WFH NETWORK

October 2014 / Volume 2, No. 4

Networking: expanding your youth group’s personal resources

A buzzword commonly used in job hunting, marketing, and social media, networking is crucial for the success of youth groups and non-profits. Networking is an information and service exchange between individuals and groups, and offers a fun and efficient way to share knowledge and inform people about your group’s activities.

Why network?

There are many benefits to networking in the bleeding disorder community. By building contacts you expand your perspective of the world through learning about the personal experiences of others and their strategies for living with a rare illness. Networking also helps build synergistic bonds with many personal and practical advantages – from having a stronger voice to affect policy change, to sharing costs for organizing events and activities.

By enabling you to share knowledge with many different people, networking also helps to leverage the unique skillsets each person or group has to offer. For example, the youth group in one region may know more about lobbying and advocacy, while another may be more experienced at organizing community events or educational activities. The strength of networking is in opening the pathway to future collaborations between such diverse groups.

Where to network?

There are many opportunities for networking within the bleeding disorders community. Some of these include:

  • Hemophilia chapter events in your area;
  • Regional and national youth camps;
  • Your local hemophilia treatment centre;
  • Fundraisers for bleeding disorders organizations; and,
  • The biennial Congress of the World Federation of Hemophilia.
What's next?
Time management
All too often, it seems like we don’t have enough time to do everything that we need or want to be done. Learn how to use your time efficiently so that projects run smoothly and stress is kept to a minimum, and to delegate tasks so that work can be shared by the whole team.

It’s important to realize that networking shouldn’t take place only within your own community. In order to change preconceptions and raise awareness of bleeding disorders, your group needs to expand its activities. In doing so, you may identify a good volunteer base for helping run events, professional services, or even sponsorship opportunities. By connecting with motivated individuals engaged in other issues you may learn of strategies and approaches not found within your community.

Online networking is a great way to connect instantly to people all around the world. Through social media, you can create an online presence for your group, which can then be used to list events and workshops, gain peer support, encourage advocacy efforts, share information, and provide an online community for members. You can also connect with larger organizations like your national hemophilia association or the World Federation of Hemophilia through Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

     
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Online networking can be a stepping stone to further connectivity, for example, through a telephone, Skype, or in-person meeting, allowing the parties to engage in greater expressions of support and interest, and to continue to build on their newfound personal and professional relationships.


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Networking tips
  • Have a clear understanding of what you do and why, and what makes your talents and skills stand out
  • Be yourself. Remember that networking is all about being genuine, building relationships, and seeing how you can help others
  • Quality over quantity matters in networking. Giving your business card to 300 strangers is less valuable than giving it to 10 people who really appreciate what you have to offer. People will also remember you better once you’ve built a connection with them, so don’t be afraid to introduce yourself
  • It’s easier to connect with people and groups who have similar goals and interests to yours. However, it’s also enriching to meet people with different views – be focused about what you’re looking for but keep an open mind
  • A good networker is a good listener, and vice versa. If you express genuine interest in people’s work, they are more likely to open up and share their knowledge with you. If you’re stuck in the conversation, remember the 5W questions: Who, What, When, Why, and how
  • When it’s your turn to talk, be polite and tactful, not bragging and pushy
  • Follow up with people you meet with a brief e-mail or note. A good way to further develop the relationship is to make a comment on a topic or article of mutual interest, or bring up something you talked about previously
  • Do not say, show, or do anything online that you wouldn’t do in real life. Online histories are practically impossible to erase, so think before you post
Questions that require an answer are marked with  *
   
In your experience, what are some of the most productive ways to network in the bleeding disorders community? What challenges have you faced?