'10,000 to 50' Exhibition Opening at IMMA

"We won’t even use the word networking unless it’s to do with cables in the back of computers"
'10,000 to 50'
Exhibition Opening

That’s the idea. Huddle together in a room with lots of people that you don’t know and spend thirty crazy minutes swapping business cards and trying to sell stuff. People have gone networking-mad in these challenging times and there are lots of opportunities to get into a room with like-minded people and exchange details.

Except it isn’t as simple as that! Here in Business to Artswe won’t even use the word networking unless it’s to do with cables in the back of computers. The chances of turning up to a Chamber of Commerce meeting and randomly meeting your next big sponsor are slim to say the least so it is time to be more strategic in your approach to networking and move on to become a broker.

Networking tends to be driven by a ‘what’s in it for me’ mentality. It is an individualistic approach and as we all know closed questions lead to closed answers. Brokering is about recognising where opportunities may lie for you, but being equally aware of how others might benefit. If you can achieve this, build awareness and begin to create new contacts for individuals, then your role in a community becomes significant as you are a trusted source of knowledge. Ultimately, this approach will be rewarded by others responding positively to your needs.

Brokering is what we do as an organisation, but we believe that it works for everybody as an ethos. In order to do it well you need to be confident, brave, open-minded and willing to share. And you need time.

Time may seem like a luxury when you are in the heart of your own organisation sitting with your Artistic Director bemoaning the lack of funds to facilitate their vision. But bear with us on this one.

If your organisation is seeking an investment of lets say €100k a year for three years, does it seem likely that you will get this on the second meeting three weeks after you first met? Of course it doesn’t, and that is because relationships take time to nurture. Ultimately we are talking about people dealing with people and if you invest time and energy you will be rewarded. Just like any partnership.

Many people in the cultural sector are ultra-protective about their sponsors, their business and foundation contacts, but that can be counter productive.

Here’s an example. If you have a great relationship with your sponsor it would be useful to help build that individual’s relationships and knowledge of the cultural sector. If they can already see a value in supporting the arts there is a very good chance that sharing your view, experience and contacts could deepen their interest, lead to new sponsorships and will usually strengthen your relationship with them.

A final word on business-card-gathering and mailing lists. Without intent a list is just a list and if you don’t have any relationship with people on that list then it is hard to see how you might benefit. As organisations become more effective at implementing CRM systems and recording information, then we can see how this data becomes increasingly significant. It takes time and energy but the good news is that some of the very best technology products that facilitate this are free to non-profits.

If you are serious about becoming a broker, Business to Arts runs a number of forums for sharing knowledge and information. We have also developed relationships with some of the technology providers that can help support management of your contacts. For information please get in touch!

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