Fundraising news, ideas and inspiration for professional charity fundraisers

Acceptable charity and third sector schmoozing

Acceptable charity and third sector schmoozing

Are you a schmoozer?  Do you use schmoozing to work a room full of potential donors or partners or just when attending an even or conference?  According to an article I saw recently, schmoozing is a vital networking skill and is not in fact a load of old cobblers!  The art of schmoozing is defined as:

“To converse informally, to chat, or to chat in a friendly and persuasive manner especially so as to gain favour, business, or connections.”
For most of us involved in communications, fundraising or general management, this seems like an important skill to have.  However, schmoozing has a bit of a reputation for not being appropriate in the third sector, even though certain aspects make a lot of sense.

Ever keen to learn from the best of both the commercial and other sectors, I’ve suggested a few thoughts as to what might constitute acceptable schmoozing when networking in the third sector…

  • Don’t gatecrash conversations – look for introductions if you can get them or if you can’t take a moment to gauge the ebbs and flows in a conversation before interjecting.
  • Ask questions which enable people to talk about themselves or their organisations; most people’s favourite, or at least most comfortable, subject.  If you are good, ask your questions in a context that relates to your cause or organisation so you can then respond to their answer by linking it to what you do or need.
  • Tell a story of a beneficiary rather than your organisation or yourself.  We always talk about the importance of real-life impacts so use them here.
  • Take along a picture or two to show what you do.  Showing the impact you have on people’s lives can be a really useful prop during a conversation.
  • Don’t insult anyone’s intelligence – if you’re fundraising, be open about it and respect their response.
  • Don’t use third sector jargon! (why is this so prevalent?!?)  Talk as if you are talking to your mum, in human and layman’s terms.
  • Relax!  It’s OK to accept a glass of wine from someone without panicking about propriety (a two week holiday in the Bahamas is different, of course).  People will want to schmooze you too so just be polite and go with the flow.
  • Don’t hog anyone’s time – most people will be polite but don’t monopolise their attentions.
  • Be gracious and flattering in a subtle way – a real skill this one.  I’m not talking about telling a potential high value donor they’re gorgeous; more paying attention to what they say and telling them if you think an idea is a good one and why.
  • Reciprocate tone of voice, body language and style of the conversation if you can.  Sub-consciously it makes people feel more comfortable, particularly when meeting others for the first time.

What do you think?  What’s worked for you?

Kevin is the founder of Bottom Line Ideas and has a deep-rooted passion for ideas that actually work in the real world. Those ideas help charities of all shapes and sizes to get their stories and messages to the audiences they need to hear them. And then persuade them to act!

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