Even for Non-Profits, It’s Still Who You Know

We all know strong businesses are built on strong relationships.  We spend a significant chunk of our working time cultivating relationships through networking events, community service, marketing, and good old-fashioned phone calls.  These relationships are so important that even businesses exist – like Handshake 2.0 – to help other businesses build the relationships they need to be successful.

Muscular Dystrophy Association Lock-Up Relationship-building is just as important for non-profits.  There is, however, one key difference.  As a business owner, you represent your company, therefore you and your staff can do most, if not all, of the relationship-building work your company requires.  

A non-profit is not “owned” by its executive director. It is owned by the community. Therefore, the most effective way for a non-profit to build relationships is not through the connections of its staff, but rather through the connections of its community leaders.  

This means that the best way to help a favorite non-profit succeed is to treat it as you would your business. 

Not sure where to start?  Here are seven relationship building ideas to get you going.

  • Recommend a non-profit organization’s Facebook page (here’s how to do it). 
  • Talk about your favorite organization on Twitter (and other social networks), and share/retweet what they say about themselves.
  • Invite the Executive Director (ED) from your favorite non-profit to attend your next cocktail party or barbecue and introduce him or her (and the organization) to friends likely to help support the cause.
  • Write a blog post about your favorite organization’s most recent, or better yet, upcoming, event.
  • Open Doors: Help the organization’s ED get a meeting with other community and business leaders you know.
  • Call a friend and ask him or her to volunteer with you or to match a recent donation.
  • Ask for donations in lieu of birthday gifts. (Here’s an example from a fellow Virginia Tech Grad

With your help, and the help of your friends, the community cause closest to your heart will soon be in the hearts and minds of your neighbors as well.

From Anne Clelland of Handshake 2.0:

Kat McClinton, Program Supervisor of New Life Recovery Center is the "who you know" who suggested to organizers of the New River Valley of Virginia's Muscular Dystrophy Association's Lock-Up that they contact me.  When I was a volunteer counselor at the Center, Kat "went to jail" for the MDA.  I'm honored to follow in her footsteps, even into a "Lock-Up."  Feel free to help "bail me out" by donating to the MDA.


Maureen Carruthers writes about nonprofit marketing at Low Hanging Fruit.  

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  1. Maureen, your seven suggestions for helping a nonprofit organization are wonderful. They can all easily be done with very little effort yet stand to produce big results. I love the idea of donations in lieu of birthday gifts. My child recently attended a birthday party where donations to the Montgomery County Humane Society were requested instead of gifts. What a great way to teach stewardship to the young (and old). Thank you for writing this and for these great suggestions.
    – Kelly

  2. Thanks Kelly, I’m glad the suggestions are helpful.

    I also love the idea of doing donations as part of a kid’s (or anyone’s) birthday party. Learning what it feels like to help people at an early age can help build wonderful, life long habits.

  3. With your help, and the help of your friends, the community cause closest to your heart will soon be in the hearts and minds of your neighbors as well.

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