By Sara Lundenberger – Director of fundraising consulting 

There are some people that love a good networking event. They work the room, passing out business cards from one person to another and talking about themselves and their organization effortlessly.

I am not one of those people.

I’m neither shy nor introverted; however, I dread the idea of talking to random strangers about who I am and what I do. And, yes, I see the irony in that I always am advising nonprofits to tell their stories to others. Yet it is difficult for me to talk about myself and my work.

On April 13, the Bounce Innovation Hub held an open house event. It was meant to be a “grand opening” of Akron’s new hub of innovation and entrepreneurship. Companies inside of Bounce were given an opportunity to open their doors to members of the community and show off their work. Since our Dot Org Solutions office is located on the 7th floor of Bounce, we decided this would be the perfect time to talk about our business to others – and yes, that meant networking.

Hundreds of people toured through the building, ate great food and, most importantly, saw all of the amazing companies that occupy the building. Here at Dot Org, we unveiled our new logo, branding and website. We also passed out the cutest cookies. Attendees walked through our office and had the chance to learn more about us.

As I talked to visitors, I began reflecting on the importance of networking. This event not only introduced Bounce to the community, but also created an opportunity for strangers to meet and discuss so many things. This idea may be nerve-wrecking to people such as myself – however, it is vital to help professionals grow.

So, why should we network?

New business opportunities

As a small business, we rely on word-of-mouth advertising. But we have made many valuable connections and gained more than a few new clients by chatting with people at luncheons or local events. Sometimes we have even formed client relationships through the grapevine; this means we may not have necessarily met clients directly, rather they referred us to a friend or partner in need.

Speak up – tell people what you do and why you do it. You never know who is sitting at your table.

Form new partnerships

A new connection may not lead to new business, necessarily; however, it could lead to a new partnership. In our case, we have met graphic designers, printers, web designers, etc. that we now use as freelancers for our projects. They also send projects to us that require our content development, project management, strategy and consulting services. Having connections with others in the same business area is a great way to get involved with new work and gain new clients.

Create connections in your community

During the Bounce open house event, many northeast Ohio residents visited businesses and art studios that have gotten their names out in the community. For a small business such as Dot Org Solutions, it is vital for us to get involved in our community in order to meet new clients and find upcoming projects. Creating connections in your community will not only assist in your professional development, but it will also help you establish yourself as a thought leader.

New people lead to new experiences

Think about how many people in your circle are people you met through networking. Some might be in the same profession as you are, but I bet most aren’t. By getting to know others from outside your profession, you learn about what they do and how they do it. This knowledge might lead you to think differently about your daily work or even your long term goals.

After Friday night, we had sore feet and sore throats from talking. However, we were also energized and excited by the people that were interested in what we do and how we relate to the new Bounce community. Many were interested in talking to us further and asked for business and rack cards. Maybe they will provide new business opportunities, or maybe they are just more people to add to the Dot Org Solutions circle. No matter what, it was a success – and it was all because of networking.

After this event, I discovered that networking does not have to be a daunting task. And it is essential and beneficial to both your organization and yourself.