Maximizing Your Net Worth through Your Network
May 20 2011
We are delighted to feature a guest blog post from our NCLR Affiliate, Connecticut Puerto Rican Forum
By Kimberly Flint, Literacy Coordinator
In today’s financially competitive atmosphere, a small nonprofit organization must be able to position itself in such a way that opportunities are not missed; in fact, they must be created. Although research, knowledge, recruiting the right staff, and understanding the needs of the community are certainly factors that will impact success, a key to the entire process that should not be underestimated is the business of networking. Some call it “schmoozing.” Some refer to “being in the right place at the right time.” The truth of the matter is that relationship-building is a cornerstone of any organization whose goal is to improve the well-being of the people it serves.
The Connecticut Puerto Rican Forum (CPRF), a vital provider of services to the Latino community in Hartford for over 32 years, is dedicated to improving the socioeconomic status of its clients and realizes that this cannot be done with a silo mentality. In fact, a motto that underlies the attitudes of its executive director and staff, which you may hear from time to time, is that “90% of the time, it’s about showing up!” The importance of this philosophy is exemplified at the organizational level by the CPRF staff, but it is also a goal of CPRF to impart this wisdom to its participants in its workforce development training programs as a vital skill that will correlate with increased opportunities and ultimate success.
It is a simple fact in the nonprofit world that partnerships and collaborations are essential to the credibility and sustainability of an organization. Back in February, CPRF attended a “meet and mingle” event in spite of some common obstacles: it was raining, the person attending was new to CPRF and going alone, and, of course, it seemed like there was so much other work to do that this would not be worthwhile. However, perseverance and attendance at this event yielded a new relationship with an organization that became a member of CPRF’s Employer Advisory Council and a crucial collaborator on a grant proposal, resulting in the placement of 50 youth in a summer employment program.
Just last month, CPRF attended Latino Advocacy Day at the Connecticut State Capital Legislative Offices with the participants of its E-Workplace/Customer Service Program. Advocacy, in and of itself, is an exercise in networking, given that if you want to be acknowledged by legislators and have a voice, you must at the very least be present and counted. However, at this event CPRF also connected with an organization that has offered to provide one-on-one computer tutoring and assistance for CPRF clients, which will compliment the skills they are presently learning. This brand new relationship simply would not have begun if CPRF didn’t “show up.” Examples like this are then used in the classroom to encourage students to make an effort to attend job fairs and other events, even if they don’t immediately see their relevance.
CPRF’s executive director, Yanil Terón, reached her position today directly because of networking. In 2000, right around the corner from CPRF, Terón was attending a fundraising event. She met CPRF’s executive director at the time, who discovered that Yanil had a background in communications and was looking for a job. A part-time position at CPRF was created for her. The rest is history: In 2002, she became an Associate Director, by 2004 she was Assistant Director, and in 2007 she was appointed Executive Director. This is clearly a case of the right person being in the right place at the right time.
A CPRF program, ESL for Home Childcare Providers, is another setting where this philosophy is passed along to the participants. Each student is given tools to market their own home child care business within the curriculum of this course, and each is encouraged to use every event where families are present as a networking opportunity. They are coached to carry flyers or business cards wherever they go and think of any parent as a possible client, any person they meet as potentially having a child care need or knowing someone who does.
It is crucial to put aside preconceived notions about organizations as possible partners or employers, as well as about individuals and what they might know or have to offer in a given situation. While this strategy sometimes requires the uneasy prospect of stepping outside of one’s comfort zone—not everyone enjoys getting to know new people—CPRF has found time and time again that it often provides unexpected positive results. Every potential relationship is also a potential business opportunity. As they say, “You just never know!”
Issues: Financial Counseling, Financial Services
Geography:California, Far West, Midwest, Northeast, Southeast, Texas