There was a time when thank you notes were written and mailed. It was impolite not to send one after a job interview or an event. These days I receive personal hand-written thank you notes after a major event, like a wedding. However, I am someone who appreciates the old-school way of doing things where people were acknowledged for the time they gave or the event they hosted -- even if it was not a major affair. That said, I do understand times have changed and no one really writes notes anymore. But an acknowledgement is still important, and that has not gone away. It does make a difference.
From time to time, Millennials will cross my path somehow and request to speak to me about how to break into the nonprofit and philanthropic sector. When this happens, I take it as a very important moment because after twenty years in the business, I want to be able to provide the best ideas and counsel to someone who is looking to make their way in business and life. I don't spend any less time with them or treat them any differently than I would a colleague or peer who would be calling me for advice.
I was fortunate enough to have a mentor and coach -- one of the absolute best in the business and I have never forgotten that if it were not for someone who took an interest in me when I was starting out, I would never have had the opportunity and successes I had through my career. Those of us who know her, know her as the Patron Saint of the Late Bloomer.
And, so that brings me to the call I had this week with a bright young professional who had done many wonderful things in her growing career based on her resume. We talked and I told her the best strategies I would pursue if I were looking to be successful in the business. I answered a question she had here or there, and she wisely asked me if I would make an introduction to a colleague in an area of the sector where she was interested in potentially working.
In closing, I asked her to please keep in touch and let me know how she was doing. I informed her that I always appreciate hearing from young people who want to break into the social purpose sector. And, after we hung up, I made mental note about reaching out to my colleague.
It has been nearly four days since the call and today when I spoke to the colleague whom she wanted me to refer her to, I did not mention this young person's name, as I promised. Why? For one simple reason: she has yet to do the follow-up. She has not impressed me yet as someone who understands the importance of relationship building, which is critical to most work, certainly in our sector, and life. Once I see that she has done her follow-up, I have all the good intention of making an introduction, but not before that point.
I happen to know a lot of young people who are in my life both personally and professionally. I am always looking to help -- particularly by paying it forward to someone who will someday make a difference in my field. But, I started to see a pattern of young and energetic people speaking to me, asking me to make referrals and recommendations and then not doing any of the necessary follow-up work -- the relationship building work.
The lessons the Patron Saint of the Late Bloomer taught me, I think, are still relevant today. Sure, we move in a fast and increasingly complex world. However, my thought is that if you want to stand out and you want to be successful, you need to go the extra mile and you earnestly need to build relationships, which is more than simply a transactional opportunity. There is a mantra in fundraising and it is "follow-up, follow-up, follow-up". The best fundraisers, sales people, business professionals, etc. do the work. They do the follow-up. They know how to begin to build the relationships.
So, my young friend, wherever you are, when you follow-up with me and provide me with more than a closing "thanks", I will definitely make that introduction.
Linda is an experienced professional in the non-profit sector and has done extensive business development and worked in such areas as non-profit strategy, corporate social responsibility, board development, capital campaigns, individual/major giving, institutional support, development audits and reviews, campaigns, and Internet fundraising. She has worked with such organizations as the New York City Center for Charter School Education, START Treatment and Recovery, Elevate New York, the Allan Houston Foundation, New Leaders for New Schools, Harlem Educational Activities Fund, and NYC2012: New York Olympic Bid. In addition, Linda was the Senior Vice President for Development at Covenant House International, and Executive Director of Inner-City Scholarship Fund (ICSF). Visit the original article on her blog at http://lnspencer.wordpress.com, and to find other great articles about giving and travel. Like her Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/living4purpose and follow Linda on Twitter at @LNSpencer.© 2014 Linda N. Spencer and "Living For Purpose™"
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