Networks are an interconnection between people and organisations. Although diverse in focus and action, they collaborate and add value to those within the network.

We could even compare a network to a root system that nourishes, supports, and helps you grow. A strong network is a powerful tool that can significantly assist any organisation.

However, knowing where to start when building and maintaining a network can be difficult.

Valcare’s Network Officer, Courtney Jacobs, compiled five tips you can use to build a network within your nonprofit space.

Plan to start networking and set targets

To build a network, you need to start by networking. Set targets to attend a certain number of networking events per month and within those events, set a mark on the number of people you will speak to.

These targets will help you work towards a clear goal.

Find and attend networking events

Opportunities and people are linked. Reach out to your circle of friends and colleagues and enquire about available networking events in your area. Use these insights to create a social calendar for your organisation and be sure to attend the events based on your target.

Using this plan will open you up to a new world of individuals and organisations.

Actively participate and be present

Once you are at the event, make an active decision to participate and be present. Speaking to people you do not know can be awkward, but you need to step out of your comfort zone and start new conversations.

Keep a positive mindset and take comfort in the fact that there are others at the event that may feel as nervous as you.

Pay attention to your body language

Having a plan, a social calendar, and attending events are all critical. But, if your body language does not project a positive and welcoming attitude, people will not want to talk to you. Pay attention to your posture, movement, hand gestures and facial expressions you display when communicating and engaging with people.

Smile, stand tall and make eye contact with the person you are speaking to.

Apply what you have learnt

Practice makes perfect. Your first interaction or attempt to network might not go well, but the more you put yourself out there, the better you will become. You will eventually learn what conversation starters work best for you and grow more confident when approaching people.

To maintain the connections you have made, follow up with a text or email the next day. Keeping the conversation going opens up a new communication channel beyond the initial meeting.

This article was compiled by Courtney Jacobs, Network Officer at Valcare.