to take that next step. A solid relationship is born when you both find the time to get together casually, shake hands and engage in a meaningful conversation.

3. Look Outside Your Traditional Network

Most consultants build their networks around others within their industry. While you’ll certainly want these connections, not expanding your network into other relevant industries could lead to missing out on big opportunities.

fundraising_consultantsTry this: Attend conferences, workshops and networking events focused on broader business topics or on industries related to or similar to yours. For example, reach out to creative agency or social media/IT consultants; you will net several valuable contacts who can expand your consulting network related to services your clients will most likely require.

4. Expecting Immediate Results

One meeting with a consulting colleague requires follow up and brainstorming on how you might work together now or in the future. Similar to building a relationship with a donor, you can’t neglect the relationship-building part of the networking process. Don’t wait until you need something to attempt to forge a relationship. Work on developing your consulting network regularly.

A consulting network is always a work in progress. By following these guidelines, you’ll likely cultivate meaningful connections more quickly and keep them for the long term.

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