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Networking to Fuel Fundraising and Business Development

Looking to expand your client or donor list? Ever think that endless coffees, dinners and meetings with people you don’t really know are a waste of time? Let’s face it, on occasion networking appointments are time wasters. But sometimes they are exactly what you need to get you to the next step.

I learned this lesson early in my professional life and it has served me well. After graduating from the University of Michigan, I moved to Washington, DC with aspirations of public service. I worked a series of temporary jobs while looking for a permanent position on Capitol Hill. Jobs on “the Hill” are hard to come by – Congressional offices receive hundreds of resumes for entry-level positions – and I didn’t know anyone working there.

While at a family reunion in Texas, a distant cousin mentioned that she had a friend at the University of Texas-Austin who knew the UT-Austin DC office lead. My cousin offered to introduce me to her Texas-based friend. I called her friend, who referred me on to the University of Texas DC office, and the DC office lead invited me to visit her. When I explained my interests and professional goals, she connected me with the University of Michigan DC office lead, who then led me to the office of Senator Carl Levin.

After twenty-one networking appointments, many cups of coffee, and two interviews in the Senator’s office, I had my first real job. When I shared my DC job ambitions with this distant cousin in Texas, I believed it to be a waste of time. But I am glad that I did it anyway.

Why this job hunting story applies to fundraising and business development. While this example of networking is about job hunting, it’s also how fundraising and business development work. You just don’t know where your next client or your next big donor will come from. Sometimes they come from the most unexpected places.

Want to learn more about how to create a networking strategy that will find your next client or donor? Stanton Blackwell can help. Call Carmen Oviedo at (703) 254-7071 or email at


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