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Forging Meaningful Connections: The Art of Networking for Fundraising Success

Good fundraisers know one of the most (if not the most) essential strategies is having the right person make the ask. This is because fundraising success is built on creating meaningful relationships. Much like fundraising, networking is also centered around building relationships. Networking offers opportunities to engage with clients, partners, professional peers, and industry leaders, and – when done right – can lead to both professional and personal success 


Getting Networking Right   

At the heart of fundraising success lies the art of networking. It is more than just exchanging business cards; it’s about cultivating relationships that endure and thrive. As you think about your own approach to donor engagement, we have a few suggestions for how to elevate your networking game:   


  • Be authentic. Go beyond surface-level conversations and convey a genuine interest in the individual you are networking with. Let them know you are interested in getting to know them better, understanding their industry and role, learning from their experiences, or exploring potential collaborations.  
  • Be interested. When initiating a conversation, be genuinely curious about the individual. Have questions in your back pocket that demonstrate a sincere interest in what they have to share.  
  • Be tenacious. Networking success often hinges on your ability to be proactive. Take the initiative to reach out and schedule a follow up conversation and thank the individual for their availability.   


Navigating Your Networks with Purpose   

When it comes to networking, value intentionality over time. The following tips can help you identify immediate, time-saving networking opportunities designed to strengthen your existing network and cultivate donor relationships:   


  • Reconnect Over Coffee. Drop an email to a former colleague for a coffee date. Connecting with former coworkers is a great way to catch up, learn about their current role, and continue to grow/maintain your professional relationship. 
  • Leverage Panels & Webinars. Sign up for a panel or webinar in your field. After the session, email the panelists, thanking them for their insight and knowledge, opening the door for further discussion.  
  • Work the Room at Conferences. Attend a professional conference and prioritize a list of people to meet. Follow up with an email or LinkedIn invitation to those you speak with. For those you don’t, send them a message after the conference to foster virtual connections.  
  • Cultivate Radical Connection with Donors. Initiate ongoing, meaningful conversations with donors that demonstrate genuine interest in their philanthropic priorities and establish a rapport built on trust and mutual understanding. 


Networking can offer valuable business referrals, generate fresh ideas through expert brainstorming sessions, foster new friendships, and crucially, facilitate deep connections with potential donors, ultimately contributing to long-term partnership and fundraising success. Make it a priority to leverage these connections and witness the mutual benefits for yourself and others.


A black and white photo of a woman in a suit.


Deborah Ryan,
Senior Managing Director