Like many programmers, I am much more comfortable behind a computer than I am walking alone into a crowded room full of strangers with the intention of getting to know at least a couple of them. Needless to say, networking events are not my forte. Building a peer-to- peer fundraising software business, however, pushes you outside your comfort zone in many ways. And so last week I found myself walking into the Wonder Women of Boston Bi-Annual Networking Event to talk peer-to-peer fundraising with strangers. I slapped on a name tag and crossed my fingers for the best. I’m so glad I did!
Wonder Women of Boston (http://wonderwomenboston.com) is, in their words, “an open community of ambitious, accomplished women of all ages and backgrounds in the greater Boston area.” Their focus isn’t in any particular industry, but rather in bringing together women from all areas to share their experiences and connect with one another.
While networking events that are specific to your own industry certainly do have their benefits, I found that meeting with such a broad array of backgrounds and levels of experience opens up a lot of interesting discussions that get your creative juices flowing in a way that talking to people who are already familiar with your line of work might not provide. I spoke with women of backgrounds varying from academia to marketing, IT infrastructure to cosmetics sales, nonprofit to finance. The common thread was how interested each person was to learn about areas they were unfamiliar with, and how easily they connected with each other’s experience, however different the territory.
It was surprising to see that, outside of the nonprofit community, peer-to-peer fundraising is still new to a lot of people. I actually had a lot of fun talking about it the way we did when the concept was still quite relatively unknown, and was excited to see how interested others were in learning more about what they saw as opportunities to engage with charities from their positions in the for-profit world.
Here are a few takeaways from the experience:
- You may know your industry inside and out, but it’s novel and interesting to people outside it. Getting a chance to talk about it like it’s new gives you fresh eyes and jump-starts new ideas.
- Networking doesn’t have to be scary, even if you are an introvert. Everybody is there for the same reason you are and chances are they feel as awkward as you do. “Can I join you guys” was a refrain I heard many times around the room, and it always worked like a charm.
- Wonder Women of Boston’s event organizers did a great job of creating an atmosphere in which it was easy to break the ice, and they brought a great group of people together. I look forward to attending their next event. If you happen to be there, look for the lady with the word “SWEET!” scrawled across her name tag.
Till next week…