Sanford Institute of Philanthropy Blog

Keeping Up with Networks to Maximize Your Nonprofit’s Success

Networking
Networks are at the heart of social capital and are important to achieve career success and organizational goals. Individuals improve their social capital when they can see and understand the connections between themselves and others within and beyond their workplace.

Many relationships will shift in importance and intensity over time, so you need to modify relationships in order to remain effective. A critical skill is to know when and how to activate relationships – and when and how to back away from or dial down relationships. To understand and manage relationships is to think about active versus latent networks.

Active

Active networks consist of two-way relationships where individuals have demonstrated reciprocity in working together, helping each other, and offering resources. The level of trust tends to grow with a stable foundation of reciprocity. Reciprocal, trusted relationships that are regular and ongoing are your most active network. An example of this is your major gift or monthly donors.

Latent

Latent networks include relationships that are currently low on reciprocity, trust, and/or frequency. They may be newer relationships, looser ties, or old connections. This would be your one time, non-recurring donors.

There are three qualities of a good network that you’ll need to be mindful of: Open, Diverse, and Deep.

Open

Open networks are those where the people you know are not all connected to each other. This creates what is called “structural diversity” in a leader’s network. Leaders with open networks are more likely to hear new information before others. They are better able to merge ideas and capitalize on opportunities that require this integration. They tend to perform better, enjoy greater career mobility, and are able to adapt to change more effectively.

Diverse

Diverse networks are connections that cross critical boundaries in the organization and provide additional diversity and many of the same advantages of open networks.  Much of the work involves working across vertical, horizontal, stakeholder, demographic, and geographic boundaries for organizational success. 

Deep

Deep networks can be best defined as quality relationships with others where you are able to exchange information, resources, and skills with people from different backgrounds. These deep relationships provide valuable perspective and resources, including social support and camaraderie in the workplace. 

Remember: Networks and relationships are the currency for collaboration, and without the right ones, you will be constrained and the organization you serve will be limited.   Evaluate relationships based on frequency, interaction, trust and reciprocity. The higher the quality of the relationship, the better the predictor of performance! 


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