The importance of connections...

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Being involved in the social sector since, let’s say since a while, I am always trying to understand how partnerships can be created and forged. Sometimes it is really about being able to connect with the right suitor. The problem is  that is so hard to get to that.

You have to do a lot of “on desk research” and sometimes exercise a bit of public relations skills when you meet new people in official events.

But also often in such rushed self-introductions, it is very hard to find the right opportunity to meet the right person plus it is not everybody’s cup of tea reaching out unknown folks. What if you are a bit shy or introvert?

Yet there might be ways even for such persons who would be more comfortable talking to their cup of coffee rather than reaching out others.

Obviously, having a “connector” someone who knows a lot of people always makes the difference as you can easily get introduced. In such cases, it will be almost sure that the person you are trying to connect will answer positively at your request for a meeting.

During a recent project, we were helped so much by a very kind person who helped us getting introducing to so many partners. In this case, we were extremely lucky.  

Again knowing such insiders is not easy because it is  about your network. What if you are new in a place where you just moved and you do not know anyone?

What if you are coming from a particularly disadvantaged background and you do not have “deep” contacts with those who count?

There are no easy answers to all these questions and yet partnerships can flourish if only there are conditions for people to know each other.

So in all these cases where you end up facing a wall, what you need is “grit” that Angela Duckworth defines as combination of passion and perseverance.

It means that you do not get discouraged when your e-mails with a request for a meeting get unanswered ( by the way, make a phone call for the same reason is more difficult and requires some preparation but is more effective, big time!).

If it does not work, you can try later on, after all, giving a reminder to someone does not require much time.

It means that your passion will keep you forging on, exploring new opportunities also by becoming super creative.

In terms of being creative, for example some years ago, in order to fundraise, I and my colleague personally handwrote letters to a dozen of billionaires around the world.

It required a lot of work not really in reading the Forbes’ list of the extra super wealthy persons but in trying to get their mail address because, obviously, if you are that rich, you do not advertise nor your e-mail nor your private post box.

 Just imagine searching for the private post mail of Bill Gates (we did not do that because we knew that Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation would not have founded anything of we were doing and also this implied a research on the personal interests of each single persons we wrote).

Anyway you can give a try, good luck with that. In our case it did not work even if we received a nice e-mail written by the personal assistant of one of these huge guys showing empathy for our cause but nothing else. Believe me that despite the upset that this person did not pledge any amount, I was personally very happy.

Perhaps we still are bogged down by the misconceptions that you work on partnerships only in order to get funding.

When you try to approach someone for a meeting, even a potential donor, do not ask directly for a financial support but let the person understand that you are doing something important and positive for the society and you would love to explain your work.

Make it clear that you are looking for long term collaborations and you are not just there for money. 

Yet if you are pressed by the circumstances, a sort of desperate, then in some cases you also need to be quite clear on your intentions.

Once we have been dealing with another of such big persons based outside Nepal and when we made the “ask” it was too late as we realized that this person was willing to help but more as a mentor, something that was actually valued by us a lot because he had provided very interesting feedbacks but somehow we were always hoping for a more “material” upgrade.

Few clarification: this piece ended up focusing on fundraising but never forget that partnership is more than that.  You can cooperate with others in simple and yet useful and effective ways without money. Second if you have powerful ideas and a strong determination, sooner or later people will open up their doors, actually they will start coming to you. 

A final disclosure: unfortunately, as you might have noticed, I am not that good at fundraising , so you might know better, advices are welcome!

Position: Co -Founder of ENGAGE,a new social venture for the promotion of volunteerism and service and Ideator of Sharing4Good

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