Joining a local nonprofit can help you build business, but proceed with caution.
By Bryce Sanders | June 20, 2019 at 04:25 PM
You believe community involvement can lead to business. You’ve joined a small local nonprofit in your area. It’s prestigious. It has a noble mission. It’s run almost exclusively be volunteers. They even invited you to join the board.
These people are generally polite. They won’t vote you out, boo or throw rotten vegetables. Instead, they can exclude you or work around you. Here’s what not to do
1. Take over. You realize they are nice people, but haven’t a clue how to raise money or run a business. You tell them. You try to force through changes.
Outcome: They freeze you out.
Why: The Old Guard may not be good at running an organization efficiently, but they are masters at getting rid of someone they don’t like.
Instead: Look and listen. Identify relationships in place. Get close to one of the Old Guard leaders. Ask questions. Make suggestions. Try to get support for your ideas before you voice them publicly.
2. Volunteer, then never follow though. You join committees. You don’t show up. People think you are all talk and no action.
Outcome: They assume you joined to get some nonprofit experience onto your resume. They marginalize you, not taking you seriously.
Why: You’ve demonstrated you don’t follow through.
Instead: Pick one project you’ve carefully thought through. Bring it to a successful conclusion. Build your reputation.
3. Prospect every board member. You ask each one “I would like to go over your finances sometime. What time is good for you?”
Outcome: They look at you funny. No one wants to have lunch or socialize.
Why: They think the only reason you joined is to get business. You are marginalized.
Instead: Tactfully ask the board member who got you involved: “I would like to raise my professional visibility. What do you suggest?”
4. Talk about your clients by name. “You want to do business with me. Everyone else does. I just did a great job for Charlie. Ask him.”
Outcome: They will not become clients. Ever.
Why: You violated client confidentiality.
Instead: “I can’t disclose or talk about my clients. However, the rule doesn’t work both ways. Clients are certainly allowed to talk about their advisor. We hope they do! If you ask around in town, you can probably get some feedback about me.”
5. Drink to excess. Free booze! What could be better? No, I am not slurring my words.
Outcome: He will not be my advisor. Ever.
Why: Some people assume a person who doesn’t know their own capacity and drinks too much is exercising poor judgment. They assume this carries over into their professional life.
Instead: “I’m just having one. I’m driving tonight.”
6. Assume business will come to you. You join. You attend the occasional event. You keep to yourself. No business comes. You think: “This social prospecting thing is a big bust.”
Outcome: When members of the group need a product or service, they don’t think of you in that context.
Why: Everyone needs to know Who you are, What you do and Why you are good. You aren’t making the effort.
Instead: “I don’t think we’ve met before. I’m Bryce. So, what’s your connection to the organization?”
7. Be a cheapskate. “Thanks for inviting me out. It’s my turn to pick up a round? Sorry, I’ve got to go. Catch me next time.”
Outcome: People avoid you or think negatively. You are out for what you can get.
Why: If the world were divided into givers and takers, these philanthropic folks (givers) see you as a taker.
Instead: “Thank for including me. Let me buy the first round. Oh, we don’t do it that way, we just split the bill at the end? That’s fine by me.”
8. Not show up for meetings. You join, but you don’t attend the group’s monthly meetings or support scheduled events.
Outcome: People don’t accept you into the group, because you are never there.
Why: They assume you only want to claim you are an active member.
Instead: “That was a good event. I’m hungry. Want to join me for a bite to eat before heading home? I hear that new Italian place is pretty great.”
Yes, it may be true. Many people in the organization do business with each other. The business flows through a shared commitment to the mission of the organization. They see a kindred spirit. People do business with people they like. These same people are wary of people who join, then appear to put their own interests first.