The ability to network effectively keeps a volunteer organization strong and vital. It’s a valuable way to get your calls to action heard and your volunteer force mobilized. And there’s never been a better time to ask for help. In these difficult days, Americans are rallying around each other. In fact, U.S. citizens may be more open to volunteering today than they have been in decades. Be sure to capitalize on the many avenues — electronically and in person — that can lead you directly to both individuals and other organizations who are eager to help.
The Power of Peers
It goes without saying: never underestimate the power of the Internet, and more specifically, the power of social networking. If you think MySpace is just for teens, think again. MySpace Impact is a branch of the site that allows non-profits the opportunity to network with others who are passionate about their causes. Many agencies such as The Humane Society of the United States, The National Wildlife Federation, and Easter Seals are already using Impact to spread the word about their initiatives, collect email addresses, register users for e-newsletters, raise funds, and more. In a word, these organizations are all creating “buzz” about their missions. Keep in mind that MySpace is just one of several popular social networking sites. Facebook also has a thriving nonprofit segment, and LinkedIn caters to the professional crowd. Setting up a page on all three is sure to generate interest among a wide cross-section of web surfers. It’s a new way to make volunteering “cool.”
In addition to a social networking site like LinkedIn, make sure to explore options for blogs and listservs that specialize in your field. It’s a great way to share in the collective wealth of experience among your colleagues, ask for advice, and sometimes save yourself from reinventing the wheel.
Are You Missing Links?
People simply don’t read in the same manner as years ago. With the web as a preferred method of research, readers often bounce from page to page and site to site, with three or more windows often open at any one time. This is why it’s important to build a path to your website from other friendly sites. Don’t be afraid to ask other organizations to trade links. It will help both agencies in terms of site traffic, and Google takes links into account when ranking pages. Most importantly, if your partner site has a lot of Google credibility, you will raise your site’s status in the search engine as well.
Takin’ It to the Streets
Of course, it would be a huge mistake to rely on the Internet as your sole source for networking, particularly with other professionals. A great place to start is the National Council of Non-Profits. Their website can be found at www.councilofnonprofits.org. This nationwide organization has affiliates in most states. At the state level, you are likely to find a great number of member organizations and a host of opportunities such as seminars, meetings, and luncheons. Programs of interest may include such timely topics like fundraising in tough economic times and ways to save money through your human resources practices. Go ahead and get involved. You never know what kind of networking opportunity might sit down beside you!
From Facebook to old-fashioned face-to-face, make sure to use all the networking tools available to you to stay connected with both volunteers and other professionals in your field.
In a twist on the old saying, today it’s what you know and who you know that make the difference.