It’s Who you Know
In recent months I’ve been able to be a part of two pioneering events in which people from across the country gathered to push the boundaries of how their fields generally operate. Stronger Together 2010 saw 8 significant donors combine efforts to provide capacity building grants totalling over one million dollars to Christian charities. The discussions during the process and particularly during the funding meetings were rich, sometimes pointed, and extremely valuable to my learning. (There are current discussions about renewing Stronger Together for 2011 but nothing is ready for announcement yet). This past weekend, The Leadership Studio at Muskoka Woods hosted a gathering of about 40 key people from a wide assortment of ministries across Canada with the purpose of calling forward some of the promising leaders in our country with a vision of ego-free networking and open-source sharing of experience and resources. It’s too soon to tell, but it was the kind of weekend that could still be ringing 20 years from now. What both events had in common, other than bold innovation and committed leadership, was a commitment to connecting people of influence in their respective fields. Neither group was an open invitation or a widely distributed application for participation. To get in you had to know someone. You had to be invited. When people asked me what were common traits of successful grants at Stronger Together I told them that among the trends was that successful organizations had someone at the granting table who advocated on their behalf. Younger leaders invited to the weekend in Muskoka were specifically recommended by some leading ministry staff who have known each other for years. There’s no secret here. If you want to have influence you simply need to be in positive relationship with other people of influence. There are very few exceptions. Sincerely developing appreciative interactions with the gatekeepers, influencers, and authorities in your area of interest isn’t slick or manipulative. It’s just the way credibility is built, wisdom is accumulated, and reputation is established. A couple key points: -Influential people generally get very good at sniffing out people’s intentions. If the only reason you’re interacting is to gain their influence for your own purposes you will likely find that your calls stop getting returned. Being known as a schemer is a reputation not easily changed. Be sincere. -My organization is no exception. Reputation and relationship go a long way in smoothing the process towards funding. Great ideas from strangers are less likely to gain a hearing than merely good ideas from those we’ve known and built trust with over years. Welcome to reality, enjoy your stay.