Why Nonprofits Need To Network Differently Than Other Organizations

A common misconception of nonprofits is that they have the heart but not the teeth; that nonprofits have noble philanthropic goals but lack the business savvy to grow and expand the organization. That’s a myth, but there are a few different ways nonprofits and for-profits must approach networking and growth.

Here are two ways networking for nonprofits is different than for other organizations:

The Cause Is Central

At its core, networking is a conversation. That conversation can originate in similar ways (e.g. a mutual connection, a shared interest, cold calling, etc.) for both nonprofits and for-profits, but it diverges once it’s underway. Networking for nonprofits will always be rooted in the mission or cause, whereas for-profit companies generally tie everything to a product or service.

The most successful development teams for charitable organizations will tell you that they make huge efforts to engage potential donors with the cause at every point in the nonprofit networking process. Because there is no exchange of goods or services as there is with a for-profit company, it’s important for donors to understand what they’ll get in return for their support. Intangibles such as “it feels good” may be true, but that only goes so far – donors want to know that they are part of creating positive change. In short, networking for nonprofits is unique because it will always involve strengthening a potential donor’s emotional tie to a cause and helping them understand the part they play in a bigger philanthropic goal.

Resources Are Limited 

Nonprofits simply don’t have as much money as for-profits, for obvious reasons. That translates to limited staff resources. For example, a software corporation might have a team of 50 salespeople hitting the streets and phones to make connections, whereas a cancer research charity might only have two or three people dedicated to networking and development.

Nonprofit networking is all about doing more with less and ensuring that the people who are dedicated to fundraising have the right tools, attend the right events, and meet the right people, in the most efficient manner. More than anything, technology is helping nonprofits bridge this resource gap. Software designed for nonprofit networking can give two development staff members the power of 20, identify high-impact donors, better leverage board member relationships, and shorten fundraising cycles. It can completely transform your donor acquisition and fundraising strategies, without requiring additional staff.

Networking for nonprofits isn’t harder or less effective than for other organizations, it’s just different. With the right approach and resources, it can be more successful than for-profit networking.

Nonprofits like Robin Hood, University of Wisconsin Foundation, and the MET use RelSci’s relationship mapping technology to effectively network and fundraise. Contact us to learn more about how we can help your nonprofit.